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COLD CASE: Jenner Double Murder on Fish Head Beach

Sonoma County 51 Comments »

Lindsay CutshallJason Allen

Lindsay Cutshall, 22, and Jason Allen, 26, were to be married September 11, 2004. Instead, the young couple, who had met and fallen in love at an Appalachian Bible college, were found slain on a California beach weeks before their nuptials in a baffling murder mystery that to date remains unsolved.

On Sunday, August 15th, Jason and Lindsay, both from Ohio, were reported missing by staff at the Christian Rock-N-Water rafting camp where they held summer jobs as river rafting guides. The two were so responsible that everybody at the camp immediately knew something was wrong when they failed to show up Sunday evening as scheduled.

Camp was wrapping up and the couple, with plans to return home August 22nd, had decided to take one last weekend excursion before heading back to Ohio. But they hadn’t told any of the camp leaders or fellow counselors exactly where they were going, so no one knew precisely where to search.

El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies scoured the area around the camp in Columa along the American River with no luck. Cutshall’s and Allen’s parents flew in to help and the couple’s church back in Ohio held an emergency prayer meeting. The camp director and several staff members first searched in the Auburn area where the couple liked to camp, but later searched the bay area because they knew that Lindsay wanted to visit San Francisco before the end of the summer and this would be their last weekend in California.

Jason Allen’s Ford Tempo 

Several days passed and there was still no sign of Jason or Lindsay. Then on Wednesday, August 18th, the California Highway Patrol found their car, a red 1993 Ford Tempo, parked in a turnout alongside California Highway 1, about a mile and a half north of the town of Jenner.

The turnout is a popular place for people to stop for a nice view of the Pacific Ocean.

Their car had been found, but there was still no sign of Jason or Lindsay.

Fish Head Beach, Jenner - Crime Scene
Sadly, the search would end just a few hours later, when a helicopter crew was dispatched to rescue a 17-year-old Cotati resident clinging to the edge of a cliff near Jenner. The pilot spotted two people lying motionless in sleeping bags on the driftwood-covered beach below a steep cliff. The site is accessible only by a steep 15-minute hike from the coastal California Route 1. The helicopter swooped in low, and when the people didn’t respond to the engine’s noise, the pilot landed the chopper and the crew discovered that both were dead. They were quickly identified as Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall. Each had been shot once in the head at point blank range, execution style. The couple had finally been found, but no one knew what they were doing in this part of the state.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Edmonds said the couple died of gunshot wounds to the head, apparently while they slept. There was no indication of a struggle, or that their belongings were damaged or tampered with. “This is a very disturbing case,” Edmonds said. “It appears to be a terrible crime, absent of motive, so it’s a cause of great concern to us. From all indications, the victims were very upstanding citizens, they were very honorable people, they had an absolute absence of enemies.”

The couple’s belongings, car keys, a camera, a bible, wedding literature and journal, were found beside them, completely intact. It appeared that no attempt was made to take Jason’s money or Lindsay’s jewelry. Robbery did not appear to be the motive.

 Jason Allen Lindsay Cutshall’s Route to Jenner

In an effort to reconstruct Jason and Lindsay’s movements, authorities starting tracing the couple’s last steps. No one seemed to knew what Jason and Lindsay were planning on doing that weekend or why they ended up on a Sonoma County beach. While several of the camp counselors indicated that Jason and Lindsay had told them they were going to “visit friends” that weekend, no one knew about any friends they had outside of the camp. Authorities made a key discovery when they found that Lindsay Cutshall’s credit card had been used Saturday afternoon to purchase a $9 miniature bottle of Tabasco sauce at a souvenir shop on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

The credit card transaction places Jason and Lindsay in San Francisco around 1:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. Even if they drove directly from the Fisherman’s Wharf to Jenner without stopping they would not arrive in Jenner until around 4:00 pm. However, they were unfamiliar with the area and a number of sightings and clues indicate that they stopped several times, setting a leisurely pace. I would guess that they did not arrive in Jenner until 6:30 or 7:00 pm on Saturday evening.

Jason Allen Lindsay Cutshall Golden Gate Bridge

Photos that were recovered and developed from a camera found alongside the slain couple reveal that they had stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge. The photo of the couple above appears to have been taken by Jason, extending his own arm to hold the camera. This may indicate that there was no third party to snap the picture, that the couple was not traveling with anyone else.

Dustin Gooler, a cashier at River Gas on Main Street in Guerneville, said he remembers Allen coming into the store late that afternoon. His sighting was verified when he properly identified the location of duct tape on the right front headlight of Jason’s car. He was also able to describe the kayak rack on the roof.

Two additional sightings remain unconfirmed, each from different surf shops, one in Sebastopol and one in the town of Bodega. The owners claim that Jason and Lindsay came into their shop asking about camping on the beaches “North of Jenner”. These reports contradict the Guernville siting because the surfshops were along the Highway 116 route to Jenner and the gas station in Guernville is along the River Road route.

No one knows where Jason or Lindsay spent Friday night. They left the camp late that evening after a long day on the river. Most people doubt they could have made it all the way to San Francisco that night. Even if they did, where could they have stayed? The credit card receipt proves they made it to the city by early Saturday afternoon and the citings in Guernville and around Jenner occurred later that evening. So did they camp out near their camp in Coloma or did they camp out closer to the bay area?

I decided to head to Sonoma County and take a look at the area. The turnout for Fish Head beach is approximately one-and-a-half miles north of downtown Jenner or around one mile north of the River’s End Restaurant (where the Russian River meets the ocean). There are three different turnouts in this general area, which immediately follows a major hairpin turn on the coastal Highway 1. Directly across the road from the ocean, almost improbably, a herd of cattle grazes in a large field.

Several trails lead away from the turnouts. One heads toward a beach directly to the north, another to a set of dangerously steep cliffs, and a third leads to the south and down to Fish Head beach. I initially walked down the middle trail to the steep cliffs because they provide a panoramic view of the entire area.

 Fish Head Beach, Jenner Area Details

Take a look at the photo above. From these cliffs you can see the entire stretch of Fish Head Beach. Beyond a rock divider at the end of Fish Head Beach you can see North Jenner beach and the mouth of the Russian River (where it pours into the Pacific). From this vantage point the beach looks small and appears to be littered with driftwood.

I decided to head back toward the turn out and take the trail to the south which leads to Fish Head Beach. This beach is commonly known as Driftwood Beach by many of the locals and is frequented by pot smoking hippies in their twenties who like to go there and get drunk, recreational beach goers, an occassional fisherman or two (either pole fishing or abalone), and even families.

 Fish Head Beach, Jenner Ridge

I followed the trail across the top of the ridge heading south until I came to another steeper trail decending down to the beach. I started walking down this trail and could see the cliffs that I took the first photograph from directly to the north. I also had a much closer view of the beach. Take a look at the photo to the right. In this photo you can see the main trail decending down to the beach in the least steep part of the ridge.

Along the steeper sections of this trail, I found ropes tied to the base of several plants. This was probably used to assist detectives in decending down to the beach and in carrying equipment. The trail was rather steep in sections and not too steep in others. There were quite a few unusual plants in the area and I found some cattle bones scattered along the trail. Sea lions are common on this relatively isolated beach that does not see too many visitors. This is also a popular spot for abalone divers. Perhaps Jason and Lindsay encountered abalone or sea lion poachers down on this beach, offenses that carry steep fines and harsh jail time.

As I reached the end of the trail and got closer to the beach and looked directly to the North I could immediately see a couple of things that I recognized from the crime scene photo released by the Sheriff’s Department. Right in front of me was the large burnt log, the pointed rock covered in bird shit, and the recognizable driftwood hut. Jason and Lindsay were found right behind the large burnt log which is visible in the picture to the left.

Fish Head Beach Campsite Details 

Taken from the trail, this photo shows the crime scene area. There has been widespread speculation as to why Lindsay and Jason would go to such lengths to spend private time on an isolated beach, only to set up camp so close to the main trail. Some believe they were waiting to meet someone—either a friend they’d come to Jenner to see, or someone new that they met on the drive. Many people have mentioned that Jason is they type of guy who would give rides to hitchhikers. Did they pick one up along the way? Were they waiting for someone that they met earlier that day around the Jenner Area?

 Nicholas Edward Scarseth

Perhaps his was why authorities originally focused on a 21-year old drifter from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Nicholas Edward Scarseth (pictured above) was eventually picked up for questioning in Fort Bragg, about 100 miles north of Jenner. At 6′ 5″ and 185 lbs., the dreadlocked Scarseth cuts an imposing figure. Despite a history of alcoholism and drunken disorderly conduct arrests, Scarseth is not known as being violent. But Joel Martin, 45, owner of a Jenner gift shop, reported seeing someone matching Scarseth’s description during the time frame of the killings. And suspicions lingered for yet another reason: although he grew up Catholic and attended Bible school, Scarseth is known to harbor anger toward those with religious convictions. Scarseth was briefly questioned by the police, tested with a polygraph, then cleared and released. He is no longer a suspect in the case.

Some have suggested the couple chose a spot along the main trail because they arrived just before dark and wanted to avail themselves of the few moments of remaining daylight needed to set up camp. A sighting at the River’s End restaurant and lodge in Jenner suggests they may have stopped in earlier that night to rent a room. But River’s End had no vacancies that night. Perhaps, it is thought, Lindsay and Jason returned to the beach because they could find nowhere else to stay, working quickly to set up camp before the last light of day.

 Jason Allen Lindsay Cutshall Last Photo

However, the final image on the film roll recovered from Lindsay’s camera indicates that they did reach this campsite before dark. This photo is shown below. Take a close look at the rock formations shown in the distance in this photo. Compare this photo to the second photo from the top of this page, which was taken from ridge above where their campsite was located.

These two images demonstrate that the last photo they took was almost certainly shot from the exact location where their bodies were found. This photo also shows that they reached the campsite before dark. So why did they decide to set up their campsite so close to the main trail? Were they waiting for someone?

Fish Head beach is more commonly known as Driftwood beach by most of the locals. It’s known for its privacy and because it is remote and largely inaccessible, is not regularly patrolled. Directly south is the more popular and heavily trafficked North Jenner beach, a draw for families and tourists who come to watch sea lions and look at the mouth of the Russian River. The North Jenner beach can be accessed by a variety of easy trails and is well patrolled by authorities. Ordinances against fires, camping and parties are strictly enforced.

A set of cliffs and large rocks separate the isolated Fish Head Beach (or “Driftwood”) from North Jenner, and the only two ways to get to Fish Head are by walking around the cliffs during low tide or by parking in one of the turnouts a mile-and-a-half north of the downtown area and hiking down a relatively steep trail for around 15 minutes. This makes the beach an ideal location for camping, bonfires, or parties. It would be extremely difficult to patrol this beach other than by helicopter or by boat.

 Fish Head Beach, Jenner Driftwood Hut

The beach earned its nickname from the overabundance of driftwood that washes ashore each year, a natural phenomenon that has inspired a subculture of driftwood huts, sculpture and graffiti. The picture above shows a driftwood hut that was found approximately 50 feet to the south of Jason and Lindsay’s campsite.

 Fish Head Beach, Jenner Driftwood Sinn

People often name their huts. A knocked down hut located directly behind their campsite was named “The Driftwood Sinn”, another labeled “Fort Driftwood”. Several logs had things written on them such as “My Beach, Don’t Fuck the place up” or “Locals Rule”. There were even two small huts further down on the beach labeled “Men’s” and “Women’s”, complete with holes in the floor and make-shift driftwood toilet seats.

The regulations at the well-monitored North Jenner Beach don’t apply here. At Driftwood Beach, people light campfires, throw parties, and camp out in the driftwood huts. The beach is littered with beer cans, bottles, trash, and anything else that people decide to leave behind.

Who found Jason and Lindsay on this remote stretch of beach, and how?

Even if the couple had mentioned plans to travel to Jenner, who would think to find them on Fish Head Beach?

The fact that several people they met on the trip report that Jason and Lindsay discussed plans to camp out on a beach north of Jenner indicates an advance decision to camp in the area. Yet everyone at Rock n’ Water denies knowing anything about the couple’s weekend plans.

It is possible that someone from the camp knew that Jason and Lindsay’s target area was “a beach north of Jenner” and drove out there to find them?

It wouldn’t have been that hard.

Just past downtown Jenner, off to the side of Highway 1, are a series of 12 -15 turnouts. They run from River’s End to the Russian Gulch area. It would only take about 10 minutes to drive this 3-mile stretch and scan the parked cars. Few are parked in the turnouts after dark and would be highly visible to a passing motorist.

Were they killed by someone they met on their way out to Jenner? By all reports, Jason and Lindsay spoke to a number of people and specified their plans to camp on a beach north of Jenner. A new acquaintance could as easily have traced the 3-mile stretch of turnouts looking for their car or even stalked them as they made their way to Fish Head.

It is also possible they were killed by someone they ran into on this particular beach. Fish Head is a popular party spot on weekends. The quiet isolation that Jason and Lindsay almost certainly found when they arrived at dusk might have been interrupted later that night by a group of people who showed up with a case of beer and some marijuana and started to party. But why would the couple remain at the campsite if they had encountered someone undesirable? And why would they keep their campsite so close to the main trail if they knew it would be traversed by drunk and potentially belligerent partiers?

For these reasons, I believe that Jason and Lindsay were alone on the beach when they went to sleep that night.

Below are two photos.

Fish Head Beach, Jenner Dug Out Area Crime Scene

The photo above shows the area immediately behind the large burnt log where Jason and Lindsay were found. Note the area that appears to be dug out by law enforcement, probably in order to recover the projectiles used to kill them or any other evidence that might have been buried in the sand. The pile of driftwood in the background is a fallen hut which had been labeled the “Driftwood Sinn” (closeup shot above).

Fish Head Beach, Jenner - Southern Stretch

The photo above shows the rest of the beach, south of the Driftwood Sinn hut. To the right you can see the bird shit rock from the crime scene photo and in the distance to the left you can see the Fort Driftwood (as pictured above) sticking out behind the rocks.

Nearly a month to the date after Jason and Lindsay were found slain on Fish Head Beach, authorities released information on the gun used in the murders. Ballistics had narrowed down the weapon to one of two .45 caliber Marlin rifles. The models authorities were looking for: Marlin Model 1894 rifle, lever action, .45 long Colt caliber and a Marlin Model 45, semi-automatic/camp carbine, .45 ACP caliber. A picture of each of these rifles is to the right, the Model 1894 pictured on top and the Model 45 semi-automatic below.

 Marlin Rifles .45 Cal

A .45 ACP and .45 long colt are distinctly different types of ammunition. While both have the same bore width, a .45 ACP is much shorter in length and has less gun powder behind it than a .45 long Colt. I believe that ballistics can determine precisely which of these models was actually used in the killings, but that authorities decided to disclose two rifles in an effort to weed out false leads.

Most people believe that the lever-action Marlin Model 1894 rifle, lever action, .45 long Colt rifle was used in these killings. Why would someone pick such a large bulky rifle which is hard to conceal to commit these murders? There are several possible explanations. Perhaps this rifle was the only gun that the perp had access to; perhaps the perp went down to the beach with the specific intention of poaching sea lions and found Jason and Lindsay camping; or perhaps the perp chose this particular rifle because it was his grandfather’s old unregistered gun and had been stashed away in storage for many years. I believe this rifle was chosen because it was an older gun, most likely inherited or taken from an elderly, deceased relative—a perfect choice for a murder weapon as it would be nearly impossible to trace a gun that’s long been stored and was never registered. Thus, I believe Lindsay and Jason were most likely killed by someone who knew them, who planned out the killings, and who drove to Fish Head for the express purpose of murdering the couple.

Some argue that since they had no enemies, no one could possibly want to kill the couple, suggesting a case of mistaken identity. But Jason and Lindsay were shot execution style at point blank range, virtually eliminating the possibility of error.

 Jenner Murders - Wanted Car - Allen Cutshall

Authorities later announced that they want to identify a vehicle that was seen in the area of Fishhead Beach during the timeframe of the murders. The vehicle is described as a dark colored sedan, 1980’s or early 90’s model, dirty, with a very distinctive decal in its rear window. The windows also have tinting that is possibly peeling off. The black and white decal may be something like a drawing of a crescent-shaped pollywog-like creature with legs, perhaps symbolic of evolutionary theory. One notable aspect of the decal is that it may be located closer to the center of the rear window than is typical. A police sketch of this dark colored sedan is to the right.

Many people, including authorities, have tried to identify the decal, but with little luck. No direct matches have been made. Some people believe the decal relates to Darwinism (an “evolving” tadpole) and that the driver of the vehicle supports the evolutionary theory over creationism. Were Jason and Lindsay killed because of their beliefs?

PortageRaft with Oars

Others feel that the decal is in fact not a “pollywog,” but a similarly shaped rafting symbol. Pictured to the left is a decal of someone carrying or portaging a canoe; the human legs and form of the canoe could be mistaken for a “pollywog”. Any number of rafting, canoeing, kayaking, or rowing decals depict “pollywog” shaped boats with oars or paddles that can be construed to resemble tadpole legs. A picture of a raft with oars is to the right.

Or could the decal represent a zygote or embryo, and symbolize the right-to-life movement?

Since Jason and Lindsay were avid whitewater rafting guides with Christian ethics and a strong belief in creationism, there is a very good chance that they knew someone with either a right-to-life or rafting decal. On the other hand, the same beliefs might have provoked a strong and fatal clash of ethics, particularly if the killer was a fanatic, and this scenario could explain an evolutionary theory decal.

Therefore the sighting of this car may well indicate that someone that they knew or who knew them was also in the area that night.

But we still have no way of knowing what Jason and Lindsay were doing in this area, who else might have known that they would be in camping on Fish Head, or why anyone would want to kill them.

We tend to think that Jason and Linsday were killed by someone who knew them and went to this beach with explicit intent to kill them for the following reasons:

Simple Odds most homicides are committed by perps who knew the victims.

Location Serial predators go where they can select their prey. Pretty limited selection on the beaches near Jenner that night.

Lack of similar Crimes No reports of people being shot with .45 rifles, no beach killings, nothing similar. Sonoma county has a very low murder rate.

Victimology Cutshall and Allen were not druggies, they weren’t street prostitutes, they weren’t involved w/gangs or organized crime. They were in a very low-risk category and were killed in a low-risk area.

Weapon Choice I’ve never heard of any serial cases where the perp used a rifle at close range.

Method Both victims shot point blank in the head, no overkill, no multiple shots, just a clean execution. That argues for someone who knew them.

Do you have any ideas about what might have happened to Jason and Lindsay?

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The Greatest American President

Politics, Sonoma County 7 Comments »

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Recently Santa Rosa’s normally staid and nonpartisan City Council asked Congress to launch impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush.  This put Santa Rosa in the company of 88 other California cities and counties, including Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Arcata and Sebastopol who also want to impeach the president. 

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I guess that Californians feel that if they get enough signatures they can recall the President and replace him with someone else.  This is the exact same strategy that they envoked to replace the former governor, Gray Davis, with the current govenator, Arnold Schwartzenegger.  This might have worked in the Republic of California (it even got Gary Coleman on the ballot), but I doubt it will work in United States of America.  Who are they planning on using to replace George W. Bush, Bruce Willis?

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Susan Gorin, Carol Dean (not pictured), Veronica Jacobi, Lee Pierce and John Sawyer (L to R above) were the council members who supported the resolution.  Mayor Bob Blanchard cast the lone no vote while Councilwoman Jane Bender abstained (L to R below).  Leading to a 5-1 vote in favor of impeaching George Bush.  

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A worthless resolution, since no one really cares what these people think about a president who has less than a year to serve in office.  Stop wasting your time and our tax money!  No one cares what you think.

 I totally disagree with them.  I wish that we could bend the rules and re-elect George W. Bush for a third term in office. George W. Bush has to be the greatest president of all times.  He has accomplished so much during his time in office.

Here are just a few of the many highlights and accomplishments that President George W. Bush has achieved during his time in office:

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- Single handedly destroyed the Democrat’s evil economic titan, the dotCom bubble because it utilized his opponent, Al Gore’s invention, the internet. 

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- Dispatched fighter jets and the use of cruise missles to resumed attacking targets in Iraq to enforce the “no-fly zones” that Clinton was so lax on enforcing during his time in office.

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- Proposed a $1.35 trillion tax cut program—one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history.

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- Sent unspent government funds back to the taxpayers in the form of $300-500 rebate checks! Free money for all!

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- Passed the No Child Left Behind Act aimed to measure and close the gap between rich and poor student performance.

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- Veto’d the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act to prevent all those poor little stem cells from being harmed.

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- Asked all illegal immigrants to either register legally or to go back to Mexico.

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- Single oversaw and managed the largest disaster relief effort in history for hurricane Katrina victims through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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- Improved foreign policy and relations through out the world with scores of different nations.

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- Handled September 11th extremely well.

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- Waged a War on Terror which is much more difficult than waging a war against a soverign nation.

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- Came up with the USA Patriot Act which brought down the artificial wall separating law enforcement and intelligence officers and allowed them to talk to each other as they work to prevent future attacks.

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- Defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan and drove Bin Laden into a cave up in the mountains.

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- Defeated Iraq, captured Saddam Hussein to finish what his father started, and then occupied Iraq.  George Bush is a man of action who is definitely not all talk.

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- Fought for the civil liberties and fair treatment of detainees.

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- Told North Korea and Iran to stand down or they too will feel that wrath of one angry Texan.

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- Defined the Axis of Evil so the world would know which nations are good and which ones are just down right evil.
During his time in office the Real GDP has grown at an average annual rate of 2.5%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has grown by about 30%, the annual on-budget deficit has grown from -$86 Billion to over $434 billion, and he expanded the national debt from $5.73 trillion to a record 8.98 trillion dollars!

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Unfortunately George W. Bush cannot run for a third term in office and his brother, Jeb Bush, is not available to run for office.  I just hope that the next president, Rudy Giuliani, can do half as good a job as George Bush.  However, I don’t have any doubts about that he will also be a really great president because he did an outstanding job of running New York City.

So what exactly is your opinion of George W. Bush?
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The Right to Protection Yourself

Sonoma County 8 Comments »

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Last year on this day Matthew Allen Toste, a peaceful man, walked through a City of Santa Rosa, California owned garage, unarmed, heading to Club Seven with his girlfriend, female cousin, and her husband.  He was unarmed as it’s illegal for regular law abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms in California for their own protection.

The group was confronted by five gang members, who harassed and made sexually provocative comments towards Matthew Toste’s girlfriend and his female cousin.  One of the gang member’s grabbed his female cousin’s ass (sexual assault) and Matthew stepped in to protect her from harassment.  During the altercation Matthew was punched by one of the gang member and he punched the gang member back knocking him to the floor.  One of the other gang members pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and shot Matthew twice in the chest.  He died almost instantly.

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Paul Whiterock, 26, and Joseph Lopez Jr., 18, were arrested immediately following the shooting, but were released within two days due to lack of evidence.

Matthew died and he was the single parent of a five year old son who is now without a father. 

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Gun control laws prevent law abiding citizens like Matthew Toste from protecting themselves.  Its a felony to carried a concealed weapon in California.  These gun control laws stopped Matthew from carrying a gun, but they didn’t stop these gang members (Paul Whiterock) from carrying weapons.  These types of laws keep guns out of regular citizen’s hands and make it so that the criminals are the only ones carrying firearms.  This gives the criminal element an unfair advantage over the rest of society who abides by the law.

Everyone should have the right to carry firearms or other weapons for protection.  It’s a constitutional right which is being violated by local and state laws.

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Firearms and other weapons will continue to be prevalent among the Sonoma County gang elements, how else will all these scrawny 160 lb twenty something guys be tough without weapons or numbers?  They rely on guns to intimidate and to make themselves feel safe and secure.  Without guns they would be very vulnerable to retaliation and would not be very effective in what they do.  If everyone had the right to carry firearms (with a permit) then these gang members would have to be more careful because they would never know who fight back when they started with someone. 

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I also blame Club Seven in Santa Rosa for this tradgedy.  They lowered their standard by playing Ghetto Music and hiring Go-Go Dancers for their bars to attract a bottom of the barrel gangster wannabe crowd that would typically be turned away from Carlos Santana’s Cantina, Tex Wasabi’s, Upper Fourth, Latitudes, or The Last Day Saloon.  Nabi Baitsaeed and Gianni Messmer really scraped from the bottom after the trendy crowd that once frequented his club started going other places.  It started as a high-end nightclub but has since been dragged into the ghetto.   This club has generated over 520 police calls in the past year alone.  There have been numerous fights and assaults, some of which involve weapons.  Two bouncers from the club, Kenneth D. Hubbell, 29, and John Allen Graham, 39, even followed and jumped a club patron in the parking garage after a minor misunderstanding outside the club.  They are both facing felony assault charges.  I really hope that the city takes the steps necessary to shut down this place.

Valerie Bryce has a different solution, “Resist violence.” Saying that in Matthew Toste’s situation, men should “put down the testosterone” and not protect their women, puts the blame on the victim and not the criminal who pulled the trigger.

What would have happened to those women if Toste had simply walked away and left them to their fate? I doubt these guys would have been content with copping a few feels and then leaving. By giving his life, protecting the women he loved, Toste showed that despite being out numbered and confronted with danger he has the courage to protect his loved ones.  If all men had that much courage, women would be a lot safer today.

I wonder how Valerie would feel if she went out with her husband, was harassed by a group of men in front of him, and then watched him simply just walk away from the situation and leave her to these men because he was too much of coward to protect her.  I bet she would feel totally violated and not have the same respect for him.  Her husband would feel ashamed of his decision of walking away.  Matthew made the right decision in protecting his cousin, he did no wrong.  He may have lost his life, but he never lost his pride.

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New Threat to Medicinal Marijuana

Medicinal Marijuana, Sonoma County 20 Comments »

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Around two years ago, Shannon Edmonds was asleep in his quite Clearlake home next to his girlfriend with both his girlfriend’s sons asleep in the next room. All of a sudden he is awakened by the sound of breaking glass. The sliding glass door to his living room had been broken and three armed men are in his house with guns drawn.

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His girlfriend’s son, Dale Lafferty, 17, run into the living room to see what is going on and he is immediately stuck in the head with a baseball bat by one of the assailants. Another assailant fires a shotgun towards the bedroom spraying glass and wood causing injury to his girlfriend. This family went from being peacefully asleep to being in imminent danger in a matter of minutes.

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Shannon grabs his 9mm handgun and decides to fight back to protect himself, his home, and his family. He shoots and kills two of the intruders and the third intruder flees from his home empty handed.

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Among the dead are Rashad Williams, 21, of Clearlake and Christian Foster, 22, of San Francisco.

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The third assailant, Renato Hughes Jr., 21, of San Francisco was apprehended a few hours later.

Shannon’s 17 year old step-son, Dale, has critical injuries and had to be airlifted to the hospital where he spent several weeks in a coma recovering from his head injuries.

The three assailants were after the 3 pounds of medicinal marijuana that Shannon had due to being a medicinal marijuana patient and caregiver.

So is Shannon the victim or the crime here?

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Many people argued that Shannon should be charged with murder even though he only killed the two intruders to defend himself and his family inside his own home. Others disagree.

Some say that this killing is a racial matter, but I mainly think that’s because Shannon kind of resembles Ed Norton from American  History X, however he looks more like the reformed Ed Norton with longer hair who is no longer racist than the skin head version.  So I don’t think that racism played a role here.  He was simply defending his home and family.

The friends and families of Williams and Foster are outraged and thought that Shannon Edmonds should be charged with murder. How dare he kill those boys for breaking into his home, assaulting his family, and threatening their lives! I really don’t understand their arguement here. These guys committed an armed robbery, with guns, assaulted someone’s son with deadly force and threatened the lives of an entire family. They got what the deserved in my opinion.

By breaking into that home, they forfeited their right to live and put their fate into the hands of whoever owned that house. A person’s home is private property, their own part of the world, where they can be safe and secure from the outside world. Breaking into the house especially brandishing deadly weapons puts the occupants lives in danger. This gives them the right to use deadly force to protect themselves and their property.

The families can argue all they want, but they are missing the real issue at hand. They should have stayed on top of their sons to prevent them from going down a road of crime when they were younger, but now it is too late and there is nothing they can do about it. They are dead. But rather than admitting that they fucked up by raising a couple of pieces of shit, they want to point the fingers at everyone else.

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Rashad’s mother, Sheila Burton, says the following about Rashad Williams:

At 15, Rashad Williams had everything going for him. A standout athlete, he was attending an expensive private high school and his efforts for a victim of the Columbine massacre had landed him on national television and won him a proclamation from the mayor of San Francisco.

At 21, Williams is dead, shot two weeks ago while allegedly breaking into a Clearlake home with two accomplices.

However she fails to mention:

Rashad Williams had been arrested 18 months earlier by Orinda police in connection with a bank robbery.

There was a clear behavior pattern here among those three guys that the families ignored and failed to do anything about. In my opinion the families who want Shannon tried for murder are more guilty for doing such a poor job controlling these guys growing up and setting them on the right track then Shannon who was just defending his family as any man should.

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With the current medicinal marijuana laws in California the police are no longer the biggest fear to those who possess the substance. No city, county, or state law enforcement agencies can interfere with anyone posessing or using marijuana from medicinal uses. Many doctors out there will write prescriptions for medicinal marijuana to anyone for just about any condition out there. Medical Groups like Medicann charge only $100-150 for a visit and will write prescriptions for just about anyone. The biggest fear today in the marijuana industry is being robbed, attacked, or killed by someone that wants to steal your marijuana.

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Just a week ago, Maximiliano Izquierdo Martinez, 20, of Windsor was shot dead after trying to break into a Rincon Valley house to steal the almost 300 lbs of marijuana that were grown and processed there.

Maximiliano Izquierdo Martinez, 20, of Windsor and two friends, Jose Luis Quiroz Jr., 19, and Antonio Pulido, 24 came to the Rincon Valley house on Beech Avenue with the intent on robbery. The occupants in the home fought back and, ultimately, several shots were fired. Martinez was hit and died of a gunshot wound at the scene.

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This is another so-called tradgedy where a couple of low-life criminals got what they deserved. The families can mourn this terrible tradgedy, but they should not be able to cry victim because these guys were killed committing an armed robbery.

All three men suspected of invading the house have extensive criminal backgrounds.

Izquierdo was released in March from San Quentin State Prison after being sentenced in December on drug charges. At the time of his death, Izquierdo was living with his parents and younger sister in Windsor, and was the father of a 3-year-old child.

Pulido was convicted in April 2006 of felony gun possession, three years after a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon with a gang enhancement. He has served two prison terms, according to court documents.

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Quiroz was convicted of felony burglary in the spring, less than a year after being convicted of misdemeanor possession of a deadly weapon. He was given three years’ probation.

All three were class acts.

Under California law regardless of who fired the shot that killed Martinez, his two friends, Quiroz and Pulido, could be charged with murder because they were committing a felony when the homicide occurred. Renato Hughes Jr faces a similar fate and is being held responsible for the death of his partners who were killed in the Clearlake robbery.

California has a felony murder rule, or a related theory called the provocative act doctrine. Both of those legal theories say a defendant can be held responsible for murder committed during the commission of a felony even though they didn’t actually commit the killing.

Therefore the surviving perps will be facing murder charges due to the death of their associates.

I don’t know if I agree with this doctrine. I believe that the surviving perps should face armed robbery and attempted murder charges, but I don’t know if they should be held responsible for the murder of their associates since they didn’t actually kill them, they just helped to start the shoot out which led to their deaths.

With the pass of proposition 215, violent crime and robberies have replaced the police as the biggest threat to marijuana-growing and dispensing activities. The value of the product and the amount of money involved with these marijuana-growing and dispensing operations is very enticing to the criminal element who also want to profit due to the lax laws regarding medicinal marijuana use and distribution.

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Growing marijuana may seem like a good idea due to many due to the lax laws in the area making your chances of being arrested slim to none, however this sort of activity is too attractive to the criminal element who jump at the opportunity to rob, attack, or even kill anyone with large amounts of the product.

I would not be surprised if these crimes surrounding medicinal marijuana get worse and worse as time goes on. However, if the supply increases and more dispenseries open the value in the area will greatly decrease and this will make stealing this product much less appealing.

What do you think about medicinal marijuana?  What can be done to improve the system?  Should it be totally outlawed or made even more readily available?

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Sonoma County’s Subprime Crisis

Sonoma County, Real Estate 12 Comments »

SONOMA COUNTY’S SUBPRIME CRISIS

The subprime loan crisis has hit Sonoma County harder than other parts of the Bay Area, California, or the rest of the United States. The number of subprime loans in parts of Santa Rosa are off the charts!

This has caused the median home price to drop over 12 percent across the board and as much as 35 percent in some distressed areas such as the Northpoint and Bellevue Ranch areas in Southwest Santa Rosa where they estimate that over 40% of the homes in this area were purchased with subprime loans. Other distressed areas include the Kawana Springs area in Southeast Santa Rosa and the Waltzer Lane area of Northwest Santa Rosa.

The median home price in Sonoma county has recently dropped to $473K, which is equivalent to 2003 levels and a far cry from $619K where the market peaked at in August 2005. Overall sales have dropped to a 16-year low. The inventory has spiked up to 2,597 homes for sale which is the highest level since October of 1992 which was the time of the last major decline in the area.

Sales are declining across the Bay Area, but Sonoma County has been one of the hardest hit places in the region.

“The housing downturn is worse in Sonoma County and other counties on the Bay Area’s edge largely because more homeowners relied on risky loans to purchase homes around the market’s peak and may be forced to sell. Soaring foreclosures have led to tightened lending requirements that push out some buyers. We’re still trying to work through the inventory and the bad loans.” said Rick Laws, Santa Rosa manager for Coldwell Banker.

Below is a map of the region which outlines the number of subprime loans taken out in different parts of Sonoma County:

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Nearly one out of five homes sold in Sonoma County during the easy-money years of 2005 and 2006 was bought with a high-risk loan, which triggered a chain reaction of financial distress that has rippled through the county’s housing market. Most of those loans were made to middle and low-income families desperate to buy homes in newer more upscale neighborhoods of west Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Petaluma.

Rippling outward, hundreds of mortgage and real estate workers in Sonoma County are losing their jobs. One in five residents in Sonoma County work in some part of the housing industry, so this will have a devastating effect on the local job market. Dozens of lenders nationwide are bankrupt, or laying off thousands of people, and those that remain have stopped lending except to the most creditworthy borrowers. Meanwhile, pensions, 401(k) plans, mutual funds and banks are losing billions of dollars, as the mortgages they hold lose value.

Foreclosures in Sonoma County will reduce the area’s economic growth by $308 million in 2008, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“Certainly, it’s going to have an economic impact and we’ve been seeing that. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.” said Vicki Vidak-Martinez, mayor of Rohnert Park.

HOW DID WE GET INTO THIS MESS?

The current turmoil in the Sonoma County housing market was caused by the speculative fever that gripped Sonoma County in 2005 and 2006, where prices jumped 69 percent in three years and multiple offers above the asking price were considered the norm. This caused many people, with good credit and bad, grabbed whatever loan terms they could get just to snag a house before prices and interest rates escalated beyond their reach.

Many took adjustable-rate loans, even though they were risky and interest rates were rising. Their plan was that home values would keep going up and they would refinance out of the high-rate loan in a couple of years.

They were helped by sales people who raked in six-figure incomes getting borrowers to accept high-rate loans, and by lenders who made a bundle selling the high-yield loans to Wall Street investors unaware of the risk. Interest rates on these loans have turned out to be 2 percent to 3 percent higher than a conventional loan.

Some buyers dearly wanted to own their own home. Others simply wanted to get rich quick. Some didn’t understand the terms of their loan or the risk they were taking. Others just hoped they could get in and get out before the bubble burst.

Many are living happily in houses they could never have afforded otherwise. But some are losing their life savings and everything else. The tools for this trade were loans that started out with low teaser rates, permitted 100 percent financing, didn’t require income or job verification and allowed negative amortization that defers a portion of the payment by increasing the size of the loan.

These loans were called “subprime,” because they were often, but not always, made to subprime borrowers who couldn’t get a conventional loan because they had bad credit or no credit history, unverifiable income or an unusual property.

Now these loans are hitting borrowers with sharply rising rates, balloon payments and punishing prepayment penalties.

The true cost of these high-rate loans is coming due just as home values have fallen 10 percent since their peak in 2005. The drop in home prices has wiped out the refinance option for borrowers who can’t refinance for enough money to pay off the problem loan. Thus, the same go-go financing that dangerously distended the housing bubble two years ago is now driving its deflation, and spooked lenders are slamming their doors on homeowners they embraced just months ago.

The unraveling of years of easy money, fueled by record low interest rates and promiscuous lending, has begun.

The end of the subprime bonanza began in June 2004, when the Federal Reserve, after 3½ years of easy money, started slowly raising short-term interest rates. By June 2006, the Fed had raised a key short term rate 17 times, from 1.25 percent to 5.25 percent. That drove adjustable rates for mortgages up 2 percent or more.

As the subprime market collapses, fingerpointing has begun. Borrowers are being accused of lying to lenders about their income. Mortgage brokers are being accused of lying to borrowers about the terms of the loan. Real estate agents are being accused of pressuring lenders to make the loan. Appraisers are being accused of inflating their estimates of home values. Lenders are being accused of predatory lending. State and federal legislators are threatening to crack down on them all. Lawsuits and prosecutions are likely. Wall Street investors want their money back.

In Sonoma County, real estate agents and mortgage brokers are fielding calls from borrowers fearful of losing their homes. While some lenders say they are trying to find ways to help their overextended borrowers, many homeowners cannot make their payments and will lose their homes.

LATINO HOMEOWNERS IN SONOMA COUNTY HIT HARDEST

The consequences have been especially severe for Latinos who bought into the promise that home ownership was within their grasp. A group of Latino real estate agents and lenders in Sonoma County (most notably Chris Nunez) made a killing selling homes to Latino buyers through risky subprime loans that were knowingly well above what they could afford. Almost half who purchased homes in 2005 and 2006 relied on these financially dangerous mortgages.

A LOCAL ANALYSIS ON SUBPRIME LOANS

To understand the forces that created the crisis, and the borrowers and neighborhoods that will be most affected, The Press Democrat analyzed three years of loans made in Sonoma County.

The analysis revealed the most prevalent use of high-risk loans — and likely the most damaging fallout — is concentrated in Santa Rosa’s Latino and lower-income neighborhoods. But many communities throughout the county, from Cloverdale to Petaluma, have large numbers of borrowers at all income levels who are stretched too thin.

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Among the findings:

- Almost 20 percent of homes bought in 2005 and 2006 were funded with risky, high-rate loans, up sharply from 4 percent in 2004. In California, the rate was nearly 30 percent.

- In parts of west Santa Rosa, south Rohnert Park and east Petaluma, the rate was more than 40 percent.

- Latino home buyers were heavy users of the high-rate loans. In 2005 and 2006, more than 40 percent of Latino buyers relied on the risky loans, compared with 10 to 12 percent for non-Latino buyers. A decade ago, lenders were accused of denying loans to minorities, a practice called redlining. But as the housing market boomed and prices spiraled up, lenders were encouraged to make loans easier to get.

- Most high-rate borrowers in 2005 and 2006 said they had annual incomes between $100,000 and $200,000. However, many borrowers exaggerated their incomes to qualify for loans, sometimes at the direction of their brokers and lenders. During the housing boom, many lenders did not require borrowers to submit documents proving they earned enough to afford the monthly payments.

- Investors made 15 percent of the home purchases in Sonoma County in 2005 and 2006. They rarely used subprime loans; only 8 percent of the high-rate loans in the county were issued to investors who intended to become landlords.

- The average size of subprime second mortgages jumped almost 30 percent in two years, from $81,510 in 2004 to $103,881 in 2006. Most second-lien loans were the downpayment on a purchase made with a subprime first mortgage. Occasionally, homeowners used them to consolidate debt, take out cash or remodel.

- Subprime borrowers in Sonoma County extended themselves further than most Americans. In 2005, a Sonoma County loan was 3.4 times the income of the buyer, at the mid-point, or median. Nationwide, the median spread was 2.6.

- Most high-rate loans in 2005 and 2006 were used to buy mid- and lower-priced homes, but 14(cq) loans were for more than $1 million.

Almost $1.7 billion of debt issued to buy homes in Sonoma County is at risk, based on a Press Democrat analysis of 85,000 loans made in 2004 through 2006.

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BANJO DRIVE

Let’s take a look at one small street in Southwest Santa Rosa where there are tons of distress properties in a relatively new upscale neighborhood that is predominantly Latino: Banjo Drive. The homes in this area are all 4-5 bedroom, 3 bath, 2-3 car garages, +2100 sq ft houses with nice yards.

Banjo Drive is in the distressed Bellevue Ranch neighborhood. It is believed that over 60 percent of the homes on Banjo drives were purchased through subprime loans taken out between 2004 and 2006.

The majority of the houses on this street are either currently for sale by owner, facing a short-sale, have been foreclosed on, or are temporarily off the market to be relisted at a lower price. Some of those families are just hanging onto their homes and others hope to sell and avoid foreclosure as mortgage payments rise and home prices fall.

“Once a symbol of Sonoma County’s housing boom, Bellevue Ranch is now emblematic of hard times in neighborhoods across the region.More than 20 of the 35 homes for sale in Bellevue Ranch are on the market either because banks took them back or owners must sell to avoid foreclosure.”

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PROPERTIES

2021 Banjo Drive - purchased December 29, 2005 for $630,000.

The owners couldn’t sell after six months on the market this year at $599,900. The lender foreclosed on the house and it is set for public auction.

2077 Banjo Drive - purchased November 9, 2006 for $590,000.

On market as short sale for $440,000.

2081 Banjo Drive - purchased June 2, 2006 for $644,500.

Was for sale at $469,000. Taken off the market Oct. 30. Seller plans to relist the property at $425,000.

2085 Banjo Drive - purchased June 12, 2006 for $644,500.

Owner considering short sale to be listed at $499,000.

2089 Banjo Drive - purchased November 30, 2005 for $655,000.

Currently on market as short sale for $489,000.

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IN CONCLUSION

Already, lenders have seized 630 Sonoma County homes this year, up from 129 in all of 2006, guaranteeing that 2007 will be the bitterest year for homeowners since the county began keeping computer records in 1964. Another 400 troubled properties are on the market, and lenders are threatening 300 homeowners a month with foreclosure if they can’t bring their loans current. Last year lenders averaged 93 foreclosure threats a month.

Prices will continue to fall and more homes will be on the market as more and more people run into financial trouble due to taking out risky loans and losing the leverage available to home owners in a rising market. People will be forced to sell their homes. And if they have to sell quickly, they are more likely to lower the price. Or even worse if the home goes into foreclosure and goes back to the bank, they will sell it at a discounted price.

Nor is there any hope that the shakeout will soon be over. Next year interest rates will adjust upward for the first time on over 1,148 Sonoma County properties bought with risky loans in 2006. One-fourth of these homeowners will most likely lose their homes according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Things are only going to get worse through out the year in 2008.

“We are going to have waves of foreclosures,” said economist Christopher Thornberg, who tracks the Sonoma County economy and predicted the current real estate crunch. “This thing has a long ways to go before it shakes out.”

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