It’s Gonna Be a-Windy Tonight

Andrew Goff / Thursday, March 23 @ 1:21 p.m. / How ‘Bout That Weather

Hold onto your lawn furniture. Our local National Weather Service weather gurus tell us that both Humboldt and Del Norte counties are going to get gusty this afternoon and into the evening. 

“Sustained winds of 20-30 MPH are expected with gusts up to 55 MPH, with some ridges seeing even higher gusts,” says NWS.

Remember where you last used that flashlight in case you lose power, maybe. 


(VIDEO) BREAKING THE CYCLE: Humboldt County Jail Sponsors Criminal Justice ‘Dialogue Series,’ Hopes to Move Convicts Back Into Productive Society

Sierra Jenkins / Thursday, March 23 @ 7:15 a.m. / LoCO Video Reports

Click video to play. Problems on iPhone? Turn your phone sideways.

The Humboldt County Correctional Facility is smack dab in the middle of Eureka and plays a vital role in the community — keeping criminals off the street of course. But the jail’s recidivism rate is 85 percent, meaning after people are released, they end up back in a life of crime and then once again behind bars. This happens over and over.

However the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s programs department has become very proactive in trying to educate the public about the effects of incarceration and to help those who are locked up at the county jail find ways to break the cycle.

The department spent months preparing two weeks of criminal justice events. Next week it will host a reentry fair for the jail’s inmates, preparing them for a successful release. This week it is holding a criminal justice dialogue series — gatherings to discuss challenges and identify resources related to currently and formerly incarcerated people.

This is only the third year of the criminal justice dialogue but it serves as a catalyst for innovation in Humboldt’s evolving criminal justice system.

The Sheriff’s Office inmate programs coordinator, Vanessa Vrtiak, organized the events. They came to fruition with support from HSU sociology department staff and students, and the county’s probation department. Vrtiak was personally impacted by the system as a youth, having an incarcerated parent at the Humboldt County jail.

She says, “I see the value in people being supported after incarceration. It trickles down to our whole community, 95 percent of people will be returning to their community, so why not invest in these folks and give them a second chance.”

This week an array of organizations are presenting to local high schools, at Humboldt State University and at the correctional facility. Topics range from housing barriers for those with a criminal background, to sharing personal stories about incarceration, to higher education on the inside and outside, and more.

In this LoCO Video Report we attend the event; The impacts of incarceration on families. Project WHAT! out of Oakland is the guest speaker. The program employs youth who’ve had an incarcerated parent, while raising awareness about the hardship in an effort improve services and policies.

This week’s events will wrap up Friday night with a community round table discussion at HSU’s Goodwin Forum.

Man in Ski Mask Holds Up Alliance Road Gas Station; Police Seeking Small, Blond Suspect

Hank Sims / Thursday, March 23 @ 6:38 a.m. / Crime

From the Arcata Police Department:

On 03/22/17 at about 10:31 PM, the Arcata Police Department received a report of a robbery that had just occurred at the Alliance 76 Gas Station (2205 Alliance Rd). The clerk stated that the male suspect entered the store with a ski mask covering his face and head and carrying a plastic garbage bag. The suspect indicated that he wanted the money from the register and the clerk complied and turned over an undisclosed amount of cash. The suspect then exited the store and was last seen running southbound on Alliance Rd. The clerk never saw a weapon, nor did the suspect claim he had one.

The clerk described the suspect as white male, approximately 5’-6”, with a thin build. He was wearing a black sweatshirt and blue jeans. A witness further described the suspect as being in his early 20’s and having blond hair.

Anyone with information in this case is encouraged to called the Arcata Police Department.

All Five Manila Killing Suspects to Stand Trial for Murder, Carjacking, Judge Rules Today

Rhonda Parker / Wednesday, March 22 @ 6:23 p.m. / Courts

All five defendants in the killing of Tyson Eduardo Claros will stand trial for murder and carjacking.

Judge Marilyn Miles, after a three-day preliminary hearing, ruled today there was probable cause to hold to answer Brandon James Mitchell, Catherine Lynn Suzanne Fode, Hector Godoy-Standley, Tamara Nicole Thomson and Cesar Octavio Valenzuela. Mitchell also was held to answer for personally firing a gun, and Thomson, Godoy-Standley and Valenzuela for personal use of a firearm. But the personal use charge against Fode was dropped, with Deputy District Attorney Brie Bennett saying there was not enough evidence she was carrying a gun.

Claros, 20, was shot four times during an alleged carjacking on state Highway 255 in the early morning hours of Dec. 12. Fode and Mitchell apparently believed he had gotten away with molesting their 3-year-old daughter.

Mitchell’s attorney, Deputy Conflict Counsel Marek Reavis, argued today that it was only finger-pointing co-defendants (Valenzuela and Thomson) who named his client as the shooter. The eyewitness, “Jane Doe,” testified it was Valenzuela who shot her friend Claros.

“She has no reason to finger anyone else besides the person she saw,” Reavis said.

Thomson’s attorney, David Nims, said there was no premeditated plan to kill Claros, just a plan for “some kind of beating.” Thomson admitted to investigators that she set Claros up by pretending she needed a ride to McKinleyville. She allegedly pulled out a gun during that ride, and then the other four defendants pulled up behind them. Thomson said she believed there was going to be a “one-on-one” fight between Mitchell and Claros and was shocked when Claros was shot.

By Clockwise from upper left: Valenzuela, Mitchell, Fode, Thomson, Godoy-Standley..

Both Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo, representing Valenzuela, and Russ Clanton, representing Godoy-Standley, referred to their clients as “the odd man out.” Valenzuela, Thomson’s boyfriend, was only there because she was, Russo said, and had no motive to hurt Claros. According to testimony Valenzuela barely knew the other three defendants. But it was allegedly him who ordered “Jane Doe” out of her car while pointing a gun in her face.

Clanton said there was no credible evidence that Godoy-Standley “played any role in any of this.” Godoy-Standley, Fode’s boyfriend, was rarely mentioned during testimony, other than to say he was there during the incident. But Bennett noted the evidence indicates he was packing a gun.

Bennett told the judge she believes eyewitness Jane Doe was mistaken when she identified Valenzuela as the shooter. Not only did Valenzuela and Thomson name Mitchell, he made self-incriminating statements during recorded jail visits.

During one visit, he said he was “hoping for an all-male jury with 3-year-old daughters,” apparently so jurors would understand why he felt he had to punish the person who molested his daughter.

“Every man says they would,” he told his visitor, “but few have done it.”

He also complained about the bad publicity he was getting, when “the suspect in raping a child, where’s the publicity?”

In fact there is no evidence the little girl was raped, but a possible molestation was under investigation. On Sept. 24, Fode took the child to Mad River Hospital, where she was examined after saying “Uncle Tyson” had put his fingers in her vagina. The doctor contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s Deputy Spellman Stallworth, called as a witness by Fode’s attorney Neal Sanders, testified today that the doctor told him the child’s vaginal area looked red and irritated. She recommended that the little girl be given a forensic exam.

Because the alleged molestation took place in Eureka city limits, Stallworth sent the information to the Eureka Police Department.

Today EPD Detective Amber Cosetti testified that the child was interviewed twice by a special panel that investigates child abuse. Cosetti was there for the second interview, and said the little girl reported no abuse or molestation.

Cosetti told Fode and Godoy-Standley she needed to do some follow-up work, including talking to Claros. She was busy working other cases, and three weeks went by before she attempted to reach him. When she tried, his phone number was no longer valid. On Nov. 30 she left a phone message for Fode and Godoy-Standley, asking if they had current contact information for Claros.

The detective never heard back, and less than two weeks later Claros was shot dead.

Sheriff’s investigator Jennifer Turner attended the autopsy on Dec. 14, two days after the killing. She testified today that Claros was shot four times, with two of the bullets passing through his body. One of those was a bullet to the chest. He also was shot twice in the thigh and once in his lower stomach.

The five defendants are scheduled for arraignment April 5 before Judge Christopher Wilson.



BOLO: EPD Would Like Your Help in Locating This Armed Robbery Suspect

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, March 22 @ 3:56 p.m. / Crime

PREVIOUSLY: EPD SAYS: It Was a Wild Year in Armed Robberies of Banks and Businesses, But We Solved Almost All of ‘Em

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Eureka Police Department press release: 

Rocky Keene

The Eureka Police Department is requesting the public’s assistance in locating the second suspect in a string of recent armed robberies.

From the dates of 12/23/2016 thru 01/20/2017, four armed robberies took place in both the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department and the Eureka Police Department’s jurisdictions. The investigation identified two suspects, Ezra Williams and Rocky Keene.

  • Ezra Keith Williams (32 years old of Rio Dell, CA.) was taken into custody on February 1st , 2017 and is awaiting trial for his involvement in the crimes.
  • Rocky Karl Keene (33 years old of Eureka, CA.) is still at large. There is currently a $200,000 warrant for Keene’s arrest. Keene is described as a white male adult, 6-03”, 210 lbs., brown hair, and hazel eyes.

Keene should be considered armed and the public is advised not to attempt to contact or detain Keene themselves, but are urged to call the police immediately if they observe him. Anyone with information regarding the possible location of Keene should contact the Eureka Police Department at 707-441- 4044 or contact Senior Detective Ron Harpham at (707) 441-4305.

DA Charges Murderer in Klamath Shooting; Three Associates, Including Eureka Woman, Charged With Accessory to Murder

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, March 22 @ 3:41 p.m. / Crime

Pratt, Johnson, Woodard, Wright | HCSO

PREVIOUSLY: Four Arrested in Humboldt After Early Morning Shooting in Klamath Leaves Woman Dead

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Del Norte County District Attorney press release: 

The Del Norte District Attorney has filed charges against four individuals in connection with the shooting death of Sunni Jo Grant (37) of Klamath, California on March 20, 2017. George Johnson, Jr. (33) of Galesburg, Illinois was charged with Murder, Possession of a Firearm by a Felon, a Special Allegation of Personally Discharging a Firearm that Proximately Caused Death and a Special Allegation of having suffered a prior conviction for Aggravated Battery with a Firearm in Knox County, Illinois. Cinque Chapman Pratt (32) of Chicago, Illinois was charged with Accessory to Murder. Marcaulius Jaleel Woodard (25) of Jackson, Mississippi was charged with Accessory to Murder. Natalie Rachelle Wright (37) of Eureka, California was charged with Accessory to Murder, Unlawful Driving of a Vehicle and Child Endangerment.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred outside of a residence on Silverside Circle in Klamath during the early morning hours of March 20, 2017. After the initial apprehension of the four by the California Highway Patrol out of Eureka, California and the assistance of the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office in facilitating their transfer to Del Norte County, a joint investigation by the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office and the Del Norte District Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the California Department of Justice, was conducted and remains ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Del Norte District Attorney’s Office at 450 H St. in Crescent City or by calling (707) 464-7210 or the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office at 650 5th St. in Crescent City or by calling (707) 464-7210.

Johnson, Pratt, Woodard and Wright were arraigned this afternoon. At the request of District Attorney Trigg, bail was set at $1,000,000 for Johnson and $500,000 for Pratt, Woodard and Wright. The four will return to court on March 24, 2017.

Klamath Stabbing Victim Was Killed Because of His Race, Says District Attorney

Andrew Goff / Wednesday, March 22 @ 3:33 p.m. / Crime

PREVIOUSLY: Del Norte Sheriff’s Office IDs Homicide Suspect Arrested in Fatal Klamath Glen Stabbing; Second Victim Taken to Emergency Room

# # 3

Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office press release: 

David Soldano

The Del Norte District Attorney has charged David Joseph Soldano (56) of Klamath, California with Murder with a Special Circumstance Allegation that the victim, Timothy Thompson, a Native American, was intentionally killed because of his race. An additional Special Allegation has been charged alleging that Soldano personally used a deadly weapon, a knife, in the commission of the murder.

Soldano was also charged with the Attempted Murder of Todd Burhus arising from the same incident. Soldano was again charged with the Special Allegation that he personally used a deadly weapon, a knife, in the commission of the attempted murder. Finally, Soldano was charged with the Special Allegation that he committed a Hate Crime against Burhus, a Native American.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred outside of Crivelli’s in Klamath during the early morning hours of March 20, 2017. A joint investigation by the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office and the Del Norte District Attorney’s Office was conducted thereafter and remains ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Del Norte District Attorney’s Office at 450 H St. in Crescent City or by calling (707) 464-7210 or the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office at 650 5 th St. in Crescent City or by calling (707) 464-7210.

Soldano was arraigned this afternoon. At the request of District Attorney Trigg, bail was denied. Soldano will return to court on March 24, 2017.