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Bill Macfadyen: Despite Heroic Rescue, Story of UCSB Student’s Hanging Ended Tragically

NoozWeek’s Top 5 rallies for Bernie Sanders, traps an Amber Alert suspect in a deadly Solvang shootout, runs into a beer truck ... and here I go again

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Noozhawk pulled in 109,516 readers this past week, with just under 22,000 of them on May 26 alone.

What follows is my take on your top five stories, as determined by our Google Analytics. Please note that this actually is an opinion column, unlike, say, a Katie Couric “documentary.”

1. UCSB Student Dies After Being Found Hanging in Goleta

I spoke too soon.

In last week’s column, I noted that several passersby had rescued a man they found hanging from a tree on Goleta’s Ellwood Bluffs, thwarting an apparent suicide attempt. Within hours of my column posting, however, he died of his injuries.

UCSB sophomore Hayden Werner was a pre-biology major and honors student from San Juan Capistrano. (Werner family photo)
UCSB sophomore Hayden Werner was a pre-biology major and honors student from San Juan Capistrano. (Werner family photo)

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Hayden Werner, a 19-year-old UC Santa Barbara student, was found the afternoon of May 18. A family walking along the bluffs flagged down a cyclist who was able to cut him down and perform CPR until paramedics could arrive.

Late on the night of May 20, Werner was pronounced dead at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Hoover said the death is considered a suicide.​

Werner, a second-year pre-biology major and honors student originally from Orange County, was a popular member of the UCSB Snow Team and was expected to take an officer position with the organization in the fall.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. May 31 at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, 31520 Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano.

In a heartbreaking footnote, a little over a year ago, Werner’s older brother, Forrest, died unexpectedly at age 22.

Click here for suicide prevention resources that are available 24/7, or call UCSB Counseling & Psychological Services at 805.893.4411.

2. Bernie Sanders Holding Saturday Rallies in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria

Santa Barbara County will be getting its “Bern” on this weekend as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brings his campaign to Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.

Based on Noozhawk’s traffic, quite a lot of readers appear to have a burning desire to see Bernie Sanders in Santa Barbara County. (berniesanders.com photo)
Based on Noozhawk’s traffic, quite a lot of readers appear to have a burning desire to see Bernie Sanders in Santa Barbara County. (berniesanders.com photo)

Sanders will hold a public rally on Santa Barbara City College’s West Campus around 10:30 a.m. May 28. According to SBCC spokeswoman Luz Reyes-Martin, security screenings begin at 7 a.m.

The event is free, but RSVPs are encouraged through the Sanders campaign website.

A few hours later, Sanders will “bern”-storm at Santa Maria High School, 901 S. Broadway. Doors to the free rally open at 10:30 a.m., but he’s not expected on campus until early afternoon.

It’s not unusual for presidential contenders to hold rallies at Democrat-friendly venues like UCSB and SBCC, but, having lived here most of my life, I just don’t remember the last time a major candidate held an old-fashioned rally in the North County. Nor do my veteran colleagues, Tom Bolton and Janene Scully.

Noozhawk will be tag-teaming the day’s events, with Janene covering the Santa Maria appearance and our Sam Goldman reporting from the South Coast.

The Sanders visit comes less than two weeks before California’s June 7 primary.

Trailed by authorities and headed toward a literal dead end, a fugitive wanted in connection with the kidnapping of a 15-year-old Vallejo girl approaches the Santa Rosa Road overcrossing on Highway 101 in Buellton. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
Trailed by authorities and headed toward a literal dead end, a fugitive wanted in connection with the kidnapping of a 15-year-old Vallejo girl approaches the Santa Rosa Road overcrossing on Highway 101 in Buellton. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

3. Amber Alert Suspect Shot Dead After Being Cornered in Solvang

Like many of you, I read the Amber Alert that buzzed on my cell phone the afternoon of May 26, saw that it was out of Solano County ... and thought nothing more about it.

Fernando Castro
Fernando Castro
Pearl Pinson
Pearl Pinson

Not an hour later, the Noozhawk police scanner crackled with news that the suspect vehicle had been spotted traveling south on Highway 101 north of Los Alamos. The California Highway Patrol quickly leaped into chase mode — as did our Giana Magnoli and Tom Bolton. (Scroll down for Tom’s recording of the scanner traffic.)

The driver of the older model gold Saturn sedan was soon reported getting off the freeway in Buellton — after briefly driving south in the northbound lanes — and heading toward Solvang on Highway 246.

By that time, sheriff’s deputies and an Aviation Unit helicopter had joined the pursuit, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

She said the suspect crashed the car into a barricade near Rancho Santa Ynez Mobile Estates in the 100 block of Val Verde off Fjord Drive west of Alisal Road, got out and opened fire on deputies, one of whom shot back.

The man then forced his way into a nearby mobile home and barricaded himself inside as the female resident fled in fear.

About 4 p.m., Hoover said, the suspect stole a pickup truck and tried to drive back to Fjord Drive. There was an exchange of gunfire and when the gunsmoke cleared, the driver was slumped over the steering wheel, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

No law enforcement officers or civilians were injured, said Hoover, who added that a pistol was recovered from the stolen truck.

“As is protocol in any officer-involved shooting, an investigation is underway to account for the shots that were fired and determine if the shooting was within policy,” she said.

The dead man was identified as the Amber Alert suspect, 19-year-old Fernando Castro of Vallejo, in the East Bay.

Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Amber Alert victim, 15-year-old Pearl Pinson, also of Vallejo, who was kidnapped at gunpoint early on the morning of May 25 as she walked to school.

“A witness reported seeing a white female being pulled by a Hispanic male on the (freeway) overcrossing,” the Solano County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page. “The female’s face was bleeding, and she was yelling for someone to help.

“The Hispanic male had a firearm in his hand. As the witness ran for help, a shot was heard. Upon arrival, deputies found what appeared to be blood on the ground; however, no one was located in the area.”

Castro and Pinson reportedly knew each other, but it was not clear what their relationship was, if any.

Pinson is described as white, 5-foot-3, with green eyes, brown hair dyed green, and a lower lip piercing. She was last seen wearing a gray sweater and black leggings, and had a black and turquoise backpack.

Anyone with information about her is urged to call the Solano County sheriff’s Crime Stoppers tip line at 707.644.7867.

There’s no getting around this scene. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
There’s no getting around this scene. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

4. Highway 154 Closed for Hours After Head-on Collision in Los Olivos

A pickup truck reportedly traveling on the wrong side of Highway 154 slammed head-on into an 18-wheeler near Figueroa Mountain Road in Los Olivos the afternoon of May 25. In the Rock-Paper-Scissors of collisions, a semi truck wins every time.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup was heading east in the westbound lanes when he struck the truck at about 4:15 p.m.

County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said heavy extrication was required to free the pickup driver from the wreckage, and a Calstar medical helicopter landed in a field across from nearby Mattei’s Tavern to transport him to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The CHP identified the man as 28-year-old Brian Holland of Ojai. Major injuries were reported.

Despite the mangled engine block of the Pacific Beverage Bud Light Freightliner, the big rig’s driver — identified as 41-year-old Jonathan Spencer of Santa Barbara — and a passenger were uninjured, Zaniboni said.

Highway 154 was blocked in both directions until about 11:30 p.m. while crews removed the wreckage and cleaned up about 100 gallons of spilled diesel fuel.

The CHP is investigating the crash. It has not been determined whether alcohol or drugs were factors.

5. Bill Macfadyen: Was Actress Jensen Buchanan Following an All-Too Familiar Highway 154 Script?​

Jensen Buchanan, see you soon. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)
Jensen Buchanan, see you soon. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

Actress Jensen Buchanan — who plays Judge Elise Moxley on The Young and the Restless soap opera — may be headed for a recurring role on Noozhawk after her May 18 arrest in a head-on collision on Highway 154.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the 53-year-old Jensen was driving east near the entrance to Live Oak Camp when her Mercedes-Benz S550 crossed the double yellow line. The eastbound sedan slammed into an oncoming car driven by Bradley Asolas, 56, of Camarillo.

It was 6:20 a.m.

Buchanan was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and booked into County Jail on $100,000 bail.

This is the second week in a row that the Los Angeles resident has appeared in my Best of Bill column.

Meanwhile, it’s Asolas’ second week in a row at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where he was taken with major injuries.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? The same one as last week’s, last year: Cleanup Under Way for Large Oil Spill Near Refugio State Beach.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

A story for Memorial Day. Welcome home, Sailor: Fallen World War II Serviceman Returns Home, 72 Years Later.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

I freely admit that I’m basically lazy. Turns out it’s not my fault!

(AsapSCIENCE 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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