What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?
Lopez has not yet commented on her situation beyond the statement issued the next day by her grateful family:
“As a family, we were very alarmed because Paula was experiencing a medical condition that caused her to be unable to communicate with us,” the family said. “She is now receiving appropriate medical care and we hope and expect that her treatment will enable her to recover quickly.”
But authorities were surprisingly candid in discussing the extent of the eight-hour search to locate the missing mother of three.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover told Noozhawk’s Gina Potthoff that the exhaustive response was appropriate because Lopez had been classified as an “at-risk” missing person who may have needed medical attention. According to Hoover, two K-9 units, a sheriff’s Air Support Unit helicopter and eight members of the sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team were involved in the search near Lopez’s foothills home off Cathedral Oaks Road west of Santa Barbara.
Hoover said Lopez did not receive preferential treatment because of her occupation or because she is married to Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa.
“We responded just as we would for any other person who was at risk and missing, according to our policy,” she said.
A harrowing house fire on Santa Barbara’s Eastside took a particularly heartbreaking turn when it was learned that the March 1 blaze destroyed the life’s work of artist Manuel Unzueta.
The fire broke out in the middle of the night in a backyard structure at Unzueta’s mother’s home in the 1000 block of East De la Guerra Street. A well-known muralist, artist and lecturer in Santa Barbara City College’s Chicano Studies program, Unzueta had moved his family back in to the house a few years ago to help care for his ailing mom.
“Fifty years of work, my art, my paintings, my records — everything was gone in 15 minutes,” he told Noozhawk’s Giana Magnoli.
“I wanted to die with my paintings.”
Unzueta, who for more than 40 years has volunteered with the City of Santa Barbara to design and paint murals with young artists and to help with local beautification efforts, estimates that he lost 1,000 pieces in the fire. He said he had been planning to donate a large part of his collection to UC Santa Barbara.
Unzueta and his family were unhurt in the blaze, although several family pets perished. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
SBCC President Lori Gaskin told me March 8 that members of the school’s Extended Opportunities Programs have several fundraisers in the works to help out Unzueta, who has been a longstanding EOP faculty adviser.
Cowboy hat tip to my friend, Raúl Gil, who gave us the lead on this story.
This isn’t intended to be a shameful act of self-promotion, but I found it interesting that my column explaining Noozhawk’s handling of the Paula Lopez story was running neck and neck with the news story I was writing about. Over the last week, in fact, more than a dozen readers have told me they’ve appreciated the insight into how we cover the news. I promise to do more of that in the future. So maybe this is a shameful act of self-promotion after all.
A third motorcyclist, whom Santa Barbara police allege was racing ahead of the pack, fled the scene and was arrested later than night after a foot chase near his Lower Eastside home.
According to police Sgt. Mike McGrew, the three motorcyclists were speeding along the 2300 block of Foothill Road when two of them collided with an oncoming Lexus SUV. Raul Ibarra, 24, was killed, and Jonathan Leon, also 24, was seriously injured. McGrew said a third motorcyclist, identified as Francisco “Alex” Rodriguez, 23, returned to the scene but sped off before emergency personnel arrived. All three were from Santa Barbara.
Rodriguez faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run, engaging in a speed contest causing injury, and improper license. He was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $100,000.
Incredibly, the family in the SUV escaped serious injury, although the collision demolished the vehicle’s front end and ripped a gaping gash in the door.
Jerry Roberts, one of California’s most respected newsmen even before he resigned as editor of a local newspaper in a widely publicized ethics dispute with the owner, recently donated $150,000 to help the cause of journalism.
Roberts and several senior staff members quit their positions in 2006 and his former employer later filed a $25 million lawsuit, throwing a kitchen sink of alleged breaches at him. Roberts counter-sued with some breaches of his own, along with an allegation of defamation stemming in part from a disgraceful incident during the once-proud newspaper’s plunge into ridicule and irrelevance. The case was dragged out through the court system for years before the state Supreme Court rejected the newspaper’s final appeal last year.
Although he is still owed $1.1 million in legal fees and other costs, Roberts has pledged $150,000 to Santa Barbara’s newest nonprofit organization, the Mission and State journalism project, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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