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Library will use $10K grant to update books

The Del Norte County Library plans to use a recent $10,000 grant from the state to replace out-of-date books, according to Del Norte Librarian Teena Capshaw.

The grant was issued by the California State Library through the Federal Library Services and Technology Act, according to state spokesperson Kimberly Brown.

Most small-rural librarians don’t have a lot of disaster resources on hand. Because of this Brown said, California State Librarian Greg Lucas decided to give money to smaller libraries so they could purchase materials, supplies and information that can help their community in the event of a natural disaster.

Emergency dispatch call logs Dec. 28 - 30, 2015

Excerpts from the Del Norte County emergency dispatch call logs, Dec. 28-30:

Monday, December 28

At 2:38 a.m., caller on the 2100 block of Harmony Lane says her neighbor gets up at 2 a.m. every day, disturbing her peace.

At 6:35 a.m., caller at an office on the 300 block of Washington Boulevard says some items seem to have been stolen after a lock was cut at a building earlier in the morning.

At 8:49 a.m., caller says he had medication stolen from his mailbox on the 100 block of Kristian Lane

One last look at the airport in 2015: New airline flies in as runway project takes off

PenAir began passenger flights from Del Norte County Regional Airport to Portland on Sept. 15. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
 Crescent City’s little airport by the sea sent its passengers north to Portland for the first time this year, aboard a newcomer carrier’s Saab 340. All the while, it saw that its runways were made safer and settled into the related task of digging out acres upon acres of wetlands.

Anchorage-based PenAir won the hearts of transportation officials near and far in March, when it beat out two smaller airlines in the bid to take over area skies for SkyWest.

SkyWest, the carrier that had flown from Crescent City to San Francisco and sometimes Sacramento for years, retired its turbo props in favor of larger jets in April.

One last look at crime in 2015: Prison, CHP officers face suspicion

A manhunt in Smith River, investigations against at least two law enforcement officers, and three homicides dominated criminal justice news this year in Del Norte County.

Smith River lockdown

On March 9, two outlaws firing shots from a stolen car barreled into Smith River with sheriff’s deputies hot on their tails. The high-speed chase started when an officer attempted to pull over Daniel Cardy, 18, and Brandon Jon Proctor, 28, for a minor traffic violation in Crescent City.

Not to be caught without a fight, the two took off north on U.S. 101 with Cardy driving, hitting speeds of more than 100 mph , according to investigators. Proctor opening fire on the pursuing deputy and his civilian ride-along. Cardy took the pilfered Dodge several miles beyond Elk Valley Cross Road while passing cars in the oncoming lane before crashing into a ditch near Fred Haight Drive, where he was arrested soon after.

Proctor fled the scene on foot and was considered armed during the ensuing manhunt and lockdown of Smith River. He was arrested without incident more than two weeks later in Crescent City.

No known injuries came from the chase or manhunt, but both men will serve prison time following convictions early this month. Proctor was sentenced to 25 years for charges including firing on a peace officer, and Cardy will serve four years for his role in recklessly driving the stolen vehicle.

Federal inquiries

March 9 turns out to have been an eventful date for Del Norte crime. Hours before Proctor and Cardy took flight to Smith River, a special team of sheriff’s deputies and Pelican Bay State Prison correctional officers led a drug raid on the Crescent City home of a James Banuelos, who was arrested on suspicion of felony methamphetamine possession, a drug investigators said they found during the search.

The following month, however, video surfaced depicting multiple officers appearing to pocket cash from Banuelos’ wallet during the raid. Other cameras in his residence were destroyed during the search but one survived, and it recorded the footage that ultimately prompted an investigation by the FBI’s San Francisco office.

Following the review of a lengthy report submitted by federal investigators, Del Norte County District Attorney Dale Trigg sought charges of misdemeanor theft against Correctional Officer Matthew Yates, who admitted taking $100. He faces a Jan. 11 court date on the charges. Banuelos’ defense attorney Mike Riese contends Trigg could have sought more severe charges against Yates as well as other officers. Trigg said the evidence available to him restricted his ability to confidently prosecute different charges. Trigg said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove felony theft, which requires proof that Yates entered the Banuelos home intending to steal the cash.

Klamath boy Killed

In early May, the public eye shifted from federal scrutiny on cop misconduct to community grief and outrage over a tragedy in Klamath. In what appeared to be a dispute over drugs, 13-year-old Dante Romannose-Jones was killed by a point-blank gunshot to the head.

In the weeks following the crime, communities in Klamath struggled to find healing and peace in the face of sorrow and reactionary violence. Efforts such as a community meeting in the Klamath Tribal Offices and a peace march at Beachfront Park tried to achieve some clarity in the immediate aftermath of Romannose-Jones’ death.

His accused killer, then-16-year-old Nathan Feliz, is in juvenile custody and faces preliminary trial in mid-March.

Cases compromised, officer investigated

State law enforcement made headlines after a break-in at California Highway Patrol’s Crescent City office in mid-June. Following the breach, at least one unidentified CHP officer was placed on administrative leave while being considered in an investigation by an external agency.

More than two months later, Trigg was informed that evidence pertaining to up to 127 cases was on site during the break-in and might have been compromised.

Trigg said the situation was a potential nightmare for a prosecutor, since he would face the potential of needing to dismiss every single one of those pending cases. After detailed review, Trigg ended up entirely dismissing eight cases — two felony, two misdemeanor, and four for traffic violations. Two other cases saw only a single count dismissed rather than all charges.

“Big picture: I was relieved it wasn’t a more pervasive problem than I thought it was going to be,” he said.

Trigg added, however, that he considered it a “personal affront to his ethics” that CHP enlisted the Attorney General’s office before ever contacting him.

In August, CHP officers said they were hoping for a “timely conclusion” to the investigation. As of Dec. 29, the investigation is “on the downhill slope” and “wrapping up,” according to CHP Northern Division spokesperson Lacey Heitman.

CHP will not release official details of the break-in or the name of the officer under investigation until they are, at last, wrapped up.

The death of Romannose-Jones was the only homicide inside the county this year, but two others touched Del Norte, closely, from very different angles.

Lake Selmac homicide

On Oct. 21, Crescent City resident Roger Huntington, 43, was found shot to death in his car near Lake Selmac in southern Oregon. Josephine County authorities quickly arrested two of three suspects, but Marshall McKenna, 23, of Ponder, Texas, was still at large as of Dec. 30. Recent word from the Oregon State Police detectives suggest McKenna fled south into California and that federal investigators are seeking him as well.

McKenna is believed to have been the triggerman in a botched robbery that led to Huntington’s murder. The remaining suspects Blake Sibley, 22, and Carol “B.J.” Ballard, 20, of Denton County, Texas, are in custody in Josephine County Jail and face a court hearing on related charges in the new year.

Cold Case - Closed

The year closed with a flourish when former county resident and convicted murderer John William Kelley, 52, came to Crescent City earlier this month to confess to the August 1988 murder of an Oregon couple vacationing near Stout Grove.

Kelley confessed to the 27-year old cold case while awaiting conviction on an unrelated 1986 homicide in San Mateo County.

In a deal struck by his lawyer with prosecutors, Kelley guaranteed sparing himself the death penalty by volunteering his confession.

On Dec. 30 in Del Norte Superior Court, he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder with special allegations and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole, to be served consecutive to the life sentence he received weeks earlier in San Mateo County.

One last look at school safety in 2015: Incidents prompt security improvements

Local and regional incidents in 2015 provoked a new focus on campus security for Del Norte High School and the College of the Redwoods, with many initiatives already underway.

Knife attack

In April, a political science class was interrupted when a student walked out of the classroom in the middle of lecture and returned with a knife. Crescent City resident Warren Bailey, 23, proceeded to stab classmate Daniel Sanders, 28, in his face and arm before course instructor Eli Naffah pulled him off. Bailey fled the scene but was arrested at his home later the same day. Sanders was brought to Sutter Coast hospital for treatment and released soon after.

Kelley receives 2 life sentences

Relatives of victims in 1988 slaying condemn confessed killer at sentencing

Family members traveled from across the Northwest on Wednesday to have their say and witness sentencing of former county resident John William Kelley, 52, who pleaded guilty to the murders of Douglas and Rozina Anderson in 1988 while they were camping near Stout Grove.

Kelley was given two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole — one for each count of first degree murder. Kelley’s conviction also included a special allegation for the rape of Rozina Anderson.

During sentencing, Del Norte Superior Court Judge William Follet called Kelley’s confessed crimes “brutal, monstrous, heinous.”

CHP plans vigilance for holiday

The California Highway Patrol is urging the public to make safety a priority in 2016, beginning by choosing not to drive home drunk after ringing in the new year.

A Maximum Enforcement Period will have all available CHP personnel patrolling roads starting at 6:01 p.m. today until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, according to a press release.

Officers will be on the lookout for impaired drivers, and they’ll stop people for distracted driving and infractions such as failure to wear seat belts.

Our Daily Bread feeds scores for Christmas

Our Daily Bread Ministries hosted what it described as a 'scaled-back' version of the community Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas. Submitted
 Christmas came twice at Our Daily Bread Ministries this year, as the charity organization decided to spread its sixth annual community dinner and gift distribution over two days.

“We used to have it all on one day,” said Director Mike Justice. “And usually it’s controlled chaos. We’re fine-tuning it as we go along, and it worked pretty well.”

Scores of people showed Christmas Eve and Christmas day, for a turkey dinner with green bean casserole, potatoes and pie — what Justice described as a “scaled-back” version of the community Thanksgiving dinner held at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds each year.

Nation donates ladder

 The Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation donated a 35-foot ladder to the Smith River Fire Protection District, allowing them a safer and faster alternative to climbing stairs or waiting on a ladder from Hiouchi in the event of a fire on upper stories of buildings, such as the Howonquet Lodge.

Members of the council and Smith River Fire posed together for a photo Tuesday. Pictured, left to right: Council Vice Chairperson Denise Padgette; SRF Acting Fire Chief Darrell Moorehead; Council Member Jeri Thompson; Council Secretary Scott Sullivan; SRF Vice Chairman Lyle Armstrong; SRF Chairman John Pricer; Council Chairperson Loren Me'-lash-ne Bommelyn.

One last look at 2015: Last Chance Grade

Read more... Last Chance Grade continued to creep toward the ocean this year while officials made slow progress in finding a solution for the troubled section of U.S. 101 between Klamath and Crescent City.

At the start of 2015, Caltrans released 14 possible routes that would cut through the volatile seaboard, with price tags ranging from $210 million to $1.6 billion, diverging from and rejoining the highway at different points between Wilson Creek and Hamilton roads.

By the time Caltrans’ project feasibility study was completed in June, the count had been pared down to seven, favoring a Rudisill Road departure and tunnels of varying lengths.

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