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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 3:06 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 

Bill Macfadyen: Suicide Near Freeway, Railroad Tracks Further Snarls Evening Commute

NoozWeek’s Top 5 also sounds the burglary alarm, stops a human trafficker, continues the party-bus route and reveals an unfortunate Cleveland School vacancy

Santa Barbara firefighters and police responded to a reported hanging along the railroad tracks near the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. All they could do was cut the man’s body down and begin the notification proess.
Santa Barbara firefighters and police responded to a reported hanging along the railroad tracks near the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. All they could do was cut the man’s body down and begin the notification proess. (Urban Hikers photo)

There were 94,860 people who read Noozhawk this past week, some of whom may have been nursing a Malcolm Xpresso while discussing race relations with that hipster barista with the sociology degree and the Chai Guevara T-shirt. #NewStarbucksDrinks

1. Body Found Hanging in Tree Near Highway 101 in Santa Barbara​

The body of a homeless man was discovered hanging from a tree near Highway 101 in Montecito as the evening commute got under way March 17.

A witness told Noozhawk the body was visible from the freeway “if you knew where to look.” Judging by the reader traffic and response, a lot of you did.

According to Santa Barbara police Lt. Ed Olsen, a Union Pacific train crew reported the find about 4:20 p.m. The body was suspended about 14 feet in the air between the freeway and the railroad tracks, behind Montecito Athletic Club at 40 Los Patos Way.

Foul play is not suspected, and Olsen said the death was “definitely a suicide.”

The spectacle added to the daily backup of freeway traffic right where the southbound Montecito Crawl begins near Hot Springs Road, and drew throngs of onlookers from businesses on Los Patos Way.

Sgt. Riley Harwood told Noozhawk the man was a 60-year-old transient who was known to officers. His name was withheld pending notification of relatives.

Click here for free suicide prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day, or call 1.800.273.8255.

The backyard point of entry of a residential smash-and-grab burglary in Bel-Air Knolls. (Kim Clark / Noozhawk photo)
The backyard point of entry of a residential smash-and-grab burglary in Bel-Air Knolls. (Kim Clark / Noozhawk photo)

2. Burglary Spree Hits Santa Barbara Neighborhoods

Nearly two dozen residential burglaries in a span of a little more than a month have Santa Barbara police on high alert.

Sgt. Riley Harwood told our Josh Molina that 21 break-ins were reported between Feb. 3 and March 6, all during daylight hours. The burglaries occurred in neighborhoods off Las Positas Road, on the Mesa, in San Roque and on the Lower Riviera.

It’s pure coincidence that each of the neighborhoods is likely to be in its own voting district under Santa Barbara’s pending new City Council election scheme. The boundaries haven’t even been finalized and the $950-an-hour plan for equal representation is already paying off!

Harwood said the suspects typically knock on the door or ring the doorbell of the targeted residence. If no one answers, they smash a window or glass door to gain entry, then make off with whatever they can carry, usually smaller items like jewelry and electronics.

“It’s possible these are people from out-of-town,” he said. “It could be several perpetrators acting together.”

No arrests have been made so far.

Pimp this. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Pimp this. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

3. Sentencing Hearing an Explosive Ending to Santa Barbara County’s First Human Trafficking Trial​

I’ve written before about my initial disbelief that human trafficking was happening with any regularity in Santa Barbara County. District Attorney Joyce Dudley and Megan Rheinschild, director of the Victim-Witness Assistance Program, helped persuade me otherwise, and our Lara Cooper’s independent reporting validated it.

The fact that they’re right doesn’t make it any less difficult to accept, but the outcome of the first case to come to trial here at least provides a measure of hope in the fight against the disgusting predators running the show.

Earlier this year, Brannon Lawrence Pitcher, 31, of San Francisco, was found guilty of two counts of human trafficking of a minor, along with the special allegation that he used force, fear, fraud, deceit and violence while trafficking a girl, who was 16 at the time.

He also was convicted of misdemeanor methamphetamine possession and a mere 73 counts of disobeying a court order.

On March 13, he was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison, and ordered to pay more than $15,000 in fines, including more than $3,000 to the girl he had forced into prostitution.

Pitcher was busted in Santa Barbara in 2013 after the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Santa Barbara police tracked the girl to a local hotel.

Before Pitcher’s sentencing, Superior Court Judge Brian Hill granted the girl’s attorney, J’Aimee Oxton, permission to read a statement from her client. Pitcher took exception to the common courtesy, spewing a stream of shouted expletives that perfectly summed up the kind of “man” he is. Hill tossed him out of the courtroom.

Oxton then was allowed to read her statement, which was a heart-rending account of a short and horrific life. The brave young woman she represented never had a chance to be a child, and had absolutely no one to turn to to help stop her abuse.

Her circumstances should inspire all of us to do our part to stamp out this evil. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen, certainly sees it that way.

“I hope this case makes people realize it’s happening in their own backyard,” she said.

All is not lost for the gutsy survivor at the center of it all. Now 18, she’s working two part-time jobs to save up to take her GED test because she never finished high school.

“Human trafficking is not a victimless crime,” she wrote in her statement, which encouraged adults to advocate for children who are powerless to help themselves. “Believe children when they reach out to you.”

D&D Limo Bus insists it’s all business up front but advertises online for its parties in the back. (D&D Limo Bus Facebook photo)
D&D Limo Bus insists it’s all business up front but advertises online for its parties in the back. (D&D Limo Bus Facebook photo)

4. DA’s Office Files Charges Against Driver in Santa Barbara Party-Bus Bust

For the past three weeks, our Giana Magnoli has been telling readers about the saga of a chartered party bus busted on the campus of Santa Barbara High School. Acting on a tip, authorities corralled more than five dozen underage kids and seized a haul of contraband that you wouldn’t believe.

As Giana first reported, a Santa Barbara police officer and a colleague with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control hid inside the school on the evening of Nov. 21 and watched as 62 junior high and high school students — ages 12 to 16 — ran wild, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and urinating on school property.

And then the bus arrived and the youngsters all piled on.

Taking advantage of the vehicle’s limited exit options, the officers made their move. On board the bus, they found all sorts of illegal substances and paraphernalia. They also discovered that the bus allegedly had been booked by a 14-year-old girl using her dad’s credit card.

Authorities say the driver — 49-year-old Alonzo Houston of D&D Limo Bus — was the only adult in sight.

On March 17, the District Attorney’s Office charged Houston with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor, and violating open container of alcohol Vehicle Code laws, an infraction.

According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter, the open-container infraction is for allegedly allowing an open container of alcohol in the passenger area, not for the driver having alcohol on the bus.

In addition, the girl who allegedly booked the bus and promoted the party on social media is being prosecuted in the juvenile court system, as is a boy who was charged as a minor in possession of alcohol.

D&D Limo Bus officials maintain that the company is innocent.

“It was all minors on board,” manager Michael Jones told Noozhawk. “There was no chaperone on board so the booking never started, and would have never started.”

Jones insists the company followed its protocols, before apparently introducing a new one.

“We will be hiring some security guards on board to start bookings from here on out,” he said.

Last month, meanwhile, the same SBPD officer pulled over a bus from the same company — with the same driver at the wheel — and found a group of underage foreign exchange students on board, along with an amply supply of alcohol.

That may not be protocol by D&D Limo Bus standards, but it sounds like a routine to me.

Cynthia White has been principal at the year-round Cleveland School since 2012. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk file photo
Cynthia White has been principal at the year-round Cleveland School since 2012. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk file photo)

5. Cleveland School Principal Cynthia White Out on Medical Leave, Not Expected to Return

Cynthia White, principal of Cleveland School in Santa Barbara, has been sidelined on medical leave, possibly permanently, and the Santa Barbara Unified School District is in the market for an interim principal.

White’s condition was not disclosed, and SBUSD spokeswoman Barbara Keyani declined to provide more details.

She said White has been with the district for 28 years, and got her start as a teacher at the Cleveland campus in the 1980s. In 2012, she was hired as principal at the year-round school at 123 Alameda Padre Serra.

Get well soon.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: For Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music Was Never “So Long, Farewell.”

                                                                 •        •        •

Are you a gluten for punishment?

(AwakenWithJP 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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