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CHP MOVES CHECKPOINT, THREE ARRESTED

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.


RED HOT AUCTION AT OLD SCHOOLHOUSE SATURDAY NIGHT

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.


WE REVIEW “THE 39 STEPS” AT THEATRE 29, MATINEE SUNDAY

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.


RENEWABLE ENEERGY MEETING TONIGHT IN YUCCA VALLEY TONIGHT

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 BENEFIT CUT-A-THON SATURDAY IN YUCCA VALLEY

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.


SUSPECT IN CORWIN MURDER COULD FACE DEATH PENALTY, EVIDENCE REVEALED

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.


YUCCA VALLEY TOWN COUNCIL APPROVES HOME ART STUDIO, GETS A REFUND

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.


TWENTYNINE PALMS KIWANIS NAME THE “FAMILY OF THE YEAR”

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.


SCHOOL BOARD MOPS UP LAST MINUTE BUSINESS BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS

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.


YUCCA VALLEY MAN ACCUSED OF SEX CRIMES AGAINST A YOUNG GIRL

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.


TWO ARRESTS FOR FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN TWENTYNINE PALMS

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.


JOSHUA BASIN WATER TO CONSIDER CONSERVATION ORDINANCE TONIGHT

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.


HI-DESERT WATER MEETS, FOCUSING ON THE SEWER SYSTEM

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.


JURY IS STILL OUT ON CONTESTED WONDER VALLEY ROAD TAX

Wonder Valley residents who expected the fate of a proposed special tax for road maintenance would be settled at yesterday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting in San Bernardino will have to wait another month for answers. Supervisors were expected to declare official the results of a special election held in Wonder Valley last month. Voters there approved creation of a district that would tax each parcel $55 for 2014-15 and $30 annually with a 2.5 percent inflationary factor starting next year. Speakers on either side of the issue made their case to the Board, many complaining of confusing procedures prior to and during the election. Supervisors found the issue confusing as well, enough to unanimously approve continuing the matter until the September 24 meeting to allow more time to look at the matter. The move gives those opposing the special tax extra time to collect the approximate fifty additional letters needed to kill the plan.


HI-DESERT MEDICAL CENTER BOARD MEETS FOR TRAINING

The Hi-Desert Medical Center Board, who will lose two members this November, is calling a Board training session. Reporter Taylor Thacker tells us what they are learning…
The Hi-Desert Medical Center will have a special meeting on Thursday, August 21, starting at 10:00 a.m. The only item on the agenda is an information item on the Brown Act Training which is aimed to help Board members understand the Brown Act and how to properly run meetings. This meeting takes place at the Helen Gray Education Center at 6601 White Feather Rd in Joshua Tree.


MORONGO VALLEY CSD BOARD MEETS TONIGHT

Money is the subject of most of the topics at the Morongo Valley CSD meeting. Reporter Dan Stork has more details from the agenda…

The August 20 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Morongo Valley Community Services District will start with a presentation by Fire Chief Johnson. Under new business coming before the Board are the final budget for the coming fiscal year, a discussion of a questionnaire prepared by Director Swarat’s Reserve committee, a discussion of possible future use versus sale of a particular property, the possible formation of a committee to pursue two grant opportunities, and approval of an agreement with the Department of Forestry and Fire for a Volunteer Fire Assistance Program grant. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Covington Park.


OPEN HOUSE PLANNED AT MORONGO VALLEY FIRE STATION MONDAY

The Morongo Valley Fire Station will hold an open house Monday, August 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. Fire fighters and paramedics will be serving hot dogs, compliments of the Fire Fighters Auxiliary. Visitors will be able to take a tour of the fire station and ask questions. Kids will get a sticker from Sparky. For more information, call Charlie at 760-363-6454.


SCIENCE AND HARD WORK: HOW THE BODY OF ERIN CORWIN WAS FOUND

Locating of the body of pregnant Marine Wife Erin Corwin—missing for seven weeks—and the arrest of a suspect, boyfriend Christopher Lee, came about as the result of a remarkable job by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Managing Editor Tami Roleff said the conclusion of this phase of the Corwin saga was the result of hard work and science…

Erin Corwin 3

The body of Erin Corwin, the pregnant 19-year-old Twentynine Palms Marine wife who has been missing since June 28, has been found. Sheriff John McMahon said at a press conference yesterday that detectives and hundreds of search-and-rescue personnel, including searchers who specialize in searching mines, spent more than 5,000 hours searching 300 square miles in the Brooklyn Mining District, Los Angeles Mining District, and Rose of Peru Mining District, east of Twentynine Palms.
“More than 100 mine shafts were identified and numerous bodies of water were located and searched. On Saturday, August 16, the search concluded with the discovery of Erin Corwin’s body in a 140-foot mine shaft.”

Sheriff's photo of the area where Erin Corwin's body was found.

Sheriff’s photo of the area where Erin Corwin’s body was found.

Homicide detective Sergeant Trevis Newport explains how the search-and-rescue personnel narrowed down the area to search. “We did forensics examinations of some computer technology, some cell phones, and many other electronic devices, and through those forensic exams we were able to determine a potential location for Erin Corwin’s body.”

Newport said the area where her body was found was very rough terrain. “It is not a very easily accessible area…. One would have a difficult time even in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. It’s a very dangerous area. There are lots of mine pits out there, and it’s very remote.”

He then described how they found her body. “One of our mining teams sent a camera down into a particular shaft, approximately 140 feet down, and we were able to locate Erin—what we believed at the time was a female corpse. Due to the air quality, we were unable to extract the remains from the bottom of the mine shaft on that day.”

County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig discussed the rescue operation on Sunday afternoon. “The rescue operation was about two hours. We made two entries. The first entry was to collect evidence. The second rescue was to then extract the body of Ms. Corwin.”

The remains were positively identified through dental records just three hours after the recovery as being Erin Corwin, and shortly afterward, her former neighbor and alleged lover, Christopher Lee, a Marine who was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in July, was arrested in Alaska for homicide.

Photo of suspect Christopher Lee.

Photo of suspect Christopher Lee.

Depending on whether Lee fights extradition, he could return to California in just a few days or up to four to five weeks. Earlier today, District Attorney Michael Ramos announced Christopher Lee will be charged with murder with special circumstances of lying in wait, which could mean, if Lee is convicted, the death penalty.


FAULTY LAPTOP BATTERY CAUSES GARAGE FIRE IN YUCCA VALLEY

A quick attack on a garage fire Sunday saved a Yucca Valley home. County Fire Captain Rick Denison said firefighters responded to a residential structure fire in the 58500 block of San Andreas Road in Yucca Valley shortly after 4:00 p.m. Arriving units found heavy smoke and fire showing from a one-car attached garage. Denison said the residents did the right thing by closing the outside and garage doors to keep the fire from spreading and safely got out of the house.

San Andreas garage fire 1       San Andreas garage fire 2

Firefighters began an aggressive fire attack on the garage to prevent the spread of the fire to the single story home. A 2009 VW Jetta inside the garage was completely destroyed in the fire. Denison said preliminary investigation indicates the fire started inside the car, possibly due to a laptop computer that was plugged into an electrical converter that was plugged into the car. Denison said the computer’s lithium ion battery exploded, and warned residents that keeping electronic devices plugged in continuously can generate heat that could cause a fire. Denison estimated the damage at about $25,000; 13 fire personnel, three fire engines, two firefighter paramedic ambulances, and an investigator, were assigned to the incident. No injuries to civilians or firefighters were reported. Courtesy photos can be located at www.sbcfire.org under latest news.


LAST MINUTE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION POSITION FILLED

The Morongo Unified School District Board of Education holds its last meeting before the start of the school year on August 19. Reporter Dan Stork says the action agenda features the filling of a high-level administrative slot…
Following a 6:30 p.m. closed meeting to consider personnel and pupil issues, the Morongo Unified School District Board of Education will ratify the 2014 graduates of the three District high schools as the first item on the action agenda at its 7 p.m. open session on August 19. Following that is approval of the consolidated application for categorical funding from the state, and of a contract for Deborah Turner as Interim Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services. Next, the Board will acknowledge projects placed on the “Applications Received Beyond Bond Authority List.” The long-running $6 million+ construction projects at Twentynine Palms High School will see a notice of completion and two unusual change orders: a $75,000 reduction, and a 70-day no-cost extension. Finally, a U.S. history book will be considered for further review. The Board meets at Joshua Tree Elementary School.


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