Santa Cruz City leaders were among those yesterday who celebrated the official return of a solid beam of light coming from the West Cliff Drive lighthouse. The flashing light atop the Mark Abbott Memorial lighthouse has been replaced with a single incandescent bulb that projects a beam of light at five second intervals 16-miles across the Monterey Bay. The lighthouse is owned by the city of Santa Cruz, but the light was owned and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, who replaced the solid beam with a flickering light 2 years ago. Congressman Sam Farr, who was also at the celebration, was able to relinquish ownership of the light from the U.S. Coast Guard and return it to the city. Farr told community members yesterday, “the light is a symbol of safety, and also symbolizes bringing the community together”.
Progress made over the past two days has Firefighters in the Big Sur area working towards containing the Pfeiffer Fire, which is now 93% contained as of this morning. Fire officials say crews are down to the final wire wrapping a containment line around the blaze, which has charred 917 acres, destroyed 22 structures and caused hundreds of residents to evacuate the area. Officials say they have already been able to start mopping up, and plan to scale back on the number of crews keeping about 100 firefighters on through Christmas Day to monitor any hot spots. Sycamore, River Inn and Pfeiffer Roads remain closed and evacuations of residences in the Pfeiffer Ridge community are still in effect. The fire has been burning since Sunday night.
A Salinas Wine Distributor faces up to five years in prison after she admitted this week to defrauding the federal government over $800,000. 43-year old Brenda Jo Kibbee was indicted in September of 2012 on 11 counts of failing to pay an excise tax on wine. She entered a guilty plea Tuesday. The crime reportedly took place between August and December of 2008 while Kibbee owned and operated Monterey Wine Services, a bonded wine cellar on Schilling Place in Salinas. The taxes were supposed to be paid to the government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Kibbee is set to be sentenced in April.
Monterey County has announced that it’s Free Libraries will be closed for winter break. All branches and programs of the libraries will close beginning December 24th through January 1st, with services resuming on January 2nd. Due dates will be extended to cover the recess period as all book-drops will be closed. Monterey County Free Libraries branches are located in Aromas, Big Sur, Bradley, Las Palmas/Buena Vista, Carmel Valley, Castroville, Gonzales, Greenfield, King City, Marina, Pajaro, Prunedale, San Ardo, Seaside, and Soledad. More information can be found at: MontereyCountyFreeLibraries.org.
A preliminary hearing was set yesterday for a Santa Cruz man convicted of 2nd degree murder and accused of assaulting another inmate in Santa Cruz County Jail. Leopoldo Alejandro Cortes has been ordered to appear on January 13th along with co-defendant James Alexander Oehler. Both men are charged with assault with a deadly weapon and battery after allegedly punching and kicking inmate Salvador Robert Escalante on December 10th. Cortes was convicted last month of 2nd degree murder in a 2006 stabbing at a La Selva Beach Party. He faces 16-years to life in prison when he is sentenced on January 17th, and could face another 16 years if he is convicted on the assault charge. Oehler, who faces a murder charge in the shooting of a man on Branciforte Creek in 2010, also faces life in prison if convicted of the murder charge, and up to 7 years if convicted on the assault charge.
SALINAS POLICE CITED 2 TEENS FOR REPLICA FIREARMS THURSDAY AFTERNOON. OFFICERS RESPONDING TO REPORTS OF YOUTHS CARRYING GUNS IN THE FREEMONT SCHOOL AREA DETAINED 2, 13 YEAR OLD BOYS, NEAR FIRST AVENUEAND EAST MARKET STREET, MATCHING THE DESCRIPTIONS GIVEN BY WITNESSES. AFTER FIRST DENYING ANY INVOLVEMENT THE BOYS TURNED OVER THE FAKE WEAPONS. THEY WERE THEN CITED FOR VIOLATING A CITY ORDINANCE BANNING THE LOOK ALIKE GUNS. THE TEENS WERE RELEASED TO THEIR PARENTS.
A HOMELESS MAN REPORTEDLY PULLED A 25 YEAR OLD WOMAN FROM A BURNING CAR CRASH SUNDAY NIGHT. ACCORDING TO WITNESSES OF THE 10:30 P-M CRASH ON HIGHWAY 1 NEAR THE SOQUEL AVENUE BRIDGE IN THE SANTA CRUZ AREA, THE MAN PULLED THE WOMAN FROM THE CAR AS IT WAS BEGINNING TO BURN AFTER COLLIDING WITH A TREE. FIREFIGHTERS SAY THE MAN MOST LIKELY SAVED THE VICTIM’S LIFE, ALTHOUGH SHE STILL HAD TO BE AIRLIFTED TO A TRAUMA CENTER. THE HOMELESS MAN, WHO REMAINS UN-NAMED AND IS ONLY DESCRIBED AS 30 YEARS OLD, WAS TREAT AT THE SCENE FOR INJURIES TO HIS HANDS, BUT DECLINED ANY FURTHER TREATMENT. THE ACCIDENT IS UNDER INVESTIGATION.
WHOOPING COUGH CASES IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY HAVE QUADRUPLED SINCE LAST YEAR. HEALTH OFFICIALS BELIEVE THE RISE IS DUE TO A HIGH NUMBER OF PARENTS WHO DECLINE TO HAVE THEIR CHILDREN FULLY IMMUNIZED. THE DISEASE STARTS OFF LIKE A COMMON COLD, WITH THE FIRST SYMPTOMS SHOWING UP 4- TO 21 DAYS AFTER EXPOSURE, STARTING AS A MILD COUGH THAT WORSENS OVER THE FOLLOWING WEEKS. MOST PEOPLE GRADUALLY RECOVER, HOWEVER A SIMILAR OUT-BREAK IN 2010 DID KILL 10 CHILDREN STATEWIDE.