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Bill Macfadyen: ‘Bring Back Cody’ Search Ends in Heartbreak, Not Far from Where It Started

NoozWeek’s Top 5 puts out back-to-back fires in Montecito, including a fatal one; takes a viral video of a cop stop; and revisits Café del Sol and Sizzler

The search for Cody West, missing since last weekend, intensified April 30 with a full-scale hunt around Lake Los Carneros in Goleta.
The search for Cody West, missing since last weekend, intensified April 30 with a full-scale hunt around Lake Los Carneros in Goleta. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

There were 90,868​ people who read Noozhawk this past week — a far bigger crowd than what the Baltimore Orioles drew after one of the most idiotic sports moves ever. Here were your top stories:

1. Extensive Search Turns Up No Sign of Cody West, Missing Goleta Man

Almost a week after he vanished, family, friends and authorities had been unable to find any trace of Cody West.

Have you seen Cody West? If you have any information on his disappearance, call 9-1-1. (West family photo)
Have you seen Cody West? If you have any information on his disappearance, call 9-1-1. (West family photo)

Sadly, early on May 1, his car and body were discovered in a concrete culvert under Los Carneros Road near Calle Real.

The 22-year-old Goleta resident was last seen at 3:30 a.m. April 26, leaving a party on Avenida Gorrion east of Lake Los Carneros Park. His family reported him missing the next day when he failed to show up for work.

According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, West drove away in a 1999 silver Audi A4 Quatro sedan, with a California license plate of 4HAZ784.

“He has not been seen or heard from since,” she said April 27. “His family is concerned about his well-being.”

West was described as 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, with brown eyes and short brown hair.

A posse of pals had been systematically driving all over the county looking for him, and a county helicopter had conducted several aerial searches over remote areas, Hoover said.

On April 30, sheriff’s deputies and Search & Rescue team members joined dozens of volunteers combing the area around Lake Los Carneros.

Officials also had been trying to locate West’s cell phone, but it apparently was not transmitting any signals.

Owen Grohman, West’s brother-in-law, told Noozhawk the last signal was received near the lake early on April 27.

On May 1, our Tom Bolton broke the news that West’s car had been discovered in the culvert on the east side of Los Carneros Road north of Highway 101. His body was found underneath the sedan’s trunk.

Authorities closed the area — including Los Carneros Road between Calle Real and the freeway — as a possible crime scene.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 9-1-1.

Friends have set up a Facebook page, Bring Back Cody, to keep the community up to date on the search. 

(Noozhawk video)

2. Elderly Woman Dies in Montecito House Fire

Finding a body is one of the things firefighters dread most when they enter a badly burning structure. That’s exactly what happened when crews responded to a Montecito house fire early on April 27.

Firefighters arrived at the 100 block of Loureyro Road — off North Jameson Lane west of Sheffield Drive — at 7:30 a.m. and found the one-story house fully engulfed in flames, said Geri Ventura, spokeswoman for the Montecito Fire Protection District.

Soon after, the roof collapsed, which she said delayed the interior attack on the blaze.

Crews also were hampered by brush and trees growing against the structure — what Ventura called a lack of “defensible space.”

Once firefighters were able to enter the house, the charred remains of an elderly woman were found inside. Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover later identified her as 88-year-old Lorraine Mathilda Schmerzler.

An autopsy to determine the cause of death is pending, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Montecito firefighters were assisted by crews from the Carpinteria-Summerland and Santa Barbara fire departments.

A tower of smoke from the fire was visible for miles, and the commotion and proximity to Highway 101 tied up the morning commute for hours.

Steamed vegetables, anyone? (Urban Hikers photo)
Steamed vegetables, anyone? (Urban Hikers photo)

3. Amid 70 mph Winds, Firefighters Battle Two-Alarm Fire in Montecito

700 Picacho Lane.

Somewhere in the recesses of my memory, that address floats there — like a Baby Ruth in a swimming pool.

So when I thought I heard a report of a fire at that location late on the night of April 26, I sat bolt upright. In fact, it wasn’t that infamous house but another in the 700 block of Picacho Lane.

Fortunately, the fire — which grew to two alarms — caused only minimal damage as it singed the side of a single-family residence on the property.

It could have been far worse. The blaze, which apparently ignited in a garden compost pile, was pushed toward the house by howling winds that were gusting to nearly 70 mph.

Firefighters from the Montecito, Carpinteria-Summerland and Santa Barbara fire departments quickly knocked down the flames, although several nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution.

Three people were home at the time of the fire, but were not injured.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

(Santa Barbara Man video)

4. Video Shows Santa Barbara Officer Knocking Cell Phone from Man’s Hands

The Santa Barbara Police Department has opened an administrative investigation of Sgt. Eric Beecher after he was accused of knocking a cell phone out of the hands of a man who was using the device to record video of an arrest outside a downtown nightclub.

The video was uploaded to YouTube by a user calling himself “Santa Barbara Man.” The clip, apparently taken March 7, shows several police officers around a bar fight suspect who is handcuffed on the curb in front of Velvet Jones at 423 State St.

According to Sgt. Riley Harwood, an SBPD spokesman, the department first became aware of the video when a website called Photography is Not a Crime requested comment last week.

After watching the video with his command staff, Police Chief Cam Sanchez initiated an administrative review, Harwood said.

I could describe what happened in the video, or you can just watch it yourself.​ Based on our reader comments, there’s quite a range of opinion about what you’ll see, as well as the actions of all involved.

5. Warren Butler Opening Event Centers at Old Café del Sol, Sizzler Locations

As far as I’m concerned, it was just a big whup when Café del Sol closed its doors last year. But a couple of buddies of mine swore by the Montecito hangout at 30 Los Patos Way, across from the occasionally malodorous Andrée Clark Bird Refuge​.

Rumors that it would be resurrected failed to materialize, but it will be getting new life — thanks to my friend, Warren Butler, who has opened the new Montecito Event Center at the site.

Butler, who owns the Butler Event Center, a 6,000-square-foot facility at 3488 State St., has been rehabbing the place for the last month.

“We’ve lightened and brightened it, putting in new lighting,” he said. “People love the old Café del Sol, so we won’t change it up too much.”

As with the Upper State Street center, the Montecito facility has room for luncheons, rehearsal dinners and corporate events. Butler said it can accommodate 150 to 200 people.

Meanwhile, Butler also is taking over the long-abandoned Sizzler restaurant at 5555 Hollister Ave. on the east end of Old Town Goleta.

He said the Sizzler site will be similar in size to his original location, which can host 300 to 400 people. But the Old Town center has options for smaller groups, including smaller rooms and a patio.

Unlike Café del Sol, I have fond memories of Sizzler. When our soon-to-be 29-year-old son was just a baby, my wife and I would load him and our Alaskan malamute in the station wagon, get a quick dinner at Sizzler, and then go to the drive-in. Ah, good times, good times.

Click here for more information about the burgeoning Butler Event Center empire.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: 10 Ridiculous Documents Released Through the Freedom of Information Act.

                                                                 •        •        •

Where are the other mothers like her?

(ABC 2 News - WMAR 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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