RICKY OWENS of Boonville, 49, has been arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment after a six-year-old child almost drowned in a Ukiah hotel swimming pool.
Owens told police investigators he was teaching a 6-year-old relative how to swim last Monday night (December 5th) when the boy became unconscious. Witnesses at the Fairfield Inn & Suites pool near Highway 101 said Owens had not been negligent, but a hotel video allegedly shows Owens plunging the boy's head under the water until the child went limp.
THE BOY was pulled from the pool to be resuscitated, then flown to Oakland Children’s Hospital for further treatment and observation. He was released from the hospital Wednesday and is expected to make a full recovery.
OWENS was booked Friday into the Mendocino County Jail on suspicion of felony endangering a child or causing or permitting a child to suffer physical pain, mental suffering or injury, police said. Bail was set at $50,000.
I’VE KNOWN Ricky Owens all his life, and I can say that there is not a malicious bone in his body — carelessness, perhaps, but not malice. This episode, as Ricky Owens’ culpability is alleged by careless reporting in the Press Democrat, is totally out of character. The statement by Sgt. Cedric Crook of the Ukiah Police Department to Justine Frederiksen of the Ukiah Daily Journal does in fact indicate that Owens did not deliberately harm the six-year-old: “We just want to rule out the possibility that there was any neglect involved, or whether the incident could have been prevented.”
THE BOY is one of five children by hit and run fathers belonging to one young, very young, overwhelmed mother. She and her children live in a small trailer on the Owens’ compound near the Boonville transfer station in the hills west of Boonville.
DEPUTY CRAIG WALKER is off duty while he recovers from a knee injury suffered wrestling one of the many tweakers roaming Mendocino County. I still hear people say that the cops are overpaid. If anything, they’re underpaid. Not many people could do the work. I know I couldn’t. I’m continually surprised that the cops don’t shoot a lot more people. I think if the citizen-body was aware of the amount of pure abuse the cops absorb even from so-called law abiding citizens, no fair minded person would say they’re overpaid.
NOBODY in authority is going to state the obvious: things are breaking down here in Mendocino County, as they are everywhere in the land. The County is perennially short of foster homes for the small army of children growing up feral in sub-Third World conditions. The County Jail is perennially short of space for the even larger army of people who can’t or won’t function more or less normally in modern society. It’s all headed to a very dark place.
FIRST IT WAS a ranch, then a summer camp, than an “intentional community” called Shenoa, then a billionaire’s “retreat center” owned by Jeffrey Skoll, a young tycoon who made his fortune with EBay. Skoll, perhaps having found more convenient locales to retreat to, sold the property at the Navarro River end of Philo’s Ray’s Road for somewhere around $6 million. The buyers? Orgasmic Meditation. Come again (sic)? Orgasmic Meditation, a business “researching and teaching the practices of orgasmic meditation and slow sex….” Founded in San Francisco (where else?) by orgasmic meditators Robert Kandell and Nicole Daedone, the couple parlayed what used to be known simply as un-monetized whacking off into a fortune.
POOR, BATTERED RAY’S ROAD, little more than a partially paved trail for many years leading to a pair of modest 1920 resorts on the Navarro River, it now serves as access to those still modest resort plus a few homes strewn along its meandering mile length but, with Blackbird Farm and the orgasmic meditators fully installed at the far end of a one-lane bridge just across the road from the two resorts, Ray’s Road will become nearly as busy as nearby Highway 128. Between Blackbird, a charter school hustle parlaying “underserved youth” into a multi-million dollar annual income for the Hall family of LA, its fully privatized owners, and well-heeled sex maniacs, Ray’s Road will be Mendocino County’s most traveled rural road.
AND OUR OLD FRIEND, Marshall Newman, caught on his once tranquil rural retreat between Blackbird above and Sex Land below will, like all of us, miss Libby’s Restaurant. Marshall comments, “Re: Libby’s Restaurant. Yes, I remember Janie’s Place. However, way, WAY back — the late 1950s — it was the Philo Cafe, which also served American fare. The main room was much the same as today, though I recall booths along the left (north) wall. I mostly remember the milkshakes, which were terrific.” The late Anne Johnston was in the mix at that site, too, with her thriving restaurant just prior to Libby. And before Anne, we had the spirited hippie interlude with four ladies we remember as Kristy, Sherry, Kathy, and Daphne.
ERIC ARBANOVELLA COMMENTS: “At present, AVHC has two medical providers: Dr. Apfel and Nurse Practitioner (NP) Cindy Arbanovella. Dr. McGhan’s caseload must be split between them, and since Cindy speaks Spanish, that split isn’t going to be even. Thus, it’s not accurate to state that Dr. Apfel’s patient load will double. (Moreover, since Dr. Apfel’s patient load appears to be infinite, it’s meaningless to multiply it by anything finite.) Nevertheless, the fundamental point — that this is a big step backwards for AVHC — is sound.
AH, THE VANITY of small differences. While nurse practitioners can indeed do almost everything, only medical doctors can do some things, the kill shots for instance. Our perpetually tumultuous health center seems to require two doctors, although who knows for sure what it requires. The same group of overseers told us we needed a big expansion into a virtual hospital-size operation, and that move put what had been a modest clinic operation into huge debt it’s still trying to whittle down. One big prob you see all over Mendocino County, especially in the neighborhoods heavy on libs, is Big Shot-itis, with every second person thinking he or she should be in charge.
FEW PEOPLE will agree, but I’ve thought for a long time that Anderson Valley’s public institutions ran off the rails when the newer arrivals began demanding suburban-quality services. And here comes a professionalized fire department, dirt roads into pavement, a mini-hospital, audio soma via a public radio station, half-a-dozen party-like events every weekend, four school administrators where there had been one and a half, and so on.
NOTHING PERSONAL, but why not stay in the ‘burbs if you want all this stuff? I thought the Anderson Valley, once upon a time rural, ran just fine with Homer Mannix in charge of everything, including the justice court. If you got hurt, Carl Kinion and Ruben Thomasson Sr. got up in the middle of the night, tossed you into the back of Homer’s ambulance, an old station wagon with the back scooped out for a cot, and hauled you over the hill to Hillside Hospital. The same people comprised the volunteer fire department, backed up by the state’s lavishly funded fire department just down the road, with its borate bombers extinguishing hill fires. The clinic began in a storefront in Ricard’s abandoned slum in South Boonville. The doctor was a barefoot fellow who wore a flower behind his ear who went on to amass a fortune in Ukiah real estate. He seemed to know what he was doing, but then they all do, don’t they? As my dear old mum, a registered nurse who worked Bay Area emergency rooms, replied to a young neurologist examining Mum in her dotage, “When was the last time I saw a doctor? I’ve never seen a doctor! Why do you think I’m still alive?”
REMEMBERING DENNIS BOARDMAN. It was the Southern voice of a polite man who identified himself as Harry Jacobs, "Jacobs as in Jacob's ladder," he said. He said he was calling from Hattiesburg, Mississippi about an old friend, Dennis Boardman. "I saw where he had been murdered," he said, his voice cracking. Mr. Jacobs said he was 71, and had only recently mastered computer technology well enough to find our on-line stories on the sad fate of his old friend.
“IT WAS A TERRIBLE shock to me. Dennis and I were in the Navy together back in the late '60s. I knew him and his wife Sharon, and I remember his baby daughter, Lori."
I said I had known Dennis quite well from the years he lived in Boonville, knew him over all the time he was lost to alcohol. "We were all shocked at Dennis's murder," I said. "Not only the way he died, beaten to death in his own home up in Fort Bragg, but after he'd stopped drinking, had gotten himself together only to end like that. We were all very fond of him, and very, very angry at his death."
"I read some of the different stories about him," the old man said, "and I read your obituary. Broke my heart. I wondered what happened to Sharon and Lori. Did he end up divorcing Sharon?"
"Dennis lost everything, including his wife and daughter when he lost himself," I said. "But he'd come back, stopped drinking and then…"
"They were a wonderful young family when I knew them," Mr. Jacob's said. "I met him in Navy ordnance school in Jacksonville, Florida. When we got our orders I was sent to California and that's when I made friends with Dennis. We were stationed together down in Lemore Naval Air Station in the late '60s. We had a great time together. He moved his family down there. I spent happy days with them, barbecues and that kind of thing. Dennis and Sharon and the baby were like my family out there. I lost contact over the years. When I saw what happened to him I nearly had a stroke myself. What a pitiful situation."
I could only agree, and said that Dennis, despite the alcohol, was liked by everybody. We all tried to help him out, but the demons had him until he freed himself.
"He was a character and a half in the Navy," the old man remembered, laughing into a sob. "Sorry, I get sentimental. We had a great time together. We also served on the Constellation down in San Diego. One of my best memories is Dennis and I standing on the deck looking down and waving to his wife and baby, and they were looking up at us and waving to us. That was a time for sure. I saw the picture of the boy who killed him. Such a waste of his life, too."
I said it wasn't the same country we'd grown up in.
"No, it is not, it’s not the days of the '56 Chevy. Dennis had a 61 Chevy convertible. We tore up some country roads around Lemore in that car. What a time we had! Dennis invited me to come up to Fort Bragg one time. I went up and visited. What a beautiful town, right there on the ocean. Wonderful people. I hope it hasn't changed too much. I grew up in a small town here like that. Well, sir, I'm sorry we had to meet like this. I'd like to see Fort Bragg again some day. It was the home of my man, the best man I've known."
SORRY to see Jane Futcher leave her position as trustee on the KZYX board of directors. Smart, conscientious, mannerly all apply, and apply in a context of Mendo Public Radio where they are so rare as to be non-existent.
KELLY BOSS, an Anderson Valley wine and pot impresario, has reached agreement with the DA to settle his long-running case in exchange for the forfeiture of roughly a hundred thou in cash and seized property. Boss has also paid a small fortune in legal fees that ultimately kept him out of jail. He had no case, but a good lawyer can tie up the courts so long as the defendant can keep paying.
JADE BENNETT is one of several permanent 5150s raised in the Anderson Valley. He's well known to law enforcement, Mendocino County's ad hoc mental health professionals, and better at mental health counseling than most of the pros I'm familiar with, frankly. I've known Jade since he was a kid, always liked him, and hated to see him succumb to the drugs that drove him nuts. These days, Jade wanders around the County getting 86'd from stores and generally making a public nuisance of himself until he's arrested and sent back to the County Jail's ever-larger unit housing strictly mental cases. I saw him today while I was out delivering papers. He'd just been ordered out of the Navarro Store and was glowering menace — at least as much menace as a little guy like him can muster — out of a nearby redwood grove. It was cold and he was under-dressed for the weather, which soon became cold and rainy. Later in the afternoon, I learned that Jade had been spotted very early this morning walking west on the Ukiah-Boonville Road. His ambulatory behavior was odd enough that passing motorists called him in to emergency services. But he kept on walking, racking up serial rejections as he went, knocking on the closed (to him) doors of people he remembered from his growing up in Boonville. By noon, Jade, probably having walked overnight from Ukiah with maybe a ride or two from the more adventurous among the motorized, had arrived in Navarro, an overnight journey in freezing weather of about thirty miles. At the store, he helped himself to the coffee, chattered incoherently, caused staff and customers varying degrees of anxiety, and was soon ordered to leave on pain of arrest, a threat that holds no meaning to him, although arrest represents temporary rescue to the many Jades roaming Mendocino County at any one time. Jade is exactly the kind of person for whom Sheriff Allman's in-County psychiatric unit was conceived, but the Sheriff's initiative failed by 83 votes, and now there's no hope at all for our Jade Bennetts. He is the full-time responsibility of law enforcement and the Mendocino County Jail.
WILDLIFE ALERT Katy Tahja reports: “Mountain lion sighting. A full grown cinnamon colored mountain lion crossed Comptche Ukiah Road in front of my car two miles up the road from the coast. What a beautiful surprise, but worthy of a 'heads up' to locals in that area.”