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A man from Willits accused of starting a fire that burned a Fed Ex van has been charged with a lesser crime instead. Steven Ramier was identified as a man who was trying to siphon gas from the van. He got away December 19th, but was picked up later and arrested on suspicion of “arson in a state of insurrection”. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last week. Deputies and firefighters responded to the van finding an electric drill with fire damage under, it near its gas tank. Two delivery vans, a pickup truck and a utility pole were damaged in the fire.  He has a slew of crimes on his record including robbery and resisting arrest. He was out on bail at the time of his new arrest. He’s due back in court Jan. 5th.

A man arrested for a fatal crash in Ukiah last week is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence and driving without a license. Ezekial Guzman was arrested after a head on crash last week we told you about. The CHP says he was driving drunk when he drifted into another lane of traffic and hit another car. Guzman’s passenger was killed, neither of them had on seatbelts. The driver of the other vehicle, from Potter Valley, had moderate injuries and was wearing his seatbelt. Guzman is being held on $250,000 bail. He had previously been convicted for DUI, so he was on probation for that. He’s due in court today.

Reports of snow on the road in some parts of Mendocino County as the holiday weekend ended. There were reports yesterday of snow in the Brooktrails area with dangerous road conditions, unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle or chains on your tires. A winter storm warning is still in effect into this morning. The NWS in Eureka reported possible hail this morning too, which could further complicate road travel through the 101 corridor. There was also a power outage yesterday that impacted about 1,000 customers in the Round Valley area. And reports several cars were stuck on State Route 175 between Hopland and Lake County.

Mendocino County has at-home COVID tests to dole out. The over the counter tests have been made available by the Public Health Dept and are being handed out by community groups which have a lot of public contact. The tests are safe and effective and Public Health recommends you test at home before you go to a holiday gathering, before returning to school, and before and after you travel. If you test positive, they say you should isolate for 10 days and until you have no symptoms for at least 24 hours.

For a how-to video on at-home testing, and testing site schedules and locations visit

Free vaccine booster shots continue to be available at primary care providers, pharmacies, and at the County’s fixed and pop-up clinics.

For more information:

There’s a new mayor in the town of Willits. During their Dec. 8th City Council meeting, Saprina Rodriguez was chosen by unanimous vote.  And just after the vote, she took over leading the meeting and asked for nominations for Vice Mayor. Greta Kanne was then chosen, also by unanimous vote. The process happens each two year cycle when councilmembers are chosen by registered voters for four years, then the councilmembers choose their leaders.

COVID safety protocols the topic of the latest Willits Unified School District (WUSD) School Board meeting. The hybrid meeting with both Zoom and in-person touched on the protocols, which apparently some parents find too strict. Those at the meeting said they wanted the outdoor mask requirement tossed and the Willits Teachers Association (WTA) put out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the same. They have asked the school board to remove the requirement by Feb. 1st since after holidays, there could be some cases and to give some more time for vaccines to be administered for those without.

A reminder by the California State Parks Dept. for a healthy way to start the new year. The yearly First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day. Over 40 state parks have more than 50 guided hikes across the state. But it’s a nationally led effort. The First Day Hikes program encourages folks to get out and experience beautiful natural and cultural resources in the outdoors, and to remind that it doesn’t have to be the only day of the year to do so. The state Parks Director says it’s a great “opportunity to improve one’s physical, mental and social health”, by connecting with nature.

A teacher from Clearlake has been arrested in Southern California for allegedly trying to meet a minor for sex. Police in the city of Brea, in Orange County say 36 year old Ricardo Ruiz was arrested Thursday for three felonies. They say he tried to contact a minor at Brea shopping center after a tip from a TV reporter about a sting by a civilian group trying to find sexual predators. The group calls themselves, Creep Catching Unit. They had a couple other stings over the last 6 months. Ruiz was being held on $100,000 bail, but was released after posting a bail bond Friday. Police say traveling 500 miles indicated a “strong intent” by a suspect to engage in crime. Ruiz had no criminal record before this.

California is about to record its 5 millionth case of coronavirus. As omicron takes over 50% to 70% of new cases. The variant has quickly taken over as the dominant strain of the virus in the nation. The first case surfaced in South Africa, then a resident in San Francisco who had traveled there, apparently brought it back. The state Dept. of Public Health reports it’s being “detected at increasing proportions in wastewater in multiple regions throughout California”. The Governor said last week though that the state is “better positioned” to handle a surge than a year ago when cases put a strain on hospitals and morgues.

There’s a new leader at Mendocino College Foundation. Julie McGovern has been hired as the new executive director, effective next month. The Foundation Board President Tom Dow says they’re thrilled to welcome McGovern aboard. She’s taking over for Katie Fairbairn, who retired nearly a year ago. The Superintendent and President Dr. Tim Karas chimed in saying Julie has the qualifications and expertise to grow the Foundation into an even “greater, more successful, organization to impact the lives of our students and increase access to higher education.”

Students headed back to schools in California will have to get tested for coronavirus after the holidays. That’s the word from the Governor as the omicron variant spreads across the state. Hospital emergency rooms starting to report it’s Deja vu all over again. The Governor says students will get priority access to rapid antigen tests so if they go back to in person learning, they can do it safely. As of Friday the state had about 114 cases per 100,000 people, less than half the national rate. Some business groups say Newsom is being too strict after he set a February 1st deadline for healthcare workers to get booster shots.

A man from Lakeport arrested several months ago for allegedly threatening to kill his girlfriend is still being held in jail. Morgan Matthew Jack was arrested in May and awaiting a jury trial and plea entry in court. He’s entered a not guilty plea and not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyer said he agreed he may not understand the proceedings and should be examined by a psychiatric doctor. That report’s to be presented January 25th to the court. He was charged in June with Assault with a Deadly Weapon (Other than a Firearm), Exhibiting Firearm/ Deadly Weapon, Resisting Arrest, Threatening School Officer/ Employee and more. He was arrested after threats to his girlfriend and a standoff with cops at his home. He was in prison before related to the death of a taxi driver in 2008 in the Big Valley Rancheria.

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