What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?
One of the most difficult tasks that reporters encounter is writing a news feature about someone who died tragically, and it’s especially so when it’s a young person. None of us wishes to intrude on grieving and shell-shocked family and friends, but it is our journalists’ obligation to do so as part of our local news responsibilities.
These stories can be enormously rewarding for the community and for the reporter, however, and we always hope that they bring a measure of comfort for those in mourning. After all, it doesn’t seem fair to define someone’s life in the brief news announcement of his or her death. I think they deserve to have a more complete story told.
Cousins was a passenger in the car, which struck a bridge railing near Santa Margarita, ran off the highway and rolled over down an embankment. The driver, Molly Armanino, 19, of Santa Cruz, and the other passenger, Aida Pour Khalhali, 19, of Reseda, were injured in the wreck that killed their classmate. The three women were headed to Santa Barbara for a weekend music festival.
Noozhawk’s Lara Cooper talked to two of Cousins’ former teachers at San Marcos High to learn more about the young woman one remembered as a “beautiful soul.” Cousins graduated in 2011 and participated in track and field and on the school’s powerhouse mock trial team.
“My heart breaks thinking about Alanna losing her life,” said Marilyn Hantgin, the Royals’ head coach of girls track and field. “She was a very kind and wonderful girl. I only have positive memories of the four years I knew her here at San Marcos.”
She described her as someone who loved her family and friends, was respectful to all and “didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
“Alanna was a truly giving person,” she added, “and all who knew her will forever be touched by her beautiful soul.”
Eric Burrows, who teaches social studies and coaches the mock trial team, described Cousins as a “caring, perceptive and insightful” student.
“Alanna was a joy to have in class and brought such a positive energy,” he said.
Burrows said Cousins had an intuitive grasp of U.S. history and performed “brilliantly” in his class, with high scores on her AP Exam.
He said she was an integral member of mock trial as a senior, when the team won the Santa Barbara County championship and finished fifth in California.
“I am so incredibly saddened by the loss of such a gifted and extraordinarily young woman,” he said.
The cause of the car crash remains under investigation, but California Highway Patrol Officer Adrian Ayala said alcohol has been ruled out as a factor.
Tibor Karsai is a repeat rapist, a “sexually violent predator” and a one-time prison escapee. For reasons that escape most sane people, he’s now a brand-new Santa Barbara County resident, pretty much free to move about among us so long as he checks in with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department once a month.
Although he has family in Santa Maria, their home was deemed unsuitable for him to move into as it’s located within 2,000 feet of an elementary school. As a result, he’s been released as a transient and will be living in a state-provided motor home. If it makes you feel any better, he’ll be monitored 24/7 by guards with Liberty Healthcare Group, a private company that contracts with the state Department of Mental Health. Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Karsai was convicted of savagely raping a 19-year-old Santa Barbara woman in 1974 but was paroled after just three years in prison. In 1980, he was convicted of another vicious rape, this time of a 16-year-old girl in Placer County. Although he was sentenced to 26 years in state prison, he was later transferred to a state mental hospital, where it was determined that he’s a “sexually violent predator.”
In 1985, Karsai and another inmate briefly escaped from Donovan Vocational Institution in San Diego. He was returned to prison for another seven years before being sent back to a state mental institution.
And now here we are, asked to believe that Tibor Karsai has got something positive to contribute to our civil society after a lifetime of evidence to the contrary and a psychological profile that practically screams “just you wait.”
Put me squarely in the camp of the mother of his first victim, the vivacious young Dos Pueblos High School graduate with light-blond hair, pretty brown eyes and the brightest of futures … until she crossed paths with pure evil on that fateful day in 1974.
Her mother, a retired local mental-health professional still heartbroken over her daughter’s suicide in 1985, isn’t just opposed to Karsai being released locally.
“It’s being released on this Earth,” she told Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton in an exclusive interview earlier this year, explaining that she believes such violent sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated and it’s a matter of time before they attack again.
“The only treatment is when they pass away,” she said.
According to the Megan’s Law website, Karsai is 5-foot-10-inches tall and 174 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He also goes by the name of “Ted.” If you see him, run like hell.
A prominent Shell Beach dentist was killed April 12 when the motorcycle he was driving collided with an SUV on Highway 154 in Los Olivos.
According to the CHP, the victim was traveling east on 154 when he struck a westbound GMC Yukon that was turning left onto Alamo Pintado Avenue. The man was ejected from the motorcycle and died of his injuries, authorities said.
The Yukon driver, a 17-year-old Los Olivos boy, was uninjured in the collision and not cited, the CHP said.
The victim was later identified as Dr. Jeff Williams, 61, of Shell Beach, who owned an Arroyo Grande dental practice. Williams was a scion of the former Williams Bros. grocery chain, which was based in Santa Maria until its 1991 sale to Vons.
My column last week finished fourth in readership this week, no doubt due to presence of “Deltopia.” If only drunken revelry were the reason to mention that Isla Vista tradition, but I think the traffic jam was driven primarily by the death of a Cal Poly student who was there for the party.
Giselle Ayala, 18, of Santa Rosa, was found dead in the surf near UC Santa Barbara’s Campus Point on April 6, apparently the victim of a fall from the Isla Vista bluffs sometime overnight. The cause of death remains under investigation by the Coroner’s Office.
That story led the NoozWeek Top 5 last week, followed by a labor union embezzlement, a “lucky” freeway standoff, the ouster of County CEO Chandra Wallar, and a wedding blunder by the former owner of Bacara Resort & Spa.
Dario Pini, owner of hundreds of South Coast rental properties and a major pain for Santa Barbara building code enforcement officials, appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on April 16 in connection with his March 22 arrest on burglary charges.
Pini was taken into custody by Santa Barbara police after an arrest warrant was issued stemming from his alleged intrusion at a construction site in the 300 block of West Carrillo Street. Neighbors told police and the property’s owner that they had seen him removing construction materials from the fenced location.
Judge Thomas Adams ordered Pini to return to court April 26 for a preliminary hearing in the case.
Pini’s attorney, Josh Lynn, told our Lara Cooper that he expects quick exoneration.
“Mr. Pini did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.
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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.