Cora Boden, Billy Barbaree and Nick McGilvray are humble, ordinary people who each did something extraordinary. To their clear discomfort but with our community’s lasting gratitude, they were honored for their courage by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Also commended at the April 11 ceremony was sheriff’s Detective Ray Gamboa, who insisted he was only doing his job.
A fifth individual was recognized, however, when District Attorney Joyce Dudley bestowed a Media Award, naming our executive editor, Tom Bolton, its first recipient. I want to take a moment to thank him for work that was no less important, and to say that his colleagues at Team Noozhawk could not be more proud.
For more than a year, Tom had been reporting on Tibor “Ted” Karsai, a sexually violent predator who was being released from custody — in prison and in a state mental institution — after a Placer County judge decided he was sufficiently rehabilitated and could return to Santa Barbara County where he grew up. Dudley put up a ferocious fight but failed to convince the state Supreme Court that there were valid reasons to keep him away. One year ago, he arrived “home,” as a transient, living in an RV and supervised by a private security contractor.
In early 2013, Tom tracked down the mother of the young woman Karsai attacked in 1973 after following her home from a trailer park laundromat on Outer State Street. Now in her 70s and still heartbroken over her daughter’s 1985 suicide, the retired mental-health professional resolutely told her story while making the case that a monster like Karsai should never again breathe free air.
“It’s being released on this Earth,” she said, asserting that violent sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated and inevitably will attack again. “The only treatment is when they pass away.”
Tom’s account of their hours-long interview was powerful, intense and emotionally draining. But what he wrote also inspired one of his readers to come forward with a tale of her own, one that caught even veteran detectives and prosecutors by surprise.
The woman, a 54-year-old Orcutt resident, contacted authorities to reveal that she had been raped by Karsai in 1971 when she was just 13 years old. The news was astonishing. Not only had Karsai struck twice, there apparently was a third attack — two years before his first known assault. It sure makes you wonder whether there are others that followed.
The survivor said she would only share with Tom the secret she had kept for decades, and her story also was powerful, intense and emotionally draining. From the time Karsai allegedly raped her during a sleepover with her best friend, his younger sister, until details of her more than 40-year burden tumbled out during the interview with Tom, it’s obvious how transformative her experience was.
“It took me a lot of years to figure out that it had a major effect on how I lived my life,” she confided to Tom. “When I saw the last article, that he (Karsai) was definitely getting out, that was the one that brought chills down to the bone. I couldn’t hold my legs underneath me, and I realized I needed to tell my story.”
In honoring Tom, Dudley credited him with helping the healing process of one crime victim’s family member as well as helping another crime victim come forward. Neither would have happened without the compassion and empathy he extended to two strangers who were revealing the most painful, raw and intimate details of their lives.
Having read and edited Tom’s reporting for nearly 30 years, I can tell you that these two articles are his best work. Thank you to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office for recognizing that, too.
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There were 77,312 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top five stories?
Hundreds of Solvang residents and tourists were evacuated late on the afternoon of April 16 after an apparently live, military ammunition shell was discovered in an alley in the 1600 block of Copenhagen Drive. No one was hurt and the 18-inch ordnance was safely removed and destroyed.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said a citizen called 9-1-1 about 3:30 p.m. to report finding the shell lying amid trash in an enclosed area behind a downtown business. The department’s bomb squad and Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team were dispatched to investigate.
After determining that the 105-millimeter shell’s fusing system was still in place and that the device was potentially unstable, authorities ordered the evacuation of businesses, homes and hotels within a 1,500-foot radius of the site. About 700 people were affected, Hoover said.
She said authorities eventually were able to retrieve the shell and transport it to a remote location, where it was destroyed. The evacuation order was lifted by midnight.
Where the shell came from is anyone’s guess, Hoover said.
Clear skies may have been forecast for the total lunar eclipse early on April 15, but stubborn coastal fog and haze got in the way for stargazers in some neighborhoods.
The “blood moon” began to emerge around 11 p.m. April 14, with the full effect seen shortly after midnight and lasting a little more than an hour.
The celestial phenomenon occurs only during a full moon, when the Earth is aligned almost exactly in the middle of the sun and moon, creating a total lunar eclipse. The reddish appearance is the result of clouds and dust being filtered through Earth’s atmosphere.
If you missed this one, another blood moon will appear Oct. 8, followed by April 4, 2015, and Sept. 28, 2015.
Three people survived a Mission Canyon crash after their car drove off a precarious roadway at a particularly sharp turn and tumbled down a steep hillside.
According to county firefighter Paul Christensen, a Mercedes-Benz sedan went over the side about 8:30 p.m. April 13. The car rolled several times before landing about 50 feet below the 1200 block of Tunnel Road.
Christensen said the three occupants — a man and two women — were injured but one managed to clamber up the hillside to get help. All three were taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with moderate to minor injuries.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the crash.
Nearly a year and a half after an Ojai man lost his wedding ring in the ocean off Ellwood Beach, a Goleta woman found it while beachcombing with her children. Even more incredibly, she was able to locate the couple who had figured it was gone for good.
Jenn Birchim and her kids were exploring tide pools and hunting for seashells when she spied what she thought was just a bottle cap. In fact, it was a ring with a distinctive inscription: “My love, my life, my lobster.”
After she brought it home and cleaned it up, she decided to post a picture of it on her Facebook page.
“Let’s see if we can find the owner of this wedding band I found today at Ellwood beach in the super low tide,” Birchim wrote. “There is an inscription on the inside — ‘my love, my life, my lobster’ ... Maybe a lobster fisherman? Pass it along friends! Let’s stoke someone out and return it!”
One of those shares made its way to Sara Lindsay, a Ventura teacher who contacted Birchim and listened in disbelief as she described the inscription.
“That’s my husband’s ring,” she recalled exclaiming.
Lindsay said her husband, Greg, lost the ring in the surf while they were at Ellwood Beach with their Bible study group. He didn’t even know it had slipped off his finger until after they had left.
“The guys were playing football, and my husband jumped into the ocean to get the ball, and that’s when he lost the ring,” she said.
“I was pretty upset. He loses a lot of things. ... The ring was in the ocean. We just figured it was gone.”
The Lindsays met up with Birchim last weekend to retrieve their wedding band, and to marvel at the power of social media. As of April 17, Birchim’s post has been shared nearly 32,000 times.
“They’re super happy,” she said. “It was a fun happy ending.”
Just a few steps from Noozhawk World Headquarters, the Santa Barbara Public Market officially opened April 14. I knew something was different when I arrived at the office that morning because our parking lot was largely devoid of the construction trucks that often had been sloppily clogging it for the last couple of years.
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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.