- Inland Warming
- Good Morning
- Soto Search
- Supes Notes
- Off the Lawn
- Elk BBQ
- Boycott Dispensaries
- Blues Piper
- Ed Notes
- Classical Pass
- Yesterday's Catch
- Candidate Gravel
- Civilization's Purpose
- Cold Case
- Corduroy Sin
ANY LINGERING LIGHT RAIN is expected to diminish during the evening tonight, aside from perhaps some light drizzle in a few coastal areas. Otherwise, an inland warming and drying trend can be expected to begin Wednesday and continue through the end of the week. Relatively warm and mild conditions will continue along the coast as well. (National Weather Service)
LAKE MENDO SEARCH
[The following press release was issued by the Sonoma County Water Agency Tuesday @ 10:23 am.]
The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) began ramping down releases of water from Lake Mendocino on the afternoon of Monday, July 8 at the request of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department in order to attempt the recovery of a missing person near the outlet structure in the lake at the base of Coyote Valley Dam.
Sheriff’s officials are looking for a 40-year-old man who has been missing since June 11 following a fishing trip on the lake. The body of the man’s father was discovered floating in the lake that evening, but the son has not been located.
Releases from Lake Mendocino were at 136 cubic feet per second (cfs) Monday afternoon and were expected to be reduced to 100 cfs overnight.
Releases will be ramped down gradually until they reach 25 cfs by Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. (schedule below). The Sheriff’s Department will perform its recovery attempt using an underwater robot from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department. The use of the robot requires the current be no more than 4.5 knots near the outlet structure that is located at the bottom of the lake, thus the need for reduced water releases. The structure releases water into a hydroelectric plant within the dam, which then releases water into the Russian River.
Mendocino County Sheriff’s officials have previously conducted unsuccessful searches for the missing man using divers and sonar devices.
The recovery attempt is expected to take several hours on Wednesday morning. Immediately following the search near the outlet structure, releases will be ramped back up to 135-140 cfs by Wednesday evening.
Water users along the Russian River between Lake Mendocino and the confluence with Dry Creek can expect a substantial drop in water depths. Sonoma Water does not anticipate any interruptions in its water deliveries due to the reduced releases of water as it relies mainly on releases from Lake Sonoma to supply its customers.
Sonoma Water officials have notified the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the State Water Resources Control Board about the temporary reduction in releases. Sonoma Water staff will be monitoring the river for possible fish strandings along the Russian River in conjunction with NMFS.
Authorities are searching for Vincent Soto, 40, of Laytonville. Deputies learned he was missing after another boater found the body of his father, Carlos Soto, 62, also of Laytonville, floating in the water at the south end of the lake on the evening of June 11.
Relatives said the two had planned a day of fishing on the lake, and both could swim. Their wallets, along with the younger Soto’s cellphone, were in their boat, the Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities noted no sign of foul play after recovering the body of Carlos Soto.
by Mark Scaramella
WE WERE SURPRISED and impressed by the Board’s mostly indignant response to PG&E’s mostly info-free “Public Safety Power Shut Off” presentation on Tuesday. Supervisor Ted Williams was so pointedly skeptical of PG&E that the audience erupted in spontaneous applause a couple of times, prompting Board Chair Carre Brown to order the audience to stop their clapping. We’ll have more on this very interesting presentation and the Board and public’s reaction in the next day or two.
PREDICTABLY, the Supervisors voted unanimously to support State Senator Mike McGuire’s rail to trail fantasy. A few minor questions were raised about neighbor concerns and emergency services if someone wanders off or needs help which they assume will be addressed (much) later. As Supervisor McCowen said, “Don’t look for the ribbon cutting any time soon, although individual segments may build out in the shorter run [a few years away at best] when they tie in to existing trail segments.” McCowen noted that an Environmental Impact Report will have to be prepared on the project which should address some of those concerns. Supervisor McCowen later added that he’s impressed with Senator McGuire’s desire to be open and transparent on the subject, a claim we will be testing soon.
ALSO PREDICTABLY, the Board approved the proposed resolution setting up the Mendocino County Climate Action Advisory Committee (MCAAC). When Board Chair Carre Brown asked Supervisor Ted Williams, co-sponsor of the resolution, if he’d like to say anything, Williams replied, “I think we’ve talked about it too much.”
IT FELL to former Ukiah Supervisor John Mayfield to throw cold water on Mendo’s silly global warming committee since everybody in Mendo is so attuned to Global Warming that there has been no argument in the Supes Chambers until Mayfield boldly stepped to the podium.
Mayfield: “It must be a lot of fun to flail at windmills. You are tending to do that and you are starting a big one with this. This is the most useless, duplicative effort of anything I've seen come along that the county will get involved in. Do you really think that this group is going to affect climate change? You need to take a look at what's gone on historically. The least effect that man has on this is exemplified by the long periods of time that the temperature has changed in this world. It is not caused by or affected by action like this. You're going to waste a lot of time and money and effort and people will flail at windmills and think they are doing a lot of great good. But you will have no effect at all on the climate. It's a combination of planetary systems. If you look at it in terms of the last 1600 years, the three phases that we have good historical documents. That's what affects climate change. Admiral Byrd did not sail into the North Pole on an ice sheet. We had a climate change that changed that. People who are screaming now that we need to spend all this money and all this time and waste all this government effort and particularly at the level of the county to try to affect anything in climate change is just a waste of public funds and it leads people astray to think they're going to be able to do something about all of this. You may be able to build a better roof or build a better house. And some of those things will come out of the normal process through the building code and things. But this is an absolute waste of public funds and time and effort which will lead people to flail at windmills. Remember in the 1970s the same people that are saying we are going to roast now because of climate change were the same ones with who said we could not raise wheat in the middle portion of this country because climate change was going to freeze us all out. I don't know how many of you remember that but I certainly do. It's the same sort of hysteria now, only we have more people behind this because it's a great sexy thing to do. But I hate to see the county waste its energy and money appointing an unnecessary committee to study this stupidity and take this unnecessary action and spend public money on doing this.”
Supervisor Ted Williams suddenly forgot that they’d already “talked about this too much,” and tried to engage Mayfield: “I think we agree there is a shift in the climate. I hear you voicing that the county doesn't have the resources to address a national or global problem. But there is a shift underway in the climate. One of the things this committee is tasked to looking at is how to address the adverse effects. So we are likely to see some effects on our water supply. If we are able to begin formulating ideas whether it's more ag ponds or reservoirs or water conservation and utilize entities like the resource conservation district that — every dollar that we spend on it RCD will bring in — what is it? $90, I’m not sure. Would you agree that there is some potential to make progress on addressing the adverse effects?”
Mayfield didn’t budge: “You have agencies in place to do that already. Some of these recommendations are going to require substantial changes in the building code to implement what these people are talking about. You can do that with your current organization. You don't need to set up a whole other committee of the unfit to do the unnecessary.”
Williams tried again: “I would like to have your support on this. One other place we might find that nexus is on government waste. If this committee can in part look at areas where we have a high carbon footprint that intersect with public funds, maybe we don't need to be shuttling so many vehicles around the county or maybe we can use local gravel for roads to cut down on the cost of roads so that we spend less. Would you have any support there? Can we find that intersection?”
Mayfield still disagreed: “I think there are agencies that exist that can tell you that. You don't need another group appointed out here spending public funds, wasting effort, diverting from the real causes that need to be taken.”
Williams gave up: “I appreciate the input.”
The Board then voted 4-1 to approve the MCAAC resolution and presumably the $7500 funding allocation which had been previously made. Supervisor Brown had some quibbles with the wording of the resolution and the process of setting it up but the rest of the Board approved the resolution as drafted by staff.
THE MCAAC will not produce one “recommendation” that the County will implement — IF they produce any even remotely practical in the first place. Remember the “Precautionary Principle” that most of the same people pushed so hard for a decade ago? It’s actually been incorporated in County Code that the Board take no action that might do public harm without first establishing with proof that no public harm would ensue. Guess how many times it’s been evoked since it was passed into law? Guess how many times a member of the public has reminded the Board that they’re supposed to follow the “Precautionary Principle”? (Hint the answer to both questions is the same.)
IN OTHER SUPES NEWS, Third District Supervisor John Haschak un-recused himself from the upcoming Harris Quarry/Asphalt Plant controversy which the Board had previously decided to “fast-track,” saying, “Everyone knows that I recused myself in a previous board meeting in a discussion about the Harris Quarry. After reviewing the situation about conflict of interest with County Counsel I don't believe — there was some information that was wrong about where my house is compared to the quarry. I was mistaken on how close it was as far as the crow flies. So with consideration to all that I don't feel like there is a need to recuse myself from this, from these issues, and I will move forward participating in the discussion. I think I can do that fairly and that there is not a conflict of interest and I have an open mind.”
THE ELK VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT celebrates 63 years of service at its 15th Annual Summer BBQ on Saturday, July 27, noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Greenwood Community Center in downtown Elk. Savor tri-tip, chicken or portabella mushroom entrees plus sides, dessert and coffee. Donation: $20 for adults, $10 for kids 7-12 (6 and under free). Enjoy a no-host bar featuring Elk’s famous Margaritas, live music, a raffle, and activities for kids. Gather wildfire and emergency preparation resources. Come out and support the firefighters who serve Elk and provide mutual aid to Anderson Valley and surrounding communities. The annual BBQ generates critical funds to maintain the department facilities and equipment. Kindly leave the dogs at home.
For more information, contact Clark Fish, 877-3494.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Boycott all Dispensaries…. Black Market pot is cheaper and usually home grown. When ever possible buy direct from the farmer and leave the greasy middle men like Flow Kana out of the loop. We all know organic homegrown when we see, touch, feel and smoke it. Who needs corporate cannabis if you have good neighbors and friends who grow. Picked up 2 pounds of bomb bud last year for 1600 total, thats $800pp, that beats $45 an eighth or 200 an ounce from the dispensaries, and, not only did I save, but the farmer made off better than Flow Kana was offering them. Remember to always buy farmer direct and save while supporting small farmers directly!
THE YOUNG MAN from PG&E shoved by his masters in front of the Supervisors today, took quite a pummeling from our representatives. But that's his job — defend the indefensible. I thought the most revealing statement he made was to the effect that the Public Utilities Commission had vetoed the proposition that power shut-offs be left to local authorities to decide. Nope, the PUC declared, that decision would be left to PG&E.
IN THEORY, the PUC acts in the public's interest, although for years it has been subservient to PG&E's overpaid executives who, in turn, answer only to PG&E's shareholders, which is what happens when private interests are put ahead of the public's welfare.
OUR EMAIL SERVICE has been down since yesterday (Monday) afternoon. Tuesday morning it was still out, and Pacific Internet was not answering its tech support phone. Maybe everyone over in the Ukiah bunker had quit. Or been driven crazy by the huge complications of a hugely complicated system. Beginning to feel some serious anxiety given that we're dependent on Pacific for our business, cough-cough, I drove over the hill to Pacific's headquarters on South Oak, a squat, scuffed-hallways, aqua-marine structure with an aquarium-like feel to it. The first door sign I saw said "Driving School," as if I didn't know I wasn't looking for a Fortune 500 headquarters. The friendly young woman at Pacific's front desk said, "Everything's down, but we're working hard to get everything up, and it should be soon." Then she said something I couldn't hear except for "Philippines," and I instantly reconciled myself to being off-line maybe forever.
A SPECIAL ATTABOY for John Mayfield's address to the Supervisors this morning (Tuesday). Speaking to the approval of $7500 to a nebulous global warming committee arising from the Mendocino Environmental Center and sponsored by Supervisor McCowen who just happens to own the building housing the do-nothing organization, Mayfield concluded...."You don't need to set up a whole other committee of the unfit to do the unnecessary." Amen, bro.
WHENEVER I PASS the crumbling Palace Hotel, I'm grateful it will be there at least until the end of my days as the City of Ukiah discusses what to do with it, a discussion now forty years old. Besides being the most attractive structure the entire dismal length of State Street even in its abandoned, decrepit state, it serves perfectly as a metaphor for Ukiah's civic management.
To the Editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal, the newspaper that has never printed the word “[bleep]” and never will.
Having trouble with homeless encampments, Kitty Cat? Try placing a loud speaker at each venue and play loud classical music. Start with an all Russian program. First a warning: “The Borodin String Quartet #2.” Then Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and “Romeo and Juliet” of Serge Prokovieff. If that doesn’t start to scatter them try a couple of late Shostakovich Symphonys. Call a certain Supervisor to pick up the trash.
Northbrook Nursing Home (on a scale of ten I give it a one.)
CATCH OF THE DAY, JULY 9, 2019
BASILIO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, resisting, probation revocation.
IVY BODWIN, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
KELLY BROWN, Ukiah. Alteration of firearm ID, false imprisonment.
LEANNE DURHAM, Covelo. Domestic battery.
MICHAEL GARVER, Boonville. Probation revocation.
CALEB MACARTHUR, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, disobeying court order.
DENA MORRIS, Ukiah. Under influence, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
LELAND RANFT, Ukiah. Parole violation.
DAVID SIMPSON, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
CLIFTON THOMPSON, Ukiah. Under influence, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
KRISTINE TUPPER, Ukiah. Failure to appear, disobeying court order, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JOSHUA TVEITLODGE, Redwood Valley. DUI, probation revocation.
PABLO VIGREN, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
DON WILTSE JR., Ukiah. Parole violation.
Pulsing mountain streams
Cascading down the valleys
Won’t be stopped. Ever.
SEN. MIKE GRAVEL is trying to qualify for the Democratic debates to force the conversation to the left and criticize Wall Street Democrats like Joe Biden to their faces.
We have 6 days left to get our message of peace onto the debate stage, and we aren't going to make it without your help. We need 13,000 unique donors, and the only way we're going to get there is if you share this message. Find a friend, a family member, or a stranger on the street, and get them to donate $1.00. It's that important.
Paid for by the Committee for Peace, Justice, and Mike Gravel, a grassroots campaign committed to getting Senator Mike Gravel to the Democratic Debates.
WITH ROME ABLAZE, my interest is not in how sweetly Nero fiddles. Mayor Pete is a darlin' boy, but we're not in a hero flick (much as it seems that way), and the "villain" is way bigger and worser than Trump. It's that we're committed to a disintegrating system, worldwide, that invites our worst traits to dominate. (And see how "successful" it is!)
Lacking an educational agenda that pushes back against the archaic, brutal qualities in species Homo (the agenda "the Humanities" once offered in college curriculums), we need actual people with the huge daring to attack capitalism.
Bernie has the right stuff, but he is a little boring in his presentation. I don't think the U.S. has completely lost its wits yet. I think the white-trash president is toast, but I thought he was as a candidate, too, so no time to relax. The candidate has to win.
Remembering the dusty lessons from high school, our present system is an extension of "mercantilism," the mercantile system, that put wealth (especially gold bullion) as society's Greatest Good. (Hm-m-m, what could go wrong?)
Here's a question so basic (and dangerous) it's suppressed and ignored: What SHOULD be modern civilization's first purpose? Bust yer mind a minute over THAT question. Here's some nice images to inspire you.
‘THE VICTIM DIDN’T SMOKE’
How attention to detail solved a 30-year old murder in Navarro
by Mark Scaramella (April 2004)
On September 16, 1975, an unidentified elderly man who was taking a shortcut home through the woods came across the body of a 20-year-old hitchhiker in a stand of redwoods across the street from the Navarro Store. The hitchhiker’s body was half in and half out of a sleeping bag. He had been shot through the head. The victim was wearing a full leg cast and his crutches were leaning against a nearby tree.
Sheriff’s investigator Grover Bethard soon arrived. Although Sullivan’s wallet and most of his meager possessions were missing, Bethard found papers identifying the victim as Gerard Vincent “Jerry” Sullivan. Based on the level of decomposition, Bethard estimated that the body had been there for a number of days.
Deputy Bethard proceeded to carefully process the crime scene while Sheriff’s Detective Ralph Maize began an investigation.
Deputy Bethard, an experienced crime scene investigator, found several small items on the scene, including a cigarette butt and other discarded items. The bullet recovered from the body was determined to be from a .38 caliber pistol.
There wasn’t much to go on.
Seeing that the victim was probably a hitchhiker, Detective Maize put out feelers, asking locals what they had seen or heard, and issued a press release about the murder.
Several people said they remembered seeing the victim hitchhiking — his large leg cast being easy to identify. People remembered seeing “the guy with a cast” and another young man hitchhiking together. Maize got calls from four people who had given the pair rides. Talking to the witnesses who had given the pair rides, Maize theorized that Sullivan had met up with someone on Highway 101 somewhere between Santa Rosa and Cloverdale. The witnesses remembered the guy with the cast much more than the guy who was with him. The descriptions of the second man from the people who had given the pair rides were inconsistent and vague.
Shortly after Mr. Sullivan’s body was found, his family in Long Island, New York, contacted the Sheriff’s Department to say that somebody had dropped Sullivan’s wallet into a mailbox in Fort Bragg from where the postal employee had mailed it to the family. Nobody knew who had dropped the wallet off in Fort Bragg. The family mailed the wallet to the Sheriff’s Department. It was processed and a fingerprint was obtained off of it.
Unfortunately, in 1975 there was no computerized latent print system and it could not be identified. But the print was maintained.
Using the descriptions given by each of the ride-givers, Maize had four separate composites drawn based on the descriptions of the other hitchhiker. The descriptions differed — the four composites could have been four different people. One of the people who had given the pair a ride remembered that the other hitchhiker had said something about being familiar with the Caspar area, and that he mentioned having lived in some sort of commune in that area at the time. Maize checked the area for places that might meet that description. Given the relatively young ages of the hitchhikers, Maize came up with the Summer Hill School outside of Caspar, one of the many hippyish “alternative schools” in Mendocino County at the time run by 70s-era new arrivals. This particular “school” was a loosely run combination group home/school where juveniles on probation were placed.
Maize spoke to a number of people at the school, showing them the four composites to see if anybody recognized any of them. A female student at Summer Hill School thought that one of the composites looked a little like one of her former “classmates” by the name of “Bob Holdt.” Although the Summer Hill School was loosely run and poorly documented, Maize eventually figured out that the girl was referring to a former classmate listed as “Robert Holt.” But most of the other people at the school said that the composites didn’t really look like Bob Holt. Besides, they all thought that Holt had gone into the Navy and wouldn’t be out hitchhiking around.
Maize continued checking. But after several months, he ran out of options. None of the leads had panned out.
During the course of the investigation, working with the family, Maize determined who the victim was.
Jerry Sullivan had grown up in New York City, graduating from high school in Brooklyn in 1973 having participated in the usual high school sports.
After high school and a short stint in college, Sullivan decided he wanted to see the world. “In the spring of 1974, Jerry took off,” wrote Sullivan’s father in an article published on the east coast soon after his son’s death. “He left us a note and told us not to worry. We were only a telephone call away. He promised to keep in touch with us and he did.”
Unable to decide where to take his life, Sullivan, the youngest of four sons of a New York newspaper copy editor, briefly attended college in Nebraska but dropped out, saying he preferred working with his hands more than his head. After working some odd jobs in Nebraska, Jerry Sullivan hitchhiked to California and ended up as a ranch hand at a horse ranch. The horse ranch suited the young Sullivan who learned to ride and take care of the thoroughbreds.
Somehow while working at the horse ranch Sullivan suffered a major leg fracture requiring that he wear an ankle-to-hip cast. Frustrated at being unable to work with the horses, Sullivan took to the road, heading for Bay Meadows racetrack in San Mateo, where a horse he liked was entered.
Finishing up with Bay Meadows, Sullivan told his family that he had decided to thumb his way to Oregon.
It was his last contact with his family.
Having exhausted his leads, Detective Maize declared the case inactive, but still open. And it remained that way until 1993.
“A homicide case is never closed unless it's solved,” said Lt. Kurt Smallcomb, now the Sheriff’s Department’s Chief of Detectives.
In 1993 the case had been assigned to Smallcomb, a line detective at the time.
“What we have is called a cold case file,” said Smallcomb. “Detectives are assigned to work the cold cases if they have idle time with what's going on currently. That involves them looking through the cold case files and making sure all evidence has been checked for fingerprints or DNA testing, as well as making sure all possible suspects have been talked to.”
Smallcomb had been called by the family who had inquired whether the fingerprint on the wallet had produced any leads. Smallcomb immediately entered the print into the Automated Latent Print System and got a hit on it. The computerized fingerprint system kicked out the name of a suspect in Oregon who had lived in Navarro and worked as a fisherman on the coast at the time of the murder.
Detective Frank Rakes and Smallcomb went to Oregon and asked that suspect about his involvement in the case. The man denied everything. He said he was never hitchhiking with the victim. Although the Oregon man was suspicious, the detectives still had no hard leads and nowhere else to go. The case was put on hold again.
But Smallcomb was now very familiar with the case, and retained a nagging feeling that the case was solvable.
In April of this year, Smallcomb asked Detective Kevin Bailey to take another look at the Sullivan case. Smallcomb thought that maybe another check of the fingerprint found on the wallet could produce new leads with the latest ID technology developments.
“At first I noticed that there was this guy in Oregon,” said Bailey. “That suspect looked good for the case. However, in reviewing the case file, I saw that Grover Bethard made a note after processing the scene that he had recovered a cigarette butt. As I continued reading the case I saw that the father of the victim had said that his son did not smoke. So I immediately thought that perhaps the cigarette butt was left by the person who was with him.”
Bailey then called Mendocino County evidence technician Debbie Foster and asked her if she still had that cigarette butt.
“Lo and behold she did!” said Bailey. “So kudos to Grover Bethard for recovering it in 1975 when there was really no technology to deal with it. And kudos to Debbie Foster for keeping it in condition that it could be tested. It was properly packaged and properly preserved in a refrigerated vault. That was done on their own initiative. That says a lot about their skills.”
The cigarette butt, which was hand-rolled and licked by the smoker, was sent to the state-run DNA laboratory in Richmond where DNA Technician Deanna Kacer began the detailed processing of the DNA recovered from it. “We do not have a DNA lab locally that I can just walk over to,” added Bailey. “A lot of people in this area who watch some television and some of the crime shows think that it’s very easy to just pick something up and get it tested for DNA, but it’s not. It’s a time-consuming process and there’s a big backlog.”
Meanwhile DA Investigator Tim Kiely accompanied Bailey to Oregon to talk to the suspect there.
“We went to Oregon for two reasons,” said Bailey. “First, to lock him into a statement. And, second, to obtain a DNA sample — a swab.
”I obtained a search warrant in advance. It was obtained through Port Orford authorities in Curry County, Oregon. We did not know at that time if he would cooperate in providing a sample, so we got the search warrant in advance in case we needed it. If we had not received consent, we would have had to obtain one and that would have wasted time. We wanted everything ready when we went up there. The sheriff’s department in Curry County was very cooperative in helping us get the search warrant through a judge in their jurisdiction. They also assisted us in serving that search warrant. We contacted the suspect in Oregon and obtained a statement and we obtained a cheek swab of his DNA.
“We returned to Ukiah and submitted those swabs to Richmond for DNA testing. About six weeks later Deanna Kacer called. She said, ‘I have good news: we have a hit on the DNA from the cigarette butt.’ I was expecting that the good news would be that it matched our suspect in Oregon.
“But the curve ball in the case was that the DNA did not match our suspect in Oregon. It came back with a match to Mr. Robert Vaughan. The match was obtained from the state’s DNA database which contains samples of individuals who have committed serious felonies. We had never heard of anyone named Robert Vaughan. I had been through the case file extensively before the DNA testing was done, and that name was never mentioned. So I pulled all the case notes and files and evidence together in a determined effort to find the name Robert Vaughan somewhere in there. That’s when I noticed that Mr. Vaughan’s criminal history record included that he had an aka of Robert Holt.”
Vaughan had been in prison since 1991 for a murder that he did in South Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County.
“Vaughan spent most of his life in some type of correctional facility,” said Robert Dougherty, an investigator with the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Vaughan for a 1991 South Lake Tahoe slaying.
Vaughan “strangled, stomped and stabbed” a 32-year-old South Lake Tahoe woman, Dougherty said. A jury convicted Vaughan of second-degree murder in that case, for which he has been serving a 15-year to life sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga. The victim, Shellie McClure, met her killer at a local Burger King where she worked, Dougherty said. Vaughan, a transient, would come around the restaurant for coffee and the two began talking. They met one day outside the Burger King, and McClure's body was later found in a meadow near Blue Lake and Highway 50, according to the police report.
Vaughan turned himself in when he heard police were looking for him, Dougherty said. Vaughan did not deny killing the woman. He claimed he could not recall the incident because he blacks out when enraged, Dougherty said. “The guy basically blacks out, then he comes to and realizes what he's done,” Dougherty said, adding that Vaughan can be nice and calm one minute, outraged the next. “He has anger issues,” Dougherty noted with typical cop understatement.
Bailey continues: “So we put together the fact that Mr. Vaughan had an aka of Robert Holt which was mentioned in the original case file. Then we found the woman who had been interviewed in 1975 at the Summer Hill School and gave us the name of Robert Holt. I located her in Washington state and e-mailed her a photograph of Robert Vaughan. She said that it looked like the person she remembered as Bob Holt.”
Kiely and Bailey next went to South Lake Tahoe where Vaughan had been arrested and convicted for murder.
“We wanted to be fully prepared about Mr. Vaughan before we went to visit him in prison so that we could know who we were dealing with,” said Bailey. “We reviewed copious files and notes in South Lake Tahoe. We saw his criminal history, what he had done based on their investigation and what he had done for the current conviction. We immediately saw that he was more than capable of being responsible for our murder.
“We could not yet rule out our suspect in Oregon. But now we had information placing a career criminal at the scene of the crime. You never want to narrow your scope too soon. If you eliminate something too soon, you will miss it.”
Finally Bailey and Kiely were ready to talk to Vaughan.
“When we went to interview Mr. Vaughan, we did not know exactly what part he played in this,” said Bailey. “We only knew that he was probably at the scene. You have to be careful. Sophisticated inmates can get more information than they give. Mr. Kiely and I are experienced interrogators. So we approached Mr. Vaughan in a manner which made him comfortable. We did not advise him that there was a second suspect in Oregon. We did not advise him of any previous information that we had in the case. We simply allowed him to tell us what had occurred, using the background we obtained in South Lake Tahoe.
“In the course of that discussion, Mr. Vaughan made it quite clear that there was no one else involved. We had no reason not to believe what he told us. His entire history indicated that he was a loner. That is his makeup. That’s who he was. He does not involve himself in crowds of people or groups of people. He does not have close friends or close associates. He is a drifter who travels from place to place by himself. That’s what he does. He had been arrested prior to his incarceration in 1991. … And, essentially, he confessed to the crime.”
There’s always a lot of focus on the whiz bang DNA technology. But in a lot of these cases it comes down to evidence handling and police procedure which can be more important than the technology itself — DNA is just another investigative tool. Prosecutors have to be able to prove that the sample they have belongs to the person in question. They have to make sure that the chain of custody is maintained, and that the evidence and samples are properly handled and stored. There’s much more to DNA cases than the match itself.
“The investigator who collected the cigarette butt in 1975 with no technology to do anything with it had to realize that it did not belong there,” said Bailey. “He deserves a lot of credit. As does our evidence staff who preserved the cigarette butt in a state which allowed it to be tested almost 30 years later.”
“It’s possible that we could have gone to the evidence locker and found material that isn’t testable or material that’s missing. It depends on how the crime scene is handled, how the evidence is collected, how it is preserved.
“In my experience there is no such thing as good luck. But there is the whole heck of a lot of bad luck. In this case it was just good police work. You don’t put something in a proper package and properly preserve it out of a good lock. But if you haven’t done that, it would be bad luck.”
“Everything had to fall into place,” added DA Investigator Kiely. “Discovery and collection of the cigarette butt, preservation of it, identification of it, the hit on the DNA testing, the fact that Vaughan’s sample was in the DNA bank, and all the detectives’ interest in the case and their ability to see that there were possible leads… And then to retest the available evidence… Each lead had to be pursued in detail.”
Finally, Bailey ruled out the Oregon suspect.
“I would not like to speculate on how his fingerprint could have gotten on that wallet,” said Bailey. “But when Tim Kiely and I interviewed the guy in Oregon the first time, we both left his place thinking that if he did it, he did not do it alone. He did not have the balls to do it alone, nor did he have a violent criminal history. He was in the area of the crime at the time and was a suspect, but now that we had Vaughan’s confession we eliminated him from consideration.
“Another factor in this case,” adds Bailey, “is that we would not have been able to file this case without Vaughan’s confession. The DNA is a very good tool — we could put him at the scene. But that by itself does not convict him. It’s one piece of the puzzle. Without the confession we still would not have been able to file charges. A cigarette butt in the forest is not going to send somebody away for life for murder.”
Vaughan’s confession described things in the Navarro murder case that only the perpetrator would know.
“He knew very specific details about the scene which only the murderer would have known — things that the even the family members of the deceased person didn’t even know,” said Kiely.
“Most people think that we just went down there and spoke to him and it resulted in an arrest. But there was a lot more to it than that. Certainly, Mr. Vaughan would never have been on our radar without the DNA. But the DNA in and of itself does not convict him of homicide.”
Until recently, DNA samples were collected on people convicted of 36 serious felonies in California. Proposition 69, approved last month by California voters, will expand the testing to anyone arrested for a felony starting in 2009. The expanded database will also exonerate people, as it did with the Oregon suspect, as well as lead to convictions. “There's hope for all cold cases with the help of DNA,” Lt. Smallcomb said. “It's the greatest tool of law enforcement since latent prints.”
“Law enforcement is a team sport,” Bailey emphasized. “You need a good mix of people with different skills. And we had a good lineup here.”
Kiely also gives some of the credit to the Sheriff’s and DA’s Offices. “We have had support and assistance from several others along the way. When we came to the Sheriff or the DA with the case and explained what needed to be done — manhours, travel, testing, etc. — they said, Go do it.”
Before Jerry Sullivan’s father died last year, he described him as “very well mannered and polite; very considerate of other people. He was also a talented athlete. He was MVP on his high school baseball team.” Jerry Sullivan is still honored each year with a sportsmanship award in his name at Our Lady of Grace school in Howard Beach, New York.
“I was astonished, and so was my brother,” said Dr. Michael Sullivan, the victim’s brother, now a clinical psychologist in Washington DC, after hearing the news that his brother's alleged killer had been located after nearly 30 years. “After so many years to have a break like this — it's almost a miracle.
“My brother was a wonderful young man and he had so much potential and so much promise that he never had the chance to fulfill because he was murdered. How grateful my surviving brother and I are to Detective Bailey and the Sheriff's Department. Unfortunately my parents are not alive to see this. My dad had done a lot over the years to try and help detectives with their investigation. The murder of my brother had a totally devastating impact on my family and my brother's friends. My parents were very religious people and sustained by strong religious faith but they lived with broken hearts every day of their lives ever since this. It's hard to put into words the total turning your world upside down that this does. My parents suffered terribly; we all did. … We are very grateful to the police and the outstanding work they have done — and that they have never given up.”
Before he died, Jerry Sullivan’s father described his son as “everyone's best friend.”
“The Sullivan family was a very good family to work with,” said Bailey. “They never gave up on the Sheriff’s Department. They have supported the Sheriff’s Department for 30 years. They had nothing but positive things to say, even though they might have thought that we were dragging our feet or letting the case lapse. They know the volume of work that has been done on this case. They knew that this was a tough case. They have been 100% supportive. They could easily have turned around and gone public with complaints. But they didn’t.”
As best can be determined now, somewhere between Santa Rosa and Cloverdale Sullivan hooked up with Vaughan and together they headed north taking Highway 128 to the Coast where Vaughan had previously lived in Caspar. At one point they decided to camp out across the street from the Navarro Store.
Bailey wouldn’t say what may have triggered Vaughan to shoot Sullivan, other than to mention his tendency to “snap,” and a substance abuse problem. “More about that will come out as this case proceeds,” said Bailey.
“Mr. Vaughan did not have to talk to us,” conceded Bailey. “He had nothing to gain.”
“He’s a different person now as he sits in jail at age 48,” added Kiely. “I don’t know if you’d say he deserves credit exactly, but in fairness, part of his reason for telling us that he did it was that he had some remorse at this point. He had never provided a statement to other law enforcement officers who have contacted him in prison on other cases. But he provided a statement to us. He said it was time for closure for the family and maybe for himself in a way.”
“When you go talk to someone in prison in a case like this, it’s a crap shoot,” Bailey continued. “He could just as easily tell you to get the hell out. He had already seen the parole board. He was eligible for parole. You do not know what you’re going to get when you deal with someone like that. For him to take the road he took to cooperate with us deserves a certain amount of credit.”
An arrest warrant for Jerry Sullivan’s murder has been issued for Robert Vaughan. In early November, Mendocino law enforcement picked up Mr. Vaughan and brought him back to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked for the murder of Jerry Sullivan.
Mr. Vaughan was arraigned on November 29th, 2004. He subsequently plead guilty to second degree murder and had seven years added to the 15-to-life prison term he was serving.