Christopher Lee, who was in court in Alaska on Tuesday on charges of being a fugitive from justice, told a judge today that he does not intend to fight extradition to California, where he will face a murder charge for killing 19-year-old Erin Corwin of Twentynine Palms. County District Attorney Michael Ramos said it’s not known how soon Lee will return to California. Lee, a former Marine who was stationed at the Twentynine Palms Marine Base but moved to Alaska in July after his honorable discharge, is accused of killing Corwin, his neighbor and lover, and then dumping her body down a 140-foot mine shaft in the desert east of Twentynine Palms. Corwin’s body was discovered by Sheriff’s investigators Saturday, and Lee was arrested by Alaska police Sunday evening. If convicted, Lee could be sentenced to life without parole or the death penalty.
Narcotics officers and Sheriff’s deputies seized more than 2,000 marijuana plants, and arrested eleven people Wednesday during raids on six illegal marijuana grows in Joshua Tree and Landers. Detectives served search warrants on the illegal grows after watching the locations for several weeks. The plants were found in fenced-in areas around homes. The unsecured locations and the large amount seized indicated the growers did not comply with state medical marijuana laws.
Arrested were: Angi Colindrez, 19, of Los Angeles, $100,000 bail;
Carlos Gonzalez, 41, Los Angeles, $25,000 bail;
Andres Marquez, 39, Santa Ana, $25,000 bail;
Manuel Gutierrez-Perez, 48, Los Angeles, $25,000 bail;
Thonekeo Souvannavong, 55, Fresno, $25,000 bail;
Xayadeth Kayavong, 38, Landers, $25,000 bail;
Athith Kayavong, 35, Landers, $25,000 bail;
Alex Aphayboun, 45, Landers, $25,000 bail;
Phouthone Khaithianthong, 52, Landers, $25,000 bail;
William Callahan, 58, Landers, $50,000 bail.
The name of the 11th person arrested was not available.
Lightning struck two small yucca plants in Morongo Valley yesterday. Morongo Valley Fire Captain Andrew Arthen said fire fighters from Morongo Valley, CalFire, and the BLM responded to a small fire about 10:15 off Little Morongo Road, and while they were fighting that fire, lightning struck another yucca plant off Craver Road about 10:50.
The Desert Protection Society, an activist group that grew out of the fight against the now-dead plan to create an immense landfill in the Eagle Mountain area, has recently been engaged on two fronts in the same area. Reporter Dan Stork reports that both state and federal agencies are taking notice…
Recently, we reported that the Desert Protection Society (DPS) claimed that the Riverside County Department of Conservation suppressed reported violations in the reclamation efforts by Kaiser Ventures in a mining operation it is conducting at the site of a defunct iron mine at Eagle Mountain, near the eastern part of Joshua Tree National Park. DPS also claimed a conflict of interest by the DOC supervisor who signed the revised report on the mine, and further said that DOC retaliated against a whistle-blowing employee. In emails received by Z107.7, DPS board members told us that they had instituted a letter-writing campaign based on their complaints to the California State Mining and Geology Board, and that the Board had responded by scheduling a hearing on the matter in Riverside on October 9.
In the Desert Protection Society’s other battle, it had filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a rehearing of the Commission’s June decision to grant a license to Eagle Crest Energy for its Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Hydroelectric project. In an order dated August 20, the FERC granted a re-hearing of that decision. The order did not specify a date for the re-hearing.
Sheriff’s deputies are investigating two attempted strong-arm robberies in Yucca Valley Monday afternoon. About 4:30 p.m., a woman was walking in the 56600 block of Antelope Trail when a man came up behind her, pulled her to the ground by her hair, and tried to grab her purse. The woman told police she was on her back with her purse clutched between her legs while the man stood over her and punched her in her head and face while trying to pull the purse away from her. The woman scared off her attacker by screaming and yelling for help. The woman sustained cuts inside her mouth, a bloody lip, bruising around her eye, and several large knots on her head. About a half hour later in the 58000 block of 29 Palms Highway, another woman reported that she was also assaulted as a man tried unsuccessfully to grab her purse. The man is described as a dark-skinned man wearing a black shirt and dark colored pants. Anyone with information should call the Sheriff’s Department at 760-366-4175.
A Twentynine Palms man was arrested Tuesday afternoon for fighting with his wife after they left a court-ordered domestic violence class. According to a Sheriff’s report, Nicholas Vidaurri, 23, began arguing with his wife—who had a no-contact order in effect—about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, after leaving a class about domestic violence, which had been ordered by the court following a previous domestic violence offense. The argument turned physical and Vidaurri, a lance corporal with 1st Tanks Battalion, was arrested by military police, who turned him over to the Sheriff’s Department. Nicholas Vidaurri was arrested for investigation of felony spouse abuse and committing a felony while on probation, booked at the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $75,000.
The Hi-Desert Water District met last night. Reporter Cara Conway says hooking up sewer lines to homes was the subject…
The Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors and Public Advisory Committee met last night regarding ownership and responsibility of service laterals—the sewer pipes from the main line to a home. Both board and PAC agreed that responsibility for lateral ownership would be split with public land to the water district; private to homeowners. Line blockage is strictly the responsibility of homeowners. The district plans to educate the public on prevention for blockage and breakage. Installation for laterals will allow more flexibility for property owners to assume responsibility.
Last week the California Highway Patrol announced it would hold a DUI checkpoint Saturday, August 16, at some undisclosed location in Joshua Tree. However, the CHP said that due to “logistics,” the DUI checkpoint was held in Morongo Valley instead, its “secondary location.” During the checkpoint’s hours of 8:30 p.m. August 16, to 2 a.m. August 17, 850 vehicles passed through the checkpoint. Officers screened 610 drivers and arrested Luis Gomez, 19, of El Paso, Texas, and Michelle Patino, 30, of Yucca Valley, for driving under the influence of alcohol; David Pickard, 23, of Ontario, was arrested for possession of dangerous drugs.
Find some treasures while having fun for a good cause. Reporter Taylor Thacker invites you to the Red Hot Auction in Twentynine Palms…
The Twentynine Palms Historical Society will host a Red Hot Auction on Saturday, August 23, at the Old Schoolhouse Museum. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with light refreshments and a silent auction, followed by a live auction beginning at 7:30 p.m. The purpose of the fundraiser is to help pay for the remaining costs of the Hastie Bus renovation project, which has restored “Old Betsy,” Twentynine Palms’ first public transportation service. The Old Schoolhouse Museum is located at 6760 National Park Drive, in Twentynine Palms. For more information call 760-910-3886.
The manic, high-energy comedy “The 39 Steps” is running at Theatre 29 through September 13, with performances this Friday and Saturday night and a Sunday matinee. Managing editor Tami Roleff was in the audience Opening night and offer this review…
“The 39 Steps” is a funny, mad-cap play in the best traditions of Hollywood’s screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, and the cast at Theatre 29 pulls it off well. The play follows the plot of the movie by Alfred Hitchcock, but as a comedy instead of a thriller. Leonard Weber, as Richard Hannay, takes home a mysterious woman in black, Annabella Schmidt, played by Karissa Matlock, who talks about spies and weapon state secrets. When she’s murdered in his flat, Hannay goes on the run to find out who really killed her. We watch as he’s pursued across the roof of a speeding train—or actually, a pretend train—and the audience accepts the illusion with a grin. Along the way Hannay meets an assortment of characters, the lovely Katie Van Sumeren as Pamela, who is forced to go on the run with him when they’re hand-cuffed together, and Kylie Robinson as Margaret, the farmer’s wife. But the biggest applause must go to Cyrus Short and Ben Bees, who transform themselves into 150 different characters, sometimes playing multiple characters at the same time with just fractions of a second between them. They steal the show and you can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next. There are lots of references to Hitchcock films. While I missed several jokes because the actors didn’t project their lines, they do a fabulous job of creating illusion that is true theater.
San Bernardino County is holding a series of meetings seeking public input on renewable energy. One of them will be in Yucca Valley this week. Reporter Dan Stork hopes to “SPARC” your interest…
San Bernardino County Land Use Services is developing a renewable energy and conservation element for incorporation into the General Plan. A public participation program called the San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation (SPARC) is intended to further the process. A second round of workshops will be held this week and next around the county, starting off in the Yucca Room of the Yucca Valley Community Center on August 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. Subsequent meetings will be held in Big Bear Lake, Barstow, Hesperia, and San Bernardino next week. A third round of public workshops is expected in the fall. You can also read what others are saying, and share your own ideas at www.SPARCForum.org
A cut-a-thon is set for Saturday, August 23, to benefit the non-profit organization, Children With Hair Loss. The cut-a-thon will be held from 10 to 2 at Shear Glam Salon, 56925 29 Palms Highway, in Yucca Valley. All hair cuts are $15; donate eight or more inches of hair and your hair cut is free. Cash donations are also accepted, and there will be raffle prizes. Children With Hair Loss provides hand-made wigs for children at no cost to their families. For more information, call 760-418-5670.
The man accused of killing Erin Corwin, the wife of a Twentynine Palms Marine, made his first appearance in court yesterday in Anchorage, Alaska, his home state. The state of Alaska charged Christopher Lee, 24, a former Marine and neighbor of Erin and Jonathan Corwin in Twentynine Palms, as being a fugitive from justice and the court set his bail at $2 million. Meanwhile, in California, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said Lee will be charged with Corwin’s murder with special circumstances of “lying in wait,” which if convicted, means he will be sentenced to either life without parole or the death penalty. Corwin’s body was discovered Saturday afternoon, at the bottom of a 140-foot mine shaft in the Rose of Peru mine, east of Twentynine Palms, and recovered Sunday. Lee’s arrest warrant states that he conducted Internet searches—and also asked someone—on how to dispose of a human body. According to the arrest warrant, investigators recovered at the mine shaft bullet casings and rebar that matched bullet casings and rebar found in Lee’s car and at his residence, along with other evidence. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that Lee asked to speak with his attorney—who practices in California—before making a decision on extradition to California. Ramos said depending on whether Lee waives extradition, his return to California could be in just a few days, or up to four to five weeks. In addition, Ramos told a Los Angeles radio station that Lee’s wife, Nicole Lee, is a “person of interest.” The Sheriff’s Department is investigating to determine if Nicole Lee helped her husband with the murder or conceal it afterward.
The Yucca Valley Town Council met in regular session last night. Managing Editor Tami Roleff says an appeal against a permit for well-known artist’s studio was denied….
The sole action item on the agenda at last night’s meeting of the Yucca Valley Town Council was an appeal of granting a home occupation permit to David Falossi for his home-based stone sculpture business. The council members denied the appeal, allowing Falossi to continue with his art studio, but changed the permit period to annually. In other business, during public comment Sue Tsuda, representing the Center for Healthy Generations, presented the Town with a check for $250. She explained that the Town had made a grant of $6,000 to the Center for half the cost of repairing the Center’s roof. The repair came in at $500 less than the estimated cost of $12,000, so the Center was returning half of the savings, or $250. Council members remarked that it was a first that money had been returned to the Town, and indicated that they plan to return the money to the Center at its next meeting.
A local family that’s active in the community, and stepped up to help friends in need—has been named 2014 Family of the Year by the Twentynine Palms Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis spokesman Ron Bryant said the Jimenez family—Cruz and Kerry, and children Allie, 25, Nena, 18, and Diana, 16—were selected for their service to the community over the past year.. When a childhood friend of Diana’s died at age 13, Diana—and the Jimenez family—named a Relay for Life team named in her honor. Kerry Jimenez makes homemade goodies and soups to sell as a fundraiser for Relay for Life, and is in charge of the Memorial Garden at the event. The family is also helping a herpetologist friend in Wonder Valley who needs transportation to his doctors’ appointments, and they helped him transfer his snakes into rescue when he couldn’t care for them any longer. The family is heavily involved in Theatre 29 and were named the theater’s Volunteers of the Year for 2013. Diana is also involved in the Twentynine Palms High School student body and Interact Club, and coaches Park and Rec volleyball teams and sponsors a team. Despite health issues, Nena participates in plays and was stage manager and director of the theater’s summer youth program. She was chosen to represent the County at the Youth Leadership forum in Sacramento. Nena also received Soroptimist’s Violet Richardson Award in 2012 and the Interactor of the Year in 2013. Allie and her father Cruz both work for Joshua Tree National Park—Allie for the Division of Interpretation, and Cruz as an IT specialist. Cruz is a former Marine with 21 years of service. Congratulations to the Jimenez family, the Kiwanis 2014 Family of the Year.
In a brisk meeting at which the small audience was comprised mainly of District administrators, the Morongo Unified School District Board of Education accomplished a variety of pre-term mopping up activities. Reporter Dan Stork lists the actions…
Following the approval of her contract as Interim Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services by the Board of Education, Dr. Deborah Turner took a seat at the head table. Then the Board officially acknowledged projects placed on the “Applications Received Beyond Bond Authority List”; this details items that were somewhere on the Measure O bond fund priority list, but not high enough to get done with the available funds. Despite two late change orders and a notice of completion, and the impending actual use of newly constructed facilities at Twentynine Palms High School, the legal battle is not over, as the District and the contractor will continue to wrangle over who was to do what when, and how. A supplementary U.S. history book, which contains some potentially controversial essays and readings, was approved for use. In previewing the school year that is about to get under way, administrators and board members highlighted the addition of 46 new teachers to the work force, and described in glowing terms a new building at Yucca Valley High School.
A Yucca Valley man was arrested Monday, accused of sex crimes with a child. According to a Sheriff’s report, a girl told her mother that Floyd Manning, 77, had been exposing himself to her and making lewd requests for several months. After investigation, Floyd Manning was arrested about 4 p.m. Monday at a home in the 7500 block of Bannock Trail in Yucca Valley. Manning is being held at the West Valley Detention Center with his bail set at $250,000.
An argument between a Twentynine Palms man and his wife resulted in the arrest of the man, accused of felony spouse abuse. According to a Sheriff’s report, Alexander Castano, 24, a private first class with CLB-7 on board the Combat Center, was arguing with his wife in the 6600 block of Mesquite Avenue early Friday morning, when the argument became physical. Castano brought his wife to the Naval hospital about 6:30 a.m., and the military police called the Sheriff’s Department to report the crime. After an investigation, Alexander Castano was arrested on suspicion of felony spouse abuse, and was released Sunday on a $50,000 bond.
A Twentynine Palms man was arrested Friday afternoon after he was seen hitting his girlfriend. According to a Sheriff’s report, a witness drove by a home in the 73800 block of Cactus Drive about 4 p.m. and saw Clayton Milbauer, 28, who was sitting inside a pick-up truck parked in the driveway, hit his girlfriend, also inside the truck. After an investigation, Clayton Milbauer was arrested on suspicion of felony spouse abuse, and for committing a felony while on parole. He was booked at the Morongo Basin Jail with his total bail set at $75,000.
The Joshua Basin Water District may start enforcing water conservation soon. Reporter Taylor Thacker says they will hold a public hearing tonight…
The Joshua Basin Water District will have their regular meeting on Wednesday, August 20, starting at 7:00 p.m. First on the agenda, the Board will have a public hearing to consider the adoption of a proposed water conservation ordinance. They will then receive information about probable recharge project costs and consider filing a notice of completion for the replacement of the D3 booster pump station. This meeting takes place at the Joshua Basin Water District at 61750 Chollita Rd in Joshua Tree.
The Hi-Desert Water District Board meets tonight. Managing Editor Tami Roleff says a busy session includes a lot of sewer planning…
The Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors will meet in a regular meeting tonight for the third week in a row. Among the items on the agenda, the directors will hold a joint meeting with the Public Advisory Committee to discuss the committee’s recommendation concerning service lateral ownership and responsibility, and installation of private property connections for the wastewater project. The Board will then take action on service laterals. Next, the directors will revisit the water district’s interest in performing the on-lot improvements as part of the sewer project’s primary construction package. Also on the agenda are updates about the wastewater project and the state revolving fund loan. The directors will then go into closed session to discuss the performance evaluation of the general manager. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in District offices on Inca Trail and the highway in Yucca Valley.