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Local News

Bill Macfadyen: Deputies Encounter a Déjà View During High-Speed Chase of 3 Burglary Suspects

NoozWeek’s Top 5 learns things aren’t well and good with Montecito’s trucked-in water, bites on another shark attack, coughs up concerns, and says goodbye to John Bissell

There were 75,949 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What’s my take on your top stories? I’m glad you asked.

1. High-Speed Chase Ends in Crash, 3 Arrests in Santa Barbara

A trio of lowlifes was captured after a high-speed chase that started in Buellton and ended in a wreck in the foothills above Santa Barbara.

The pursuit began the afternoon of Oct. 17 after an incident at an Avenue of the Flags gas station in Buellton. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a guy armed with a knife and banging on the windows of a black Jeep Cherokee.

Deputies and California Highway Patrol officers responded to the scene, but the Jeep had headed south on Highway 101. The chase was on.

Sheriff’s Lt. Butch Arnoldi told our Giana Magnoli that the pursuit topped speeds of 110 mph, with the Jeep using all lanes and both shoulders to pass other vehicles as it raced east along the Gaviota coast.

“It was probably one of the most unsafe pursuits I’ve ever seen,” said Arnoldi, who expressed amazement that there were no collisions or injuries to other motorists during the 40-minute, 50-mile run.

At some point, deputies realized they were pursuing the same Jeep that had been involved in a previous high-speed chase, on Oct. 3, from the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez to Cathedral Oaks Road in Santa Barbara, where a driver finally surrendered.

In that escapade, authorities had been trying to arrest a fugitive from Los Angeles County but the suspect, a woman whose name was not disclosed at the time, jumped in the Jeep and took off, before apparently stopping and getting out of the vehicle atop San Marcos Pass — and then eluding a manhunt.

But more on that in a moment. First, back to our pursuit in progress.

The Jeep took the Turnpike Road exit, narrowly missing a pedestrian, and raced north and then east on Cathedral Oaks Road/Foothill Road. In San Roque, the driver turned north onto Alamar Avenue, which dead-ends at Willowbrook Ranch, better known as the home of McMullen Stables.

Come with us. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)
Come with us, homeboy. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

The SUV continued onto the ranch, followed by a line of patrol cars like a scene out of Beverly Hills Cop.

“Upon reaching the main ranch entrance, which had been blocked by law enforcement vehicles, (the driver) rammed into an unoccupied sheriff’s patrol unit, then struck a pepper tree and the main ranch gate overhead sign, causing it to fall down,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

As the driver tried to reverse course, she said, a deputy backed his patrol car into the Jeep, trapping it against the tree.

Believe it or not, the suspects refused to get out of the vehicle, so deputies broke out the windows with their batons and arrested them without further incident.

Hoover said the alleged driver, Camilla DePerna, 24, of Los Osos, and Shane Lydick, 34, of Thousand Oaks, were charged with felony evading with a motor vehicle.

They and the third member of the gang, Kristy DeLaCerna, 36, of Thousand Oaks, also were charged with possession of burglary tools, she said.

During the chase, Arnoldi said, the suspects were seen throwing items, believed to be narcotics, out of the Jeep. That material was recovered by authorities, he added.

But it’s a small world, after all, and it turns out that DePerna, aka Jessica Walters, was the alleged fugitive from two weeks before. Further, DeLaCerna was the relief driver who finally was pulled over on Cathedral Oaks Road, where she was arrested for possession of narcotics.

Oddly, the Jeep had been impounded after that traffic stop, but somehow ended up back in the possession of the suspects. Maybe they burgled it out of the impound lot.

What’s the latest high-end service provider in Montecito? Water delivery trucks. (Urban Hikers photo)
What’s the latest high-end service provider in Montecito? Water delivery trucks. (Urban Hikers photo)

2. Water Agencies Trying to Stop Private Water Sales in Carpinteria, Montecito

California may have a drought going on, but you wouldn’t know it from the lush green of some Montecito lawns — mine being a notable exception.

For months now, dark green water tanks have been popping up all over and water trucks are ubiquitous. We asked our Josh Molina to figure out what the deal is, although I’ll admit I may have had ulterior motives for my own curiosity.

What Josh discovered is a willingness by many homeowners to pay good money to bypass the Montecito Water District’s emergency drought restrictions, which include severe fines for residents who exceed their reduced monthly allotments.

Nothing wrong with that; supply and demand is an American way. But where is that water coming from? In a dire statewide water shortage, who has extra water? 

As it turns out, much of the trucked-in water is coming from wells next door in the Carpinteria Valley, where farmers apparently are tapping into the groundwater basin.

Charles Hamilton, general manager of the Carpinteria Valley Water District, estimates that private water companies have hauled more than a half-million gallons of Carpinteria water into Montecito. He’s not happy about it.

“You have to stop it some time, and the time to stop it is now,” he said. “In the long run, something like this would really be a detriment to the groundwater basin because it can really add up.”

Hamilton accuses well owners of exporting water “for personal profit,” and says the result is a depletion of the groundwater basin that other users depend on.

The trend has caught the attention of Santa Barbara County, which has warned four Carpinteria Valley growers that selling water to private landowners actually is a zoning violation. In fact, Josh reported, extracting water for transport and commercial sale is not allowed in the coastal zone and requires a conditional-use permit in noncoastal areas that are zoned for agriculture.

“It’s a form of mining,” explained Glenn Russell, the county’s planning and development director. “Whether you are mining water, gravel or other substances, these activities are regulated by zoning for the social good of the community.”

He says no one has a conditional-use permit to sell water for commercial use.

In case you’re one of my neighbors buying the wet stuff on the black market, don’t worry. The zoning violation applies to the property owner selling the water, not the buyer or the transportation company.

At least for now. 

A shark sank its teeth into this outrigger canoe ama, but it apparently wasn’t to its taste. (Dan Seibert photo)
A shark sank its teeth into this outrigger canoe ama, but it apparently wasn’t to its taste. (Dan Seibert photo)

3. Woman Reports Shark Attack on Outrigger Canoe in Santa Barbara Channel

A woman on a leisurely Sunday afternoon voyage in her outrigger canoe got quite the surprise Oct. 19 when a 6-foot blue or gray shark surfaced to clamp its jaws down on the outrigger’s floatation arm.

According to Larry Neufer of the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol, the woman said she was paddling about three miles offshore from La Mesa Park when the shark began biting the vessel’s ama.

Except for the teeth marks, the shark did no damage and the woman was not injured. She paddled back to shore and reported the incident about an hour after it happened.

Blue sharks are common in the Santa Barbara Channel and in the area where the woman was canoeing, Neufer said.

Earlier this month, three shark attacks were reported in the vicinity of Vandenberg Air Force Base, including an Oct. 2 incident in which a surfer was bitten by a 10- to 12-foot shark just off Wall Beach. The man was treated for a puncture wound at a local hospital.

There were no serious injuries in the two other incidents.

4. Five Cases of Whooping Cough Diagnosed at Waldorf School of Santa Barbara

Five students have been diagnosed with pertussis, aka whooping cough, at The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara.

As our Giana Magnoli first reported, cases have been confirmed at Waldorf’s Early Childhood program, which is housed on the Vieja Valley School campus near Hope Ranch, and at Waldorf’s Grades campus, located at Goleta Union School District headquarters.

The highly contagious disease is generally spread through respiratory droplets among children who are in close contact. You know, like in a classroom, packed with kids who often don’t take proper precautions when they cough or sneeze.

So that’s their excuse.

In this age of Ebola and the potential threat from global pandemic, less justifiable is the decision by parents to not take proper precautions to protect their own children — as well as other people’s children — from diseases that can be easily thwarted by readily available vaccines.

According to Waldorf officials, only 53 percent of the school’s Early Childhood students are fully immunized against pertussis, 16 percent are partially immunized and 31 percent are not immunized ... at all.

After a parent reported the first case on Oct. 10, the school immediately contacted the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

Students with pertussis symptoms are required to stay home and see a doctor while those being treated for pertussis are required to stay home until a five-day course of antibiotics has been completed and verified by a doctor. If alternative treatment is pursued instead, the school says the students must stay home for 21 days from the date of diagnosis.

Waldorf officials say they enforce state law that requires students to be immunized before attending school or have an exemption on file. Waldorf “adheres to this law and concurs that the decision to immunize is one that should be made by parents and their physicians,” the school said in a statement.

No cases of whooping cough have been reported at schools in either the Goleta Union or Hope Elementary School districts.

5. John Bissell of Santa Barbara, 1981-2014

John Bissell died Oct. 8 after a brief illness. He was just 33 years old.

To John Bissell, Yosemite National Park was heaven on Earth. (Bissell family photo)
To John Bissell, Yosemite National Park was heaven on Earth. (Bissell family photo)

According to the obituary his family shared with Noozhawk, Bissell was “a sweet and gentle young man. He was truly a computer genius and learned everything on his own. ... Whatever he found interesting, he put all his heart into it.”

Judging by the overwhelming traffic his obituary has been attracting, it’s clear that his friendships were one of the things he put all his heart into. That measure is a remarkable facet of the Internet age.

“John fought a courageous battle for one week to stay alive, but in the end the Lord had a different plan and took him home,” his family wrote in his obituary. “We are thankful that he is now free of all his earthly struggles.”

Bissell is survived by his parents, Anna and Steve Bissell, the latter an acclaimed surf photographer whose work has appeared in Noozhawk and on Santa Barbara Surfer, and by his brother, Rio; his sister, Sunday, and her husband, Carl Rylander; and by a host of family members.

The family concluded Bissell’s obituary by citing 2 Timothy 4:7, one of the Bible’s best verses: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Not as often quoted is the very next verse: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

Enjoy it, John. R.I.P.

                                                                 •        •        •

As you know, Noozhawk turned 7 on Oct. 16. We share a birthday with the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, which celebrated the big 3-0 with a shindig of its own. Congratulations to SBEF and thank you for the wonderful work it’s been doing in our community for more than four decades. Full disclosure: I’m privileged to serve on the SBEF board.

(Santa Barbara Education Foundation video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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