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Bill Macfadyen: Deadly Wrong-Way Crash Brings Out the Worst in Internet Trolls

NoozWeek’s Top 5 finds a body after a 12-hour search, plumbs the depths of the Holzer family custody saga, repeats myself, and issues a BOLO for a highly contagious TB patient

There were 80,920 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top stories?

1. Teen Killed in Wrong-Way Crash That Shut Down Northbound Highway 101

A wrong-way driver was killed when he crashed his Ford Mustang into a big-rig near Bates Road in Carpinteria the night of Aug. 27. As it turns out, the dead motorist was a 16-year-old boy driving by himself.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Daniel James Perez of Santa Barbara entered the northbound freeway lanes from the Highway 150 exit ramp just before 10:40 p.m. The teenager proceeded south before colliding with a northbound Volvo tractor-trailer near Bates Road, about a mile away from where he started, Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said.

Dan Perez, a junior at San Marcos High School, was described as a stellar and selfless student carrying a 3.66 grade-point average. (San Marcos High School photo)
Dan Perez, a junior at San Marcos High School, was described as a stellar and selfless student carrying a 3.66 grade-point average. (San Marcos High School photo)

He said the Mustang flipped on its roof and skidded across the freeway, with Perez ending up underneath the wreckage.

Perez, a junior at San Marcos High School, was declared dead at the scene. The truck driver, Willie H. Lonie Jr., 56, of Pearl, Miss., was not injured.

Gutierrez said all northbound lanes were shut down overnight during the crash investigation. The closure stretched past dawn Aug. 28, causing a miles-long traffic jam for commuters driving up from Ventura County.

It has not been determined whether alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash, Gutierrez said.

San Marcos High Principal Ed Behrens told a news conference the campus community was “shocked and saddened” by Perez’s death.

“He was a stellar scholar/athlete,” Behrens said of the Royals baseball and lacrosse player with a 3.66 grade-point average. “Pretty much all day we’ve been working on creating a plan to provide assistance to the school community and to the community at large.”

With the help of the Santa Barbara County Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services, the school set up a campus compassion center where students and teachers could talk and grieve. A moment of silence was held during first period Aug. 29, and another was scheduled for the school’s home football game Friday night against West Ranch High of Santa Clarita.

Several of Perez’s coaches and teachers described him as a team player who was well-loved.

“He was willing to do whatever it took to help his team,” said Sergio Castellanos, Perez’s freshman baseball coach. “Danny was always upbeat and positive, he got along well with all of his teammates, and everyone admired him and loved him for the person that he was.”

Chemistry teacher Kimberly Tilton said Perez was a gifted student with a sense of humor, an “exceptional young man” who had the potential to become a great scientist.

“It was truly a pleasure getting to know him,” she said. “My heart goes out to all of his family and friends for their terrible loss.”

Not feeling that loss — or any compassion at all, for that matter — were a couple of Noozhawk commenters who made no effort to hide their scorn for the death of a young man, regardless of the circumstances. Bravely, they were man enough to hide their identities behind screen names.

I’ve said this on numerous occasions over the years, but it clearly remains lost on a handful of our commenters: We believe story comments are an important part of Noozhawk’s engagement with readers and are happy to provide the platform for that interaction. But we expect our readers to be respectful of others and of the online forum we’re providing for you.

While I generally take a libertarian view of free speech and am not easily offended, we won’t allow our site to be hijacked by verbal terrorists. If you can’t clean it up and play by our rules, we will shut you down.

If you’re half as clever as you think you are, you’ll be able to adopt a modicum of civility. If not, go start your own website.

Rugged terrain appears to have hindered the search for a fatal car wreck that was reported more than 12 hours before. (Urban Hikers photo)
Rugged terrain appears to have hindered the search for a fatal car wreck that was reported more than 12 hours before. (Urban Hikers photo)

2. Body Found In Car That Plunged Off Highway 154 Near Top of San Marcos Pass

An 82-year-old Santa Barbara man was found dead in the wreckage of his car, which apparently plunged off Highway 154 near the top of San Marcos Pass late on the night of Aug. 23.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Donald Newsam was driving south on the highway when his sedan drove off the roadway, struck a traffic sign, and landed about 30 feet down a steep embankment north of Kinevan Road on the Santa Barbara side of the pass.

County Fire Capt. David Sadecki said the crash was reported late Saturday but it took authorities until midday Sunday to locate the vehicle, which was wrapped around an oak tree in the rugged terrain.

The crash remains under investigation, CHP Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said.

Nicolas Holzer, accused of killing his parents, his sons and the family dog, is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Sept. 9. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)
Nicolas Holzer, accused of killing his parents, his sons and the family dog, is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Sept. 9. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

3. Bitter Custody Battle May Offer Clues in Holzer Family’s Gruesome Mass Murder

Since Nicolas Holzer’s Aug. 11 arrest as the suspect in the fatal stabbings of his sons, his parents and the family’s dog, many locals have been asking themselves how it could have happened.

Vincent Holzer
Vincent Holzer
Sebastian Holzer
Sebastian Holzer

Sheriff Bill Brown told an Aug. 12 news conference that “Holzer told detectives that he had killed his family to fulfill what he believed was his destiny.” That’s certainly one explanation, although it remains to be seen whether anyone believes it.

While we wait the eternity before the case goes before a judge and jury, we decided to have our Lara Cooper dig through the court files from the 45-year-old Holzer’s bitter 2006 divorce from his wife, Juana, to see if there might be clues pointing toward such a tragic outcome.

What she found was as breathtaking as the mass murder was heartbreaking.

According to the documents, most of the evidence appears to be circumstantial, although there are clear red flags that prosecutors and defense attorneys will be chasing as they build their narratives. Yes, the marriage seems to have been a volatile one almost from the start. Yes, both sides made vile, vicious accusations against the other, including an allegation by Holzer that his ex-wife and her sisters sexually abused their children, and an allegation by Juana Holzer that her ex-husband had mental-health issues. 

What Lara really uncovered, however, is an abominable and dysfunctional family-court system that any community this side of Rotherham, England, ought to be ashamed of. At almost every step of the way, a process that one would think was designed to protect the two most vulnerable people in its clutches instead allowed them to be used as pawns in a cruel game of keeps and keep away. You just know this isn’t an isolated case.

In their short lives on this earth, it’s remarkable that 13-year-old Sebastian Holzer and his 10-year-old brother, Vincent, achieved as much as they did and with as much kindness and determination as they had. That clearly is a testament to the “normal” life their grandparents — Sheila and Bill Holzer — appeared to try to provide them at their neatly kept home on Walnut Park Lane not far from Foothill School. If only the man in the middle had been removed from the picture, they would all be alive today.

4. Bill Macfadyen: What’s In Store at Trader Joe’s Was an Unfortunate Surprise

More than a week later, readers were still going back to and forwarding the story of a Goleta woman who apparently tried to take her life in a restroom at Trader Joe’s in Goleta. I’m guessing that was behind the stronger-than-usual traffic this past week on my Best of Bill column. I know it wasn’t the writing.

Although the woman was found alive, she later died of her injuries after being rushed to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The case remains under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department.

Click here for suicide-prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day.

5. Public Health Searching for Contagious Tuberculosis Patient

A 24-year-old migrant farmworker with a highly contagious case of drug-resistant tuberculosis is on the loose, and authorities have issued an arrest warrant in an urgent attempt to find him.

Agustin Zeferino: You definitely want to keep your distance from this guy. (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)
Agustin Zeferino: You definitely want to keep your distance from this guy. (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

Officials say Agustin Zeferino, whose last known location was in the Santa Maria area, has been consulted and treated by the county Public Health Department in the past but he’s discontinued treatment and his whereabouts are unknown, prompting the arrest warrant.

“Without treatment, it (TB) is often fatal and poses a public health threat due to airborne transmission,” said Dr. Charity Thoman, the county’s health officer.

“This is particularly due for drug-resistant cases. If Mr. Zeferino is contagious and he is out in our community, it is a public health emergency.”

If you spot Zeferino, call 9-1-1. Then see your doctor.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bring it in for a hug.

(MailOnline.com 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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