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Bill Macfadyen: ‘Child-Annoying’ Case Puts Unwelcome Focus on ... Someone

NoozWeek’s Top 5 gnaws at a jealous bone, picks on Haggen again, goes back to the tracks, and mourns the death of Righetti High teacher Deanna Byrne


There were 107,765 people who read Noozhawk this past week.

In case you were wondering how we’re different from, I openly reveal what you were doing on our site. Here’s my take on your top stories. SFW.

1. Goleta Teacher Arrested on Child-Annoying Charges

A Goleta man was arrested at Goleta Beach Park on the afternoon of Aug. 17 after witnesses alleged he was taking inappropriate photographs of young girls.

According to Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Craig Bonner, deputies were dispatched at 3:30 p.m. to check out a report of a suspicious person photographing girls at the beach. Once there, he said, they arrested 28-year-old Stephen Thomsen.

Stephen Thomsen: Not yet in focus. (Santa Barbara County Sherff’s Department photo)
Stephen Thomsen: Not yet in focus. (Santa Barbara County Sherff’s Department photo)

“Deputies determined that Thomsen was in possession of a digital camera, and had used the camera to take inappropriate pictures of several young girls,” Bonner said.

“Deputies were able to locate and speak with two of the girls depicted within the photographs, along with their parents.”

Thomsen was booked into County Jail on suspicion of “child annoying,” one of the most annoyingly politically correct descriptions of all time. Bail was set at $2,500.

As it turns out, Thomsen is a teacher in the Goleta Union School District. If this is a perverted hobby, well, we all know it’s a deal killer in his chosen profession — as it should be.

But if it’s an unfortunate misunderstanding on a public beach, his career may still never recover, which hardly seems fair.

Detectives continue to look for witnesses — call 805.681.4150 if you’re one — but it would behoove all of us to let the evidence play itself out.

Based on the evidence of Noozhawk’s traffic and comments, however, many readers already have the picture they want to see. We’ll find out soon enough how accurate those first impressions are.

Rollin’ in the Esco. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)
Rollin’ in the Esco. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

2. Jealousy Leads to Violence, Arrest on Santa Barbara’s Westside

West Side Story has nothing on this Westside story.

Melany Reyna Perez: Cycling assailant? (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)
Melany Reyna Perez: Cycling assailant? (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

The night of Aug. 17, Santa Barbara police were dispatched — with lights blazing and sirens blaring — to check out reports of a major street fight in the 700 block of West Sola Street on the city’s Westside.

Sgt. Riley Harwood told our Tom Bolton that the brawl had petered out by the time officers arrived, but a few blocks away they pulled over a Cadillac Escalade they thought might be involved.

The occupants — a 26-year-old man, his 22-year-old girlfriend and another woman — were ordered out of the SUV at gunpoint ... and found to be victims with minor injuries.

Harwood said further investigation determined that the trio had been confronted by the man’s “very, very jealous” ex-girlfriend, who had pedaled up on a bicycle as they arrived at his house, and allegedly attacked the Escalade with a knife or something.

He said the new girlfriend got into it with the old, punches were thrown and the fight was on.

The suspect eventually rode off into the night, followed by the Escalade.

Near the corner of Gillespie and Micheltorena streets, Harwood said, the suspect allegedly began kicking the SUV and attacked the other woman, a 22-year-old riding in the passenger seat.

About that time, the sound of sirens was enough to scatter everyone.

Police later arrested the ex-girlfriend — Melany Reyna Perez, 24, of Santa Barbara — on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism and domestic battery. She was booked into County Jail with bail set at $30,000.

Eventually, everyone was treated for their wounds and assorted injuries at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Because the incident is a domestic-violence case, the names of the three victims were withheld.

Suppose Haggen opened a grocery store and nobody came? (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)
Suppose Haggen opened a grocery store and nobody came? (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

3. Troubled Haggen Chain Plans to Close or Sell 27 Stores

The Haggen grocery store chain may be a smooth operator in its Pacific Northwest home base, but it’s beginning to seem as if its executives could not have scripted a worse introduction to the Central Coast.

Just a few months ago, Haggen ballooned to 164 stores from 18 — an increase of 800-plus percent. It just announced it’ll be closing or selling off 27 of the new stores.

None of the six Haggen markets in Santa Barbara County are on that list, but the Bellingham, Wash.-based company acknowledged it may not be done “right-sizing.”

Most of the new stores, including the local ones, were formerly Albertsons or Vons locations that Haggen acquired after Safeway, Vons’ parent company, merged with Albertsons.

As our Gina Potthoff has been reporting, Haggen already cut hours for many of its new local employees. Last month, a class-action discrimination lawsuit was filed after 14 courtesy clerks — all with developmental disabilities — were laid off from area stores.

Many Noozhawk readers say they’ve been shunning the stores as a result of the perceived missteps, as well as what they believe are significantly higher prices.

An all-too-familiar sight on local railroad tracks. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)
An all-too-familiar sight on local railroad tracks. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

4. Pasadena Woman Struck, Killed by Amtrak Train in Montecito

Another railroad track pedestrian has been struck and killed by an Amtrak passenger train, this one about 7 a.m. Aug. 14 at the Eucalyptus Lane crossing near Miramar Beach in Montecito.

According to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, the woman — later identified as Kate McClure-Hamilton, 60, of Pasadena — “apparently walked in front of an Amtrak passenger train that was headed eastbound and was fatally injured.”

The Coroner’s Office, Amtrak and Union Pacific are investigating the circumstances and cause of death.

5. Righetti High School Mourns Death of Teacher Deanna Byrne

Less than a week after students arrived at Righetti High School to start the new school year, the Orcutt campus was roiled by the news that popular English teacher Deanna Byrne had died.

Deanna Byrne: #RIPMrsByrne. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)
Deanna Byrne: #RIPMrsByrne. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

The married mother of two taught sophomore honors English and Advanced Placement literature at Righetti, and had been a part of the Santa Maria Joint Union School District since 2009.

Byrne died last weekend in Ashland, Ore. A cause of death has not been disclosed.

“The contributions Deanna Byrne made to our students and education will not be forgotten,” district Superintendent Mark Richardson said in a statement. “She will be deeply missed.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.”

Byrne’s contributions were not limited to the classroom. She also led Central Coast high school students on frequent trips to Uganda and other African nations, and had organized one such trip to honor Breanna Rodriguez, a Righetti senior killed in a Jan. 30 car crash.

Using the hashtag ​#RIPMrsByrne, students filled social media with their tributes and favorite memories. The evening of Aug. 17, they held a candlelight vigil near her classroom.

Byrne, who lived in Arroyo Grande, is survived by her husband, Chris, and their children, Brendan and Jennifer.

                                                                 •        •        •

Not that long ago, a brave group of men risked everything for one of the most extraordinary humanitarian missions of all time. Now, eh, who cares? Diptheria is just a Big Pharma conspiracy.

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: Vaccines and Dog Sleds.

                                                                 •        •        •

Of course, if this ever happened in Santa Barbara, we’d all be doing it.

(Brandon Rochelle 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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