There were 80,330 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top five stories?
A Nipomo man died in a head-on crash on rain-slicked Highway 154 above Santa Barbara the afternoon of Feb. 26. The driver of the second car suffered only minor injuries in the wreck.
The California Highway Patrol said 31-year-old Michael Okerblom was driving east on the highway at about 2:40 p.m. when his Hyundai sedan struck a dirt embankment and slammed into a Lexus SUV driving up the mountain west of San Antonio Creek Road.
The twin collision crushed Okerblom’s car almost beyond recognition. He was declared dead at the scene.
Susan Jorgensen, 55, of Santa Ynez, escaped with minor injuries.
Highway 154 was closed for several hours as authorities investigated the crash, which happened not long after the big rain we’ve been waiting for finally arrived.
Less than 24 hours apart, two young women were sexually assaulted in Isla Vista last weekend. One of the attacks involved a 19-year-old UC Santa Barbara student who was beaten and gang raped as she was walking near campus.
UCSB police said the first assault happened about 1 a.m. Feb. 22 in the 6500 block of Del Playa Drive, where a woman reported that she had been raped by a man she had met outside a party there. The suspect was described as 5-foot-6-inches tall with a thin build, dark hair and brown eyes.
Even as authorities were hunting the first suspect, reports emerged of an even more vile attack, apparently perpetrated by a group of Asian males. Details were scant, and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover would only say that the vicious assault took place somewhere between the UCSB campus and Isla Vista sometime between 11 p.m. Feb. 22 and 4 a.m. the next day.
The woman, later revealed to be a UCSB student, was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. She was released from the hospital Feb. 24 and, by Feb. 25 had provided investigators with enough information for them to zero in on the west side of campus and eastern Isla Vista.
Hoover said the woman was last seen between midnight and 12:30 a.m. Feb. 23, walking north on Embarcadero Del Mar in the vicinity of Segovia Road.
On the afternoon of Feb. 26, investigators, assisted by the sheriff’s Search & Rescue Team, reported finding a personal item belonging to the woman, as well as items that may belong to her attackers. UCSB police Sgt. Rob Romero said the discovery was made in a semi-secluded area on campus.
On Feb. 27, authorities released artist renderings of two of the suspects in the attack. Both suspects are Asian males in their early 20s, with one described as tall and thin with medium-length black hair and the other reported to be short with a medium build and possibly wearing a red shirt.
Anyone with information about either rape is asked to contact UCSB police at 805.893.3446, or click here for the sheriff’s confidential tip line.
Ready for some cheery news? This is all you’re going to get this week, but it’s worth it.
Visitors dropping by the 1880 Union Hotel & Saloon in Los Alamos last weekend may have caught a glimpse of actor Kurt Russell pouring wines for the grand opening of the historic hotel’s new wine saloon.
The emporium at 362 Bell St. carries just three labels: Russell’s Gogi Wines, Hudson Bellamy Wines (a rosé inspired by actress Kate Hudson and her as-of-this-writing-fiancé, Muse singer Matt Bellamy) and Lompoc-based Ampelos Cellars, which produces the trio.
“They were looking for some kind of a presence in Los Alamos, and we were looking to do something with the saloon,” said Dan Thompson, who owns the hotel with his wife, Ana. “So far, the reaction has been terrific.”
I had no idea.
Like many locals, I was skeptical of rumors I’d heard that widespread “human trafficking” was happening right under our noses in Santa Barbara County. At a recent Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Fighting Back steering committee meeting, however, District Attorney Joyce Dudley brought in Megan Rheinschild, director of the Victim-Witness Assistance Program, to shed a little light on the subject. Most of us were as stunned as we were revolted.
As I often do in these situations, I sent our Lara Cooper to get more details. On Feb. 20, she sat down with Dudley, Rheinschild and Chief Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola to hear the truly heartbreaking saga about girls — and a few boys — who, for all intents and purposes, have been abandoned by our society except for use in the most depraved of ways.
The problem is growing at such an alarming rate that Dudley’s office recently formed a Human Trafficking Task Force to aggressively tackle the issue. So far, more than 70 members are involved, representing law enforcement, the courts, nonprofit organizations, colleges and churches.
Rheinschild explained that girls will arrive here with a pimp, who will post an ad on a website with a cell phone number.
“They’ll just take calls for a couple of days and roll in and roll out,” she said, adding that Santa Barbara is a desirable location because it’s a wealthy community, a travel destination, and has a relatively small law enforcement jurisdiction.
Many of the young women are addicted to drugs or come from abusive backgrounds, vulnerabilities that can make them a target.
On the task force’s wish list is to create a safe place for victims to turn their lives around.
“Otherwise, they will be trafficked again,” Dudley said. “They’ll be a victim, and many of them will end up dead. It’s black and white.”
Severe trauma and addiction also complicate things, according to Rheinschild. Even if victims have a place to go, they may run from help, so adding mental health and medical treatment are also key, she said.
More than three months after a pedestrian was killed and a toddler critically injured on Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta, the driver of the vehicle that ran over them has been charged with manslaughter and two felony drug counts.
On Feb. 26, the District Attorney’s Office confirmed to Noozhawk that Kincaid Orosco, 18, of Goleta, has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and two felony counts related to the transportation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.
Authorities say Orosco was driving a Volkswagen Passat westbound on Cathedral Oaks Road at dusk Nov. 11 when the car struck Shuguang Lui, 59, of Beijing, who was pushing a stroller across the street at Santa Marguerita Drive, near Goleta Valley Junior High School. Lui died at the scene and the 20-month-old boy in the stroller, a relative, suffered critical injuries.
The complaint against Orosco alleges that he acted “without malice” and “without gross negligence” when he failed to yield to Lui as a pedestrian in a crosswalk, causing her death.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron said vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to a year in County Jail. If convicted of the drug charges, she said, two to four years in state prison or county jail could be tacked on.
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The Soviet Union — eh, excuse me, Russia — eventually will make Ukrainians pay for this, but seeing commie bastard Vladimir Lenin repeatedly do a face plant never gets old.
(Breitbart TV video)
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.