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Mendocino County Today: December 29, 2012

GarettMatsonBookingGARETT MATSON OF FORT BRAGG has been arrested again, this time for grand theft, receiving stolen property and embezzlement. Matson's bail is set at a total of $75,000. He has been in trouble for years, and remains the sole suspect in the highly suspicious death of Katlyn Long.

THE MYSTERY of Katlyn Long's Death

by Tim Stelloh

(From the AVA Archive: June 10, 2009)

KatlynLongThe last few months of Katlyn Long’s abbreviated life unfolded much like anyone transitioning between relationships: Unhappy with her long-term, 31-year-old boyfriend, Long broke things off. The 22-year-old Fort Bragg girl had met someone else — someone who, friends say, seemed to make her happy.

She left California with her new boyfriend early last year, but work obligations brought her back home for what was to be a brief visit. That fateful trip back would be her last: In the early morning of May 29, after spending the night with her ex-boyfriend, she was hauled to Mendocino Coast Hospital in an ambulance without a pulse — the victim of a metha­done overdose.

Yet it wasn’t until last week that police revealed her cause of death; no charges have been filed.

The way detectives explain it, the one eyewitness in the case has exercised his right to remain silent since Long’s death. That eyewitness, of course, is Long’s ex, Garett Matson, son of Fort Bragg bigwig Jerry Matson, of Matson Building Materials. Police say that over the course of that year they were negotiating with Matson’s attorney, Richard Petersen, in an attempt to get a statement. To maintain the apparently delicate balance of those negotiations, investigators commenced the media chess game: They withheld the results of a toxicology report completed last July that examined Long’s blood and found that she had overdosed. They kept a lid on all but the most public details of the girl’s death — namely, that she had died “suspiciously.” And they told the media the eyewitness was Long’s ex-boyfriend — but they declined to name the ex.

Petersen, of course, tells it differently. He says he’s offered to answer written questions from the police — but he wouldn’t subject Matson to a prosecutorial-style inquiry because he’s “suffering terrible emotional problems.”

“We can't open him up because he feels very threatened and weak right now,” Petersen said, summarizing what he says are a doctor's orders. “What people say about him breaks his heart.” In the unlikely event detectives share the forensic evidence they’ve collected on Matson, Petersen said he’d change his tune.

“I’d turn my client over,” he said.

In the meantime, Petersen sent a seven page statement to the DA’s office last month — a statement he described as a “timed list” of the days leading up to Long’s death. (Neither he nor the Sheriff’s office would share specifics of the statement.) And last week, detectives released an outline of what happened, along with the results of the toxicology report.

Yet it’s still unclear how — or why — that lethal dose of methadone ended up in Long’s blood.

The synthetic opiate, long thought of as a drug for junkies kicking their heroin habit, has taken on a different role in recent years as a cheap, non-narcotic prescription painkiller. As methadone prescriptions have spiked, so has the number of methadone overdoses: The drug can be lethal when combined, say, with alcohol, or when taken in too great a quantity, as its effects are far shorter than the time it stays in the body.

Sheriff’s Lt. Rusty Noe said Long didn’t have a prescription for methadone, nor did detectives find any evidence that she was using it as a painkiller. Friends say she was the last person they would expect to use such drugs recreationally. “She was like apple pie,” said Jeanne Huckins, who shared Long’s affinity for horses and rode with her often. “One time she came to the stable and she was babbling on and on and on, and I said, ‘Katlyn, what are you on?’ and she said ‘Red Bull.’ … She was very sensitive to that kind of stuff.”

Matson, on the other hand, has a history of prior drug charges. A several year old letter from neighbors in Matson’s court file even described his home as a well known crank house that police visited often: “For two years Matson has terrorized the neighborhood with shootings, loud fights and low-life people coming and going at all hours, though mostly in the middle of the night,” the letter said. It went on to describe how he “unleashed” a vicious dog on a neighbor, sending the senior citizen to the hospital twice.

Those cases — which include discharging a firearm while under the influence of a controlled substance — were dismissed when Matson agreed to drug court. (Petersen said a person’s past is only “circumstantial evidence of what the future holds.”)

Huckins described the couple’s relationship as a troubled one–a relationship where Long felt suffocated by her ex and which she ended shortly before she died. She described how, in the months before her overdose, Long had started seeing a new boyfriend — a man named William Housley — who Huckins said had brightened Long’s mood considerably. They traveled together to Washington State to visit Housley’s parents. “She was having a wonderful time,” she said. “I noticed a real shift when she started hanging out with William. She was a happy person — instead of a person who was always crying and blaming herself, who would cut herself.”

Long returned to Fort Bragg last May, Huckins said, because she worked at the stable where she kept her horses and the owners were leaving town. While home, Matson tried to rekindle their relationship. But Long wasn’t interested. The afternoon before she died the two had an argument at Long’s parents house — an argument caused by Matson thinking the two were close to reuniting, Petersen said. Matson allegedly bashed in her car and left, but returned later that afternoon.

By 5am the next morning she was dead.

Sheriff’s deputies, who had been summoned with the ambulance, noticed “suspicious” marks on her neck, so detectives were dispatched to investigate. The marks, Lt. Noe said, turned out to be unrelated to her death. And the rest is history.

Some of Long’s friends and supporters theorize that she was murdered. Petersen disagrees. “If she overdosed, he didn't do it. It was either accidental, or intentional on her part,” he said. “I don't know of any one who would have wanted to kill her — including Garett. But nobody wants to believe she committed suicide either.”

For now, no suspects have been named and the DA kicked the case back to the sheriff’s office, which says it’s an open investigation — though District Attorney Meredith Lintott said her investigators are still involved, as they are with most big murder cases. If the case does go to court, Lintott said, there’s no statute of limitations on murder, nor with manslaughter in most situations. It can be a different story with other, less serious charges, however.

“It’s very tricky. People go to court to litigate statute of limitations,” she said. “The whole case can be thrown out.”

So far, Long’s family has been mum on the matter — Katlyn’s mother, Linda Long, said in an e-mail that she didn’t want to compromise the case — as are several friends. But that hasn’t stopped an online petition, justiceforkatlyn.org, from being circulated; as of publication, the petition has nearly met its 1,000 signature goal. Once completed, the site says, it will be sent to the DA’s office because “…we want to show them that there are lots of citizens that will not rest until justice is served, and who will be watching this case.” Nor has it stopped thousands of posts from appearing on a forum attached to the Ukiah Daily Journal’s website. Unlike most message boards associated with controversial stories — where participants seem to revel in vulgar anonymity — this one is relatively benign: family and friends post poems; they give updates on the case; they talk about their freshly inked Katlyn tattoos.

Still, the site — like most message boards — has the air of judge, jury and executioner. And it ain’t a pretty verdict for Garett Matson.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY'S MOTION to toss the federal subpoenas for the County's pot cultivation program’s records will be heard Friday, January 4th, at 2pm in Courtroom 3 of the Northern District Court in San Francisco. The County filed a motion with the federal court arguing that the subpoenas are “overbroad and burdensome” and represent an “improper intrusion” on the County's and state's ability to make local and state policy. William Osterhoudt, the high-profile San Francisco attorney hired by Mendocino County to fight the federal subpoena, will presumably appear on Mendocino County's behalf. The feds have demanded “any and all records” — including financial records — for the County's medical marijuana cultivation ordinance from Jan. 1, 2010 to the present, including all types of communication regarding 9.31, including those with third-party garden inspectors and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.” The SF Federal court is located at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

FROM: JAMES MARMON MSW

TO: BRYAN LOWERY, ACTING DHHSA DIRECTOR

DATE: DECEMBER 28, 2012

RE: REQUEST FOR SOC 826 REPORT

Dear Mr. Lowery.

Senate Bill 39 is intended to provide public access to findings and information related to the deaths of children from abuse or neglect — with the goal of determining what, if anything, could have been done differently to prevent such tragedies. With that said, I am requesting that your agency provide me with a copy of the SOC 826 report filed with the California Department of Social Services (DCSS) regarding the child fatality that occurred in Fort Bragg during the first week of December 2012. Please send copy of report to:

James Marmon, MSW, 16163 33rd. Ave., Clearlake, CA. 95422. Thank you — James Marmon MSW.

THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT has announced the following changes in the Department's command structure: Three new lieutenants as of January, include: Lt. Greg Stefani who is responsible for the Mendocino Coast. Stefani had been an acting lieutenant in that position. Greg VanPatten, who had also been an acting lieutenant is also now a permanent lieutenant and in charge of investigations. Shannon Barney, who had been the County's Emergency Services man, will be in charge of the Central Division — Ukiah, Anderson Valley, Redwood Valley, and Potter Valley.

HOW THE MENTALLY ILL WERE RELEASED Into US Streets.

By Bernie Reeves, Editor and Publisher, Raleigh Metro Magazine Raleigh, North Carolina

In response to the need to address the issue of the severely mentally ill, I point to the fringe pop psychiatry experiments by British doctor R.D. Laing in 1950s and 60s that deified schizophrenics for their alleged mystical harmony with the universe. Laing switched roles between doctor and patient to make his point, inspiring author Ken Kesey to write “One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,” his fictional homage to Laing. Kesey's hero is the schizophrenic R.P. McMurphy, and the enemy is Nurse Ratchid, who represents the square world of sane people. The film of Kesey's book was a key element in selling the manifesto that the confinement of the mentally ill was a violation of their constitutional rights, adding propulsion to the movement to release the seriously mentally ill onto the streets of America. Their release was accompanied by the simultaneous eradication of loitering and vagrancy laws — and complicity by the media, which characterized the phenomenon as the failure of capitalism. The real truth eventually emerged but was minimally communicated to the public. After each massacre there is a call for swift justice followed by a shrill cry to ban guns, leaving the real problem of handling the mentally ill on the sidelines. I think this is due to the accumulation of identity-rights propaganda for the insane that causes the mass media to avoid pointing the finger for fear of violating the politically correct code that now impedes our public dialogue. With nowhere else to turn to display the proper outrage, the news industry goes back to gun control. Though I am not a gun fanatic, I feel the ridicule of the NRA for suggesting armed guards be posted at schools is unfair. Children are familiar with security — airports, the mall, public buildings — yet they are left exposed where they spend nearly every day, their schools. Many public schools already have police or security guards for other reasons, so why not to protect the lives of the students?

KendrickAndersonOUR VERY OWN IED? On Friday the 21st of December, shortly before 5:30pm, “deputies were dispatched to a single shot fired at 10483 Lansing Street in the Township of Mendocino. Upon arrival deputies contacted various people who heard and/or felt what was described as an explosion. Deputies were provided the potential location from where the reported gunshot originated from, which was 10483 Lansing Street [the address of the Goodlife Café and Bakery] #15 and contacted the tenant of that residence, who was believed to be responsible. The tenant was identified as Kendrick Anderson. Anderson informed deputies that he had also heard the reported gunshot and believed an unknown person(s) had ignited and thrown a firework on his doorstep. Deputies searched the surrounding area and located an expended improvised explosive device (IED) on the roof of a neighboring structure. The IED was about 20-feet from and the same elevation to Anderson’s second-story apartment entrance. Deputies ultimately arrested Anderson on the listed charges. (Possession of a destructive device near residential area); possession of a destructive device near public thoroughfare; igniting a destructive device with intent to terrify. [Which it had. Terrified the neighbors, that is.] Deputies then obtained a search warrant for Anderson’s residence. As a result of that search warrant service several materials and items were confiscated that were and/or could be used to manufacture an IED. Anderson, 47, was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked and lodged with bail set at $75,000.00.”

HUMBOLDT COUNTY YEAR IN REVIEW

By Daniel Mintz

2012 was a year of political change. The county saw a swing to the conservative side of the political spectrum and many of the year’s most attention-getting events were driven by it.

There was more afoot than politics, however. The county’s economy and particularly its budget entered a state of recovery and so did its environment, as the Eel River delivered its strongest salmon run in memory.

But the environment demonstrably suffered as well and a culprit was fingered.

A Growing Problem

For the county’s marijuana industry, 2012 was a year of bad P.R. Reports of excessive energy use, watershed tainting, reckless land clearing and grow-related crime were staples of local news. Aerial views of hillsides, displayed at Board of Supervisors meetings and news websites, revealed the scale of an increasingly conspicuous problem.

Throughout the year, the impacts of marijuana cultivation overshadowed the industry’s economic and medical contributions. Sensing increased concern, government officials held hearings like the one chaired by Assemblymember Wes Chesbro last February, where scientists from environmental agencies described the capitalistic excesses of growers who carelessly clear forested areas on both private and public property.

“Brazen” was the word Chesbro used to describe what he was seeing in a series of photos.

He authored new legislation that gives police agencies more power to investigate grow-related activities on industrial timberlands and public forests. Responsible growers have supported the idea of cracking down on bad actors but indoor cultivation is common and it, too, has been fingered as a cause of trouble.

Grumbling about neighborhood impacts aside, indoor growing has been implicated as a contributor to global warming and an abuser of low-income discount energy programs. The year saw the emergence of a new law that puts a cap on electricity and gas usage under the California Alternate Rates for Energy program, which allows power price discounts for income-eligible customers.

But the more the consequences of irresponsible marijuana production are complained about, the more the argument for legalizing the substance gains credibility. Humboldt County officials have repeatedly described federal law as an obstacle to establishing a regulated cultivation scenario.

The feds have gotten some bad P.R. themselves by forcing the closure of two well-respected medical marijuana dispensaries, prompting local officials to demand a re-focusing of their attention to the problematic hillside grows.

While California struggles with how to handle marijuana issues, attention is now focused on Colorado and Washington, where cannabis was deemed legal for recreational use in the November elections.

GPU: Endless

There was little media coverage of the Planning Commission’s careful and lengthy review of the General Plan Update and coverage was equally minimal when the Board of Supervisors took it on – until September, when something drastic seemed to be afoot.

Internet news sites were abuzz with tales of a General Plan coup from the new board majority. It was the “End of the General Plan Update” according to various pundits but actually something much less eventful was happening.

There was a lot of talk from some supervisors about stripping down the update’s contents but little of it translated into actual change. Indecision is what’s marked the board’s handling of the update and since last spring, when it was first handed off, minimal progress has been made.

Change might be more likely in the upcoming year, when Estelle Fennell will replace Clif Clendenen on the board, giving the majority an additional voice. But so far the board’s handling of the update has been clumsy and non-productive. Proposals to change the way it’s done have triggered unresolved debates and the board majority that’s dissatisfied with the plan’s contents haven’t yet found a way to chart a new course.

In November, there was a new twist – the various groups that have been pushing their interests decided to form a stakeholders group that would review GPU sections. Supervisors seem content to hand the weighty work off to the group, but it has yet to finish its review of the update’s Circulation Element and is unsure if it will be able to do more, as retracing the Planning Commission’s review of the GPU is the bureaucratic equivalent of hard labor.

A newly devised completion schedule pushes the process out to next May. But GPU schedules don’t have much meaning anymore -- an original schedule set the finish of the board’s process at last summer.

Back from the Brink

It was only a few years ago when Chinook Salmon in the Eel River were thought to be near extinction. But 2011 saw a record fall run recorded at the Van Arsdale dam’s fish ladder and salmon-watching became a local pastime throughout the river system.

As of late November, the Van Arsdale station saw a total count of 3,070 Chinook salmon. Of that, 1,611 were adult males, 967 were females and there were 492 jacks, or two-year-old fish.

In an email informing people about the season total, Scott Harris, a DFG environmental scientist, said that it “surpasses any prior record for Chinook salmon at this station.” Counts have been recorded there since the 1950s.

But a more comprehensive assessment of Chinook population will be gained later this winter, after visual surveys from the ground are done.

Although counts at a second station in Tomki Creek in Mendocino County have been low in comparison to those at Van Arsdale, a reversal of past trends, the strength of this year’s run has been noted by old timers who say it’s the best they’ve ever seen.

Perhaps it’s too early for celebration. Salmon runs are cyclical and recently favorable ocean conditions characteristic of a cold water La Nino trend are thought to be temporary, as an El Nino pattern is slowly setting in and with it, warmer water.

The thick fall run is also only a fraction of the historic baseline, which is talked about by Native American elders and described in historic accounts. They report the river being so thickly clotted with salmon that it appeared one could walk on their backs.

Planning Overhaul

Long a magnet for complaints and controversy, the county’s former Department of Community Development Services was targeted for restructuring last spring. Its director, Kirk Girard was heavily criticized by a variety of permit-seekers and developers, and two supervisors, Ryan Sundberg and Virginia Bass, supported his job termination.

A compromise of sorts was forged – supervisors agreed to split the department into a Planning and Building Division and an Economic Development and Natural Resources Division, with Girard in charge of the latter.

The move took Girard out of the planning realm, accomplishing what firing him would have without actually doing it. The split presented a financial dilemma, however, as the reformed department would have two directors.

The restructure was itself restructured the next month, when Girard submitted his resignation after finding a planning management job in Santa Clara County. A new plan emerged -- Economic Development was merged with the County Administrative Office and Natural Resources was folded into the Department of Public Works.

The next task was to hire someone to head the stand-alone Planning and Building Department. Senior Planner Martha Spencer was appointed as an interim director and was a candidate for the permanent position. But with the subsequent resignation of Supervisor Jimmy Smith due to illness, there was a new board majority made up of Sundberg, Bass and Rex Bohn, who had won the June election in Smith’s district.

Spencer was considered to be less than responsive by the development-related supporters of the new majority’s campaigns and the transformation of the planning department was finally clinched with the majority’s hiring of Kevin Hamblin, who was the longtime head of planning for Eureka.

Although Hamblin’s approach is low-key, Eureka has a reputation for snubbing the directives of the state’s Coastal Commission and environmentalists view his hiring as a nod to development interests.

Whether that’s true or not, Hamblin and Girard are perceived as being a study in contrast and the former Department of Community Development Services’ fate is the outcome of a political turnaround at the county’s highest level of decision-making.

The New Order

Three supervisor seats were open in the June election, with only two candidates each competing for them. The results established a new voting majority on the Board of Supervisors.

Estelle Fennel defeated incumbent Second District Supervisor Clif Clendenen and Rex Bohn easily gained victory in the First District election. Supervisor Mark Lovelace won his re-election handily but the Third District includes Arcata and is a mainstay slot for liberal interests.

With Fennell and Bohn joining the board, a majority is formed along with supervisors Ryan Sundberg and Virginia Bass. All got financial support from similar sources and Fennell, though strongly supported in left-leaning Southern Humboldt, was at odds with environmentalists as director of the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights.

That leaves Lovelace as the lone defender of conservation measures like new restrictions on residential development of timberlands.

Bohn is a straight talker and has clearly stated that he prioritizes property rights and removal of bureaucratic barriers to development. It’s a bit harder to pin Fennell into one camp or another, if not for her helming of a group seen as being pro-development and gaining campaign money from those involved in the local development industry.

A sign of things to come may have been suggested with Fennell’s careful choice of public comment participation as she waited to be seated. When Sundberg, Bass and Bohn controversially pushed for changes to the General Plan Update process, Fennell praised them for their “courage and strength” and one could almost see liberals wincing.

Fennell is the supervisor to watch in 2013, as her knowledge of local politics, public safety issues and land use planning is considerable. Her background includes high-profile journalism, key participation in organizing the Reggae on the River and Reggae Rising music festivals and Southern Humboldt’s back to the land movement, so her thinking has been shaped by broad influences.

Smith’s Fight

Supervisor Jimmy Smith’s hard work, centrist approach and kind personality firmly established him as the First District’s definitive leader. It’s hard to imagine a challenger that could have beat him in the June election but Smith didn’t run and he didn’t finish his third term.

In a letter to the board last June, Smith said he’s resigning “with great reluctance” due to the re-emergence of cancer. “I need to concentrate on my recovery,” he continued. “My doctors have provided clear direction and I’m sure I will prevail in this battle.”

His work and accomplishments were celebrated by his many friends and colleagues at his last Board of Supervisors meeting on July 24.

Congressman Mike Thompson appeared via a videolink and highlighted Smith’s work on the clean-up of the South Spit and the Salt River restoration and flood control project. Thompson added that “efforts to restore and protect our rivers – the Eel, Klamath and Trinity – would have gone nowhere without you.”
He said Smith should “take particular pride in saving the Aleutian geese, once a threatened species,” and told him that “timber, conservation, farming, ranching, fishing and people have had a champion in you.”

A variety of representatives from public service agencies had similar things to say but perhaps the most revealing aspect of Smith’s statesmanship was provided by his wife, Jacque. She said her husband’s fight against cancer began in the early 1990s with an initial diagnosis of lymphoma.

Once a commercial fisherman and wildlife researcher, Smith embarked on “a mission to serve” after being given 50/50 odds of survival by his doctors. He was elected as a Harbor District commissioner before becoming supervisor and Jacque Smith said that “I seriously don’t think Jimmy would have changed the course of his life so drastically, from commercial fisherman to politician, if it hadn’t been for that disease.”

Smith’s treatments have been effective and his appearance was a highlight of an appreciation ceremony for outgoing Supervisor Clif Clendenen at a supervisors meeting last month.

One Comment

  1. Lauren Housley December 31, 2012

    I would like to clarify a couple of inaccuracies in your story about Garett Matson. While its true that Katlyn was staying with William in Washington while he was serving his last few months, after a years extension, in the Navy, we (Mom, stepfather, and William) have been long time residents of Mendocino county. Also William had been a longtime friend of Katlyn’s since high school, having been on the football team together. I would like to thank the AVA for their dogged determination in not letting this horrific crime get quietly pushed aside. Katlyn’s death has had a devastating affect on so many people and though justice will never bring her back we would like the truth of what happened that night to come out.

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