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Bill Macfadyen: Santa Ynez Crash Scene Just the Start of Search for Murder-Suicide Clues

Rambling wrecks take a terrible toll on this NoozWeek’s Top 5, but Isla Vista finally gets a Halloween pass

There’s a lot to process at this crash scene.
There’s a lot to process at this crash scene. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)


While 123,759 people were reading Noozhawk this past week, we topped 1 million monthly pageviews for the first time. Only Chris Stapleton is riding a hotter streak.

Of course, within hours of my boast, a traffic surge crashed our site the morning of Nov. 6. (Note to self: Check to see if it was because I mentioned Michael Jackson.)

Here’s my take on your top stories (if you can read them):

1. Driver’s Apparent Suicide Leads to Discovery of Woman’s Body in Santa Ynez

Authorities responding to a report that an SUV had crashed into a tree discovered a lot more than they expected Oct. 31 in Santa Ynez.

Just after 2 p.m., Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers were called out to the wreck in the 1500 block of North Refugio Road south of Baseline Avenue.

Inside the Land Rover, they found the driver dead of a gunshot wound. A firearm was nearby.

“Preliminary indications are that the decedent shot himself in the head, causing his vehicle to leave the roadway and crash into a tree,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

That was only a third of the mystery. She said detectives traced the SUV to a nearby residence, where they found the body of a woman who also had been shot to death. 

To fully connect the dots, Hoover identified the dead driver as 21-year-old Max Pappas and the dead woman as his mother, Lori Wolf-Pappas, 57.

Wolf-Pappas was married to Steve Pappas, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Supervisors in 2008 and 2012 and for Congress last year.

“At this point, the case is being investigated as a murder-suicide,” Hoover said. “Preliminary indications are that Maxwell Pappas was at his mother’s home in the 2000 block of Refugio Road and shot her to death.

“He then left the residence and was involved in a solo traffic collision in the 1500 block of Refugio Road, following a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”

While a GoFundMe page has been created to collect donations for the family, authorities continue to investigate the case. Anyone with possible information is asked to call the sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division at 805.681.4150 or to leave an anonymous tip at 805.681.4171.

The apparent murder-suicide was the second such incident in three weeks in the Santa Ynez Valley. A Los Olivos couple was found dead in their home Oct. 8 in a similar case.

An intense response comes up short. (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)
An intense response comes up short. (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)

2. Pedestrian Killed, Driver Arrested in Hit-Run Crash Near Santa Barbara

A Cambria woman was fatally injured the night of Oct. 30 when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Hollister Avenue just west of Santa Barbara. The suspect was arrested later that night.

Emergency personnel arrived at the crash scene in the 4400 block of Hollister at about 9:45 p.m. The victim — identified as 67-year-old Victoria Harris — was lying in the street west of the Arboleda Road intersection, and rescuers immediately began administering CPR.

Witnesses say Harris had just gotten out of her car parked on the side of the road when she was hit. She was transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but was declared dead on arrival.

The California Highway Patrol said the crash investigation pointed to Eileen Fox, a 50-year-old Goleta resident who was arrested on suspicion of hit and run and involuntary manslaughter.

Fox was booked into County Jail early the next morning, with bail set at $100,000.

The CHP and the Sheriff’s Department are investigating the circumstances of the collision.

Ready to fly but call canceled. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
Ready to fly but call canceled. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

3. Lompoc Man Killed as Motorcycles Crash on Highway 101 at Gaviota

A Lompoc motorcyclist was killed Oct. 30 when he apparently clipped a car on Highway 101 near Gaviota, was ejected from the bike and was run over by another motorcycle.

The California Highway Patrol said 22-year-old Anthony Terrones was traveling southbound at a high rate of speed when he ran into the back of a Chevrolet Impala at the entrance ramp from Highway 1 north of the Gaviota Tunnel.

Terrones was thrown from his Honda motorcycle and landed in the roadway. A companion — Jaime Jimenez, 21, of Lompoc — was riding right behind him, and the CHP said he struck Terrones and then lost control of his own motorcycle and slid into the median.

Calstar medical helicopter was dispatched but Terrones was declared dead at the scene. Jimenez was transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with moderate injuries.

The driver of the sedan, John Hertz, 55, of Helendale in San Bernardino County, was not injured.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the CHP.

Family and friends of Terrones have established a GoFundMe page to help his family with funeral arrangements. Click here to make an online donation.

A tragic discovery in a creek bed. (Ryan Cullom photo)
A tragic discovery in a creek bed. (Ryan Cullom photo)

4. Man Dies When SUV Plunges Into Creek Near Gaviota Tunnel

A Santa Maria man was found dead in his SUV on Oct. 2 after the vehicle veered off Highway 101 near the Gaviota Tunnel, tumbled down an embankment and landed upside down in the creek below.

California Highway Patrol Officer John Ortega said 56-year-old Ronald Mills was driving north on the freeway about 2:30 p.m. when, for unknown reasons, he lost control of his GMC Sierra coming out of the tunnel.

Mills was trapped in the wreckage and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The CHP is investigating the cause of the crash, which was one of many gnarly wrecks in Santa Barbara County that rainy Monday.

In addition to Mills’ rollover, several vehicles drove off local roadways. An overturned gravel truck on the Nojoqui Grade blocked all but one lane of Highway 101 for several hours. 

On Halloween Eve in Isla Vista, authorities relished the fact that water bottle-toting condiments were about as wild and crazy as things got.  (Mike Eliason photo / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
On Halloween Eve in Isla Vista, authorities relished the fact that water bottle-toting condiments were about as wild and crazy as things got. (Mike Eliason photo / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

5. Isla Vista’s Halloween Party Atmosphere Stays on Quiet Side

Thanks to a concerted effort by law enforcement, UC Santa Barbara, UCSB’s Associated Students, Santa Barbara County, the City of Goleta, the community itself, and maybe even Snoop Dogg, Halloween in Isla Vista was a nonevent this year.

Even though Halloween fell on a Saturday, authorities reported smaller party crowds, fewer arrests and citations, and just a handful of medical incidents over the weekend.

Last year’s Halloween was pretty much rained out, so it may be a stretch to call this a two-year trend, but let’s declare victory and walk off Del Playa Drive a winner.

See you next year.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our top story this time last year? Michael Jackson Prosecutor Tom Sneddon Dies of Cancer at Age 73.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

My peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web has a point this time: The Forgotten Giant Arrows That Guide You Across America.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

I’m a guy so ...

(DATS Tube 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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