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Mendocino County Today: October 13, 2012


OFF THE RECORD, Sept 14, 2011 On Monday, September 5th, people heard cries for help coming from a home on Babcock Lane, Fort Bragg, the last mortal sounds of a man named Jason Blackshear. James Kester, about 40 and recently of Boonville, has been arrested for Blackshear's murder, which has been subsequently described as a two-stage event with stage one consisting of Kester throttling Blackshear with his bare hands then finishing him off with a garrotte. The two were acquaintances. Kester is a veteran of the state prison system. (I remember Jimmy and his brothers as little kids in Boonville before, as I recall, the family moved to Point Arena. Pleasant little guys, and what a shock it is when a person one recalls as a child without sin suddenly reappears as an adult accused of the ultimate sin.)

LETTER to the AVA Editor, Oct. 12, 2011. “MUTUAL COMBAT, NOT MURDER. Editor: Please sir help me by posting my cry for help in the AVA for a few weeks to come as my life is in the hands of this county's judicial system and Linda Thompson. Thank you kindly.

I am writing in regards to what the Mendocino County Sheriffs office has told you (I imagine). It says Jason cried for help. Wrong, ladies and gentlemen. I screamed for help after my ribs were caved in with a blunt instrument. During that fight for my life many times I thought: This is it. My life is over! As Jason would not stop.

Linda Thompson is my attorney. I am fighting for my life still in a battle that I not only can't afford but lack the knowledge to defend myself. Please people of my hometown, help me. I need funds for a lawyer — any and all donations would help. Fair is fair. I'm asking for “any and all”!

I am not a murderer as anyone who knows me knows and my family cannot afford the means for a private attorney.

It took me over three weeks to get medical attention and x-rays. As for proof of my side of this, as of this day six witnesses have still not been interviewed, 25 days after the incident. I have a history of petty crime from my childhood days and to show anyone I had retired from that mischief it's been 11 years since my last felony. This past year I got myself off parole and had a job in the town of Mendocino. My biggest crime is “self-medication.” People see my ink from my past and condemn me.

I'm grasping at straws. I could use some friends. I could use the community here in Mendocino where I grew up.

Someone please put it on facebook or make it on a myspace-page. Donations have to be brought to 951 Low Gap Road in Ukiah. My birthday is 8-16-70. A# is 52817. Please folks, 5¢ or $5 for a good attorney who goes by our state laws and regulations. Even visits and letters are welcome. As moral support, love and understanding helps too. I am still that pleasant little redhead. This system has taken my adult life. But I know and believe in the people of this county where I was raised. I need your friendship and prayers. I believe all of you folks can throw me a life raft or you could hold my head under water. I hope and pray I am not as alone as I feel right now.


I have told authorities from the start exactly what happened during this nightmare. I have an extensive record for evading cops when I'm guilty. But I stayed right where it happened because I am not guilty of murder. I need sufficient support from you all to prove self-defense.

My public defender, Linda Thompson, has spent a total of less than 10 minutes speaking to me. My preliminary hearing is set for October 4 and my defense is what you all are reading so far. Please help me!

Sincerely, James Kester A#52817. 951 Low Gap Road. Ukiah, CA 95482

BRUCE McEWEN WROTE ON October 19, 2011: “In response to defendant James Kester's recent letter to the AVA with his side of the charges against him, Kester didn't tell the half of Jason Blackshear's story. For seven months I lived on the streets of Fort Bragg, and existed in constant concern fear of the whereabouts and doings of Mr. Blackshear. One day, I came face to face with Aaron Bassler while trying to avoid Blackshear. Aaron stabbed his forefinger into my breastbone and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I work for a newspaper on Boonville.”

“Then you get over to Boonville and don't you come back.”

Which I did. I always go where I'm told.

As for you, Mr. Kester, do you remember the day you confronted me on the corner of Redwood and Franklin? Do you remember your words?

Nah, me neither.


Jason Blackshear was a low down, mean son of a biscuit, and hardly a tear will fall in his wake. But you, Jimmy, were no prince either.

Let me put it this way, bro: The Cottrells, old Onion Head and his brother, they got two birds with one stone — you and Jason — and they never had to lift a finger.”

JAMES KESTER, 41 was described as a transient in the Press Democrat yesterday, but he was born and raised down the road in Boonville and, out of prison, always made his home in Mendocino County. He now faces 30 years to life in prison after his Wednesday conviction for the second-degree murder of Jason Blackshear, 42, in Blackshear's Fort Bragg home on September of 2011. Kester claimed self defense, but the prosecution successfully maintained Blackshear was already unconscious when Kester strangled him to death. Blackshear, at the time of his death, had a restraining order against Kester which, in theory, was supposed to keep Kester away from him. Personal note here: I remember the Kester brothers as jolly, likeable little guys. I think it saddened lots of us that they veered off into self-destruction as adults. James Kester never was a big, strong guy, and I have a hard time thinking of him as someone capable of choking another guy of any size to death. Or wanting to. He told me some months ago that Blackshear was the aggressor and that they'd had each other in mutual chokeholds when Blackshear finally collapsed, that it had been him or Blackshear. But the DA said Kester had choked Blackshear out THEN had garrotted him on into eternity. I wish Kester had walked off before he'd checked Blackshear out permanently.

RYAN J. WALLIS, 32, of San Francisco, has been arrested for suspected drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter in the death of his younger sister in a 3am single vehicle crash near Navarro. Wallis lost control of his full-size GMC pickup, careened off Highway 128 and into a redwood, the passenger side of the truck landing against the tree. Wallis's 20-year-old sister, a resident of Tucson, was riding in the fatal passenger seat. She apparently died on impact. Two other passengers, Logan P. Duffy-Stanley, 31, and Jamie L. McAvoy, 30, both of Tahoe City, were treated for minor injuries at Coast Hospital in Fort Bragg and released. Wallis had been traveling at an estimated 60mph.He was treated for lacerations to his face before he was arrested for suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, a felony, and felony drunken driving. He is being held in the Mendocino County Jail on $200,000 bail.

COMMENT OF THE DAY by Anon: The robo-rightists are out in force but only an idiot doesn't notice that none of their points are substantive. Instead, all they have is critiques of Biden's ettitquette and Radditz's moderating. Whatever the horserace spin on this debate (which I think will go for Biden, in any event), I believe Biden did real damage to Romney's chances tonight by undermining the premises of Romney's positions. Ryan came off as a junior leaguer with a head full of ideology who's who's been told not to emphasize that very thing his head is full of. On virtually every topic, Biden destroyed Ryan's so-called arguments. Ryan had no response to the FACT that 97% of “small business” makes less than $250,000/annually — nor did he have a response to the FACT a good slice of the remaining 3% are the likes of hedge funds that make huge annual incomes — in other words “small businesses” IN NAME ONLY. Ryan had no rejoinder when Biden pointed out that Ryan had written him two letters asking for "job-creating" grants to businesses in his district from the very stimulus money that Ryan had just finished lambasting as a royal waste. Ryan had no rejoinder to the FACT that Obamacare (whatever its flaws) saves Medicare $700 billion. Ryan had no rejoinder to the FACT that lowering taxes to 20% and balancing the budget WHILE RETAINING LOOPHOLES FOR CARRIED INTEREST AND CAPITAL GAINS will INEVITABLY call for closing tax deductions that will effectively raise taxes on everyone but the rich. Ryan had no rejoinder to the FACT that extensive congressional investigations of stimulus to green industries have found no systemic corruption (as Ryan proclaimed there was) nor to the FACT that the vast majority of green companies that have rec'd government support are still very much in business (contrary to Ryan's depiction of Obama's support to such firms as amounting to subsidizing failure). Ryan had no rejoinder to the FACT that Romney-Ryan's plan for Medicare means a de facto voucher system which will reduce benefits for the vast majority. Ryan had no rejoinder to the FACT that Romney-Ryan make slipshod pronouncements on foreign policy but are unwilling to spell out what EXACTLY they would do in places like Syria. It is funny that right-wingers hail this Ryan boy as some sort of intellectual. You right-wingers are hilarious.

FROM THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Nearly 200 pounds of marijuana and more than 30 plants were seized at two Ukiah residences Wednesday, the Ukiah Police Department reported. According to the UPD, the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team and other agencies served a search warrant on a home in the 1700 block of Low Gap Road shortly before 8 a.m. Oct. 10. When officers arrived a man reportedly fled a structure and escaped capture, leaving behind a loaded pistol. Officers then located 12 outdoor plants and evidence that at least 80 plants had recently been harvested. Inside the building, officers reportedly located more than 100 pounds of partially manicured marijuana and about 95 pounds of manicured marijuana, as well as items used to weigh and process the drug. Celso Ceja, 43, was located inside a residence on the property and told officers that the structure was used by his cousin, Miguel C. Lopez, 43. Ceja was arrested on suspicion of maintaining a location for drug distribution and for possessing firearms during the commission of a felony. Several firearms were also located inside the residence. The investigation then continued to a residence in the 1600 block of Woodlawn Terrace, where another 25 marijuana plants were reportedly found outside. The residents there reported that Lopez allowed them to live there rent-free if they posted their medical marijuana recommendation. Lopez is currently being sought by the UPD for suspicion of cultivating and possessing marijuana for sale.

ONE POST OFFICE MAN, a certain Mr. Johnson based in Daly City, has devoted himself to expediting the AVA, if “expediting” is the word for simply getting the AVA delivered in a reasonable number of days. Mr. Johnson has indeed expedited the paper to the SF Bay Area where it now reaches homes, bookstores and DeLauer's Newstand by Saturday. Used to be that a paper dispatched from Boonville on Wednesday afternoon was annoying a Frisco reader by Thursday noon, East Coast readers by Saturday — Monday at the latest. Anymore, readers beyond NorCal — even Sacramento — are lucky to the get the paper a month after Jan The Mail Lady hauls it from Boonville to Cloverdale from where, likely as not, it disappears. The Post Office is cordoning us off, slowly shutting us down in a kind of postal garrotting, although they're still charging us like we're getting the speedy delivery of yesteryear. We've talked with UPS about the possibility of them taking over long-distance delivery but we don't have quite the volume to make it financially doable. If we were Building 7-Grassy Knoll-oriented we might think we were the victim of a conspiracy. But we're really just one more pebble in an avalanche of mass civil dysfunction because public services are viewed by ruling circles as a bottom line liability. It is a conspiracy of sorts of a small number of THEM vs. a large number of US who believe government has crucial functions other than long distance drone murders of medieval Mohammedans. Republicans specifically have made it impossible for the Post Office to operate with what used to be its remarkable efficiency; they've rigged the PO's funding in a way designed to destroy it, their master plan being to eliminate ALL government services. I'm surprised they haven't called the Post Office an entitlement, but that could be next.

THE RECENTLY RELEASED California “School Quality Snapshot” reports based on the latest Academic Performance tests show that both the education system in California as well as the students they allegedly instruct are dismal failures, especially in schools which are said to have a high percentage of “socioeconomically disadvantaged” kids, which in Mendocino County is Indians, Mexicans and a large portion of white kids. According to the California Department of Education website the “School Quality Snapshots” … “display a broad series of data that can be used to help inform parents and policy leaders about the success of each school.” In Mendocino County it’s more like “the failure of each school.”

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS. The “snapshots” are just fancy statistical charts and graphs which don’t really “help” inform anybody. Other than the basic school demographics, the academic assessments are so crude that they’re nearly meaningless comparisons without any useful conclusion other than to prove what we already knew about most schools in Mendocino County: They’re not very good and Covelo and Point Arena with their very high percentages of Indians are among the worst schools in the state if not the county — in spite of the educational system’s multi-year attempts to bring them out of “program improvement” — i.e., chronically bad — status. Even with a fairly low enrollment of 118 and special attention from the County Office of Education the educational establishment is unable to do anything to improve the horrible academic level of Covelo students, which continues to decline asymptotically toward zero. The disparity between science and math scores at individual schools is downright strange. You’d think that they’d both go up or down more or less together and that higher math scores would translate to higher science scores and vice versa. But no, at least not in Mendocino County, making the entire test regime seem suspicious. Anderson Valley Elementary’s very low science scores combined with average-decent math scores particularly doesn’t make sense. (Of course, these are all comparative and subjective, so a given math score clearly doesn’t necessarily mean that the kids can actually do the math.) Point Arena’s and Covelo’s math scores are so far below average that one must assume that most of those high school kids can’t even do the most basic arithmetic. But math scores at most Mendo schools are well below average. Even in Mendocino High School on the Coast the “socioeconomically disadvantaged” percentage is pretty high (at 36%) showing that Mendocino is a very poor county. Assuming that the percentage of students meeting UC entry standards is a better measure of high school student performance than academic performance comparisons, we find that even Mendo’s best public school, Mendocino High, has only 50% meeting the standard while all the rest are well below the state average.

HERE’S A SUMMARY of the “snapshots” for a few Mendo-area schools

Anderson Valley Elementary (K-6)

State Rank: 2 (a comparatively low rank)

Enrollment: 283.

Percent Hispanic: 79%

Percent English Learners: 71%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 73%

Percent White: 20%

Percent Black: 1%

English Language proficiency: slight improvement over prior years, slightly below state average at about 48%.

Math: Slight decline over prior years, same as state average at about 52%.

Science: Significant decline over prior years. Well below state average at about 16% (compared to state average of 60%).

Below average suspension/expulsion rate.

Anderson Valley High School

State Rank: 8 (a comparatively high rank)

Enrollment: 252.

Percent Hispanic: 78%

Percent White: 22%

Percent Black: 0%

Percent English Learners: 52%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 73%

English Language proficiency: slight improvement over prior years, slightly below 58% state average at about 48%.

Math: Slight decline over previous years, same as state average at about 52%.

Science: Slight decline over prior years. Well below state average at about 60%.

About 12% of graduates meet UC entry requirements compared to 40% state average.

History, social science, English slightly above state average.

Average class size: 12.

Below average suspension/expulsion rate.

Point Arena High School

State Rank: 2 (a very low rank)

Enrollment: 171.

Percent Hispanic: 35%

Percent White: 55%

Percent Black: 1%

Percent Native American: 9%

Percent English Learners: 29%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 61%

English Language proficiency: slight decline over prior years, well below 58% state average at about 35%.

Math: About same as prior years, dramatically below 52% state average at about 12%.

Science: Significant improvement over prior years. Almost up to 60% state average at about 58%.

About 12% of graduates meet UC entry requirements compared to 40% state average.

History, social science scores down dramatically from prior years and well below state average. English scores slightly below state average.

Average class size: 14.

Below average suspension/expulsion rate.

Mendocino High School

State Rank: 10 (the highest rank)

Enrollment: 168.

Percent Hispanic: 12%

Percent White: 76%

Percent Black: 1%

Percent Native American: 6%

Percent English Learners: 1%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 36%

English Language proficiency: slight decline over prior years, above 58% state average at about 65%.

Math: Down dramatically from prior year, below 52% state average at about 22%.

Science: Slight improvement over prior years. Well above 60% state average at about 80%.

About 55% of graduates meet UC entry requirements compared to 40% state average.

History, social science scores about the same as prior years and above state average. English scores not reported.

Average class size: 12.

Below average suspension/expulsion rate.

Ukiah High School

State Rank: 4 (a below average rank)

Enrollment: 1636.

Percent Hispanic: 36%

Percent White: 52%

Percent Black: 1%

Percent Native American: 6%

Percent English Learners: 26%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 55%

English Language proficiency: About the same as prior years, below 58% state average at about 45%.

Math: About the same as prior years, well below 52% state average at about 48%.

Science: Slight improvement over prior years. Below 60% state average at about 80%.

About 20% of graduates meet UC entry requirements compared to 40% state average.

History, social science scores about the same as prior years and above state average. English scores not reported.

Average class size: 24.

Very high suspension/expulsion rate (about four times state average of about 10%).

Round Valley High School

State Rank: 1 (the lowest rank)

Enrollment: 118.

Percent Hispanic: 10%

Percent White: 24%

Percent Black: 2%

Percent Native American: 64%

Percent English Learners: 3%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 94%

English Language proficiency: continuing decline, dramatically below 58% state average at about 10%.

Math: About the same as prior years, dramatically below the 52% state average at about 2%.

Science: Better than prior years but still well below 60% state average at about 23%.

About 5% of graduates meet UC entry requirements compared to 40% state average.

History, social science scores are down from prior years and well below 50% state average at about 10%. English scores went from 22% two years ago to 100% last year and 75% this year, meaning that the numbers have no use whatsoever.

Average class size: 15.

Very high suspension/expulsion rate, over 40%.

The welcoming entrance to Round Valley High in Covelo

* * *

EPIC REQUESTS Forest Service Analyze Impacts of Marijuana Grows on National Forest Lands in Northwest California. On October 11, 2012, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to Regional Forester Randy Moore, and four Forest Supervisors in northwestern California, that requests the United States Forest Service initiate analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regarding the impacts of marijuana cultivation on national forest lands. In addition, EPIC requested that the Forest Service reinitiate consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) over the impacts of marijuana cultivation on imperiled species, including Coho Salmon, Steelhead, Northern Spotted Owl and Pacific Fisher. This letter follows a previous letter sent to the Mendocino National Forest in the summer of 2011, and to which the Acting Supervisor of the Mendocino National Forest had replied negatively, denying EPIC’s request that the USFS initiate analysis of the environmental impacts of marijuana cultivation on public lands. Besides the ongoing threats posed by damaging marijuana cultivation on public lands, EPIC has identified effects of Forest Service management actions that may be exacerbating or facilitating marijuana cultivation on our public lands. “The letter sets forth legal obligations of the Forest Service in the face of new information about environmental impacts not previously considered by the agency in the development and implementation of Land and Resource Management Plans, Travel Management Plans, logging, grazing, and other projects,” said Andrew Orahoske, EPIC conservation director. “The Forest Service is obligated to analyze and respond to new information pursuant to NEPA and meet ongoing duties under the ESA,” continued Orahoske. “Our effort to engage the Forest Service on this issue is something that EPIC may have initiated more than a year ago, but we are not the only stakeholders asking that land managers undertake analysis to understand the implications of this threat to our public lands,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes. “Congressman Mike Thompson has now stated publicly that more study is needed,” Hughes added, “and we think that it is only a matter of time before the federal government commits to providing their land managers with the resources needed to analyze the impacts and fully understand the management issues related to this persistent threat.” The effort by EPIC to secure appropriate analysis of these impacts by federal land management agencies will be featured at a symposium titled Environmental Challenges of Marijuana Agriculture in the Age of Prohibition, to be held on the Humboldt State University campus on Friday afternoon, Oct 12. The Humboldt Interdisciplinary Institute for Marijuana Research is hosting the symposium that will feature panels composed of local environmental organizations, community members, and public officials exploring the threats and opportunities presented by cannabis agriculture on the North Coast of California. Contact: Gary Graham Hughes (mobile: 707-223-5434, email:

VOTE BY MAIL (VBM) ballots were mailed out to all permanent and vote by mail voters on Tuesday October 9, 2012 and are available in the County Clerk's Office, for the PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL Election to be conducted on NOVEMBER 6, 2012, according to Susan M. Ranochak, Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder. The County Clerk's Office is located in Room 1020 of the County Administration Building located at 501 Low Gap Road, Ukiah. If a voter would like to receive a VBM ballot, complete the section on the back cover of their sample ballot and mail it into our office. A voter may also apply in person at the County Clerk's office and receive their ballot. If either option is not convenient, a voter may submit a written request to the County Clerk, Room #1020, 501 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, CA 95482. Such request must contain the voter’s residence address, mailing address where the VBM ballot is to be mailed, if different from residence, and must be signed by the voter. Susan M. Ranochak would like to remind voters that the last day applications may be received for a VBM ballot is 5 p.m. on October 30, 2012, although a voter may come into our office and request a ballot until 8 pm on Election Day, November 6, 2012. If for any reason a voter will be unable to appear at their polling place and vote on Election Day, they may apply for, and vote a Vote by Mail Ballot. The last day to register to vote in the November 6, 2012 Presidential General Election is October 22, 2012. If you have moved, got married and would like to change your last name or would like to change your party affiliation, you must re-register; the deadline for re-registering is also October 22, 2012. You may register (or re-register) to vote online by going to: and click on the “Register to VOTE” button in the center of the screen. For additional information please contact the County Clerk’s Office by calling 707 463-4371. (County Elections Office Press Release)

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