Enzo Rastelli and Jasper van der Meulen

However unwise their final decisions were, 19-year-olds Enzo Rastelli, left, and Jasper van der Meulen are the victims here. (Noozhawk file photos)

Noozhawk reader Cary Young and I had a brief email exchange earlier this week, and it got me thinking. She told me she wants our local news but finds herself losing interest when she reads the headlines on my Best of Bill columns each Friday.

That may have been her polite way of telling me how dreadful a writer I am, and she’s not wrong, but I think the point she was making is the inherent contradiction we get from readers: They say they want more good news, but it’s almost always the bad news that shows up first in our Google Analytics.

As longtime readers know, this column is my weekly recap of the Top 5 stories you were reading over the previous seven days, and the selection is pulled straight off the top of those analytics. I’ve been writing it every Friday for more than 14 years, and it’s Noozhawk’s most popular recurring feature, by far.

Prodded by the chat, however, I’m adding a section of headlines you may have missed or that deserve another mention but, for whatever reason, did not rise to Top 5 status.

Thank you for the inspiration, Cary.

But first, let’s dive into the analytics, which were fueled by an audience of 101,369 readers this past week.

In case you come across some opinion as you’re reading, it’s by design. This is my opinion column, which I write in my civic capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher. It is not a news story.

1. Teen Sentenced to 7 Years After Admitting Killing 2 Local College Students in Goleta

A 16-year-old Santa Barbara gang member will serve just seven years in a “secure youth treatment facility” after he admitted killing two local college students last year in what authorities had described as “a drug deal gone bad.”

The teenager, whose identity was withheld because he’s a minor, was 15 at the time of the Jan. 7, 2021, murders of Enzo Rastelli and Jasper van der Meulen, both 19.

Rastelli, a Santa Barbara City College student, and van der Meulen, a UC Santa Barbara student, were sitting in a car parked in the 600 block of Burtis Street near Hollister Elementary School, east of Goleta, when they were gunned down around midday.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s detectives say the men were attempting to sell marijuana but instead were the victims of “a robbery rip-off.”

The shootings prompted an extensive, hours-long lockdown of nearby neighborhoods as authorities searched unsuccessfully for the suspects.

A month later, the juvenile and two adults — 21-year-old Bryan Munoz and 24-year-old Joshua Isaac Vega — were arrested and criminally charged in the case.

As our Tom Bolton was first to report March 4, the District Attorney’s Office said the teenage defendant made several admissions in Juvenile Court: committing two first-degree murders, using a firearm during the commission of the murders, committing the crimes in association with the Westside criminal street gang, and special circumstances of multiple murders and gang murders.

Had he been tried and convicted as an adult, the DA’s Office said, he could have faced a maximum prison sentence of 100 years to life, then life without possibility of parole.

Because he was tried as a juvenile, however, prosecutors said he faced only a “baseline term of confinement” of seven years, with his juvenile court jurisdiction ending at age 25. That’s basically the sentence Superior Court Judge Arthur Garcia handed down, with confinement in a secure youth treatment facility.

“In recent years,” according to a statement from the District Attorney’s Office, “the California Legislature mandated the closure of the Division of Juvenile Justice, leaving housing for minors under 16 who commit murder and other violent felonies to an established secure youth treatment facility for the minor’s rehabilitation.”

Thank you, Sacramento. If you think that’s supposed to make me feel safer … you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Co-defendants Munoz and Vega, meanwhile, are due back in court next week.

Munoz is charged with two counts of homicide, one count each of conspiracy and robbery, and numerous criminal and street gang enhancements. Vega is charged with robbery, conspiracy and criminal and street gang enhancements.

Their young colleague must own what he did, but these two “real men” knew full well that it was more advantageous for all of them if he pulled the trigger. Change my mind.

2. Major Injuries Reported in Head-On Crash on Highway 154 Near Lake Cachuma

Highway 154 crash

Crash aftermath on Highway 154 near Lake Cachuma. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

A March 7 head-on collision on Highway 154 near Lake Cachuma left three people injured, two of them critically.

As our Tom Bolton was first to report, the California Highway Patrol said the crash — which involved a BMW and a Lexus — occurred around 1:45 p.m. just east of the lake’s recreation area entrance.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli told Tom that two of the victims suffered major injuries and the third had moderate injuries.

A county helicopter airlifted the most seriously injured victim to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, while an American Medical Response ambulance transported the others.

No identities were disclosed, and no other details were available.

The CHP is investigating the circumstances of the wreck, which shut down the highway for about an hour.

3. BizHawk: Goodland BBQ Opens with Big Fanfare in Old Town Goleta

Goodland BBQ

Take it from me: You can judge a good barbecue joint by the line out the door. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Goodland BBQ has opened in Old Town Goleta and, if the line out the door is any indication, it’s smoke show of a hit.

Following up on his Jan. 13 BizHawk column reporting its imminent launch, our Josh Molina ventured out to the spacious, low-slung building at 5725 Hollister Ave., adjacent to the Goleta Valley Community Center’s west parking lot.

Owner Tommy Ramirez and chef and pitmaster Tony Bones welcomed their first customers on March 1, and they’ve been packing the place ever since.

With a slogan of “Smoky good vibes,” Goodland BBQ specializes in my kind of meat: hand-trimmed brisket seasoned with a special blend of salt and spices, slowly smoked for 12 to 16 hours with hickory and oak.

The rest of the Texas-style barbecue menu includes tri-tip, chicken, pulled pork, beef and pork ribs, a variety of sandwiches, and even a bacon-wrapped hot dog.

I haven’t yet been, but you know the evidence will be on Instagram when I do. Meanwhile, Goodland BBQ is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

4. Longboard’s, Harbor Restaurants in Santa Barbara Have New Owners

The Harbor Restaurant and Longboard’s Grill

With new owners, a makeover is on the menu for The Harbor Restaurant and Longboard’s Grill on Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf. (Sborisov | Dreamstime.com photo)

After more than four decades, the anchor of Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf has new owners, and more changes are in store.

Our Josh Molina reported March 7 that Dave Perry and the Scott family, the longtime owners of The Harbor Restaurant and Longboard’s Grill on the landmark pier, have sold the two restaurants to a new entity, Santa Barbara Harbor Restaurant Inc.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but Dan Moll of Hayes Commercial Group brokered the deal.

The Harbor provides a highfalutin dining experience of steak, lobster and seafood towers, with the eye-popping prices to match, while Longboard’s upstairs features fish, burgers and the locally famous Maui onion rings. I recommend the local shark sandwich.

Santa Barbara Harbor Restaurant Inc. is owned by veteran Southern California restaurateur Francisco Ibanez and seafood distributor Eugenio Sanchez.

According to the Santa Barbara Waterfront Department, which agreed to transfer the remaining seven years of the restaurant building’s lease, the new owners plan to renovate and enhance the 12,000-square-foot building, including the rooftop deck and bar areas, and add a lounge, a to-go service window, and a coffee, pastry and gelato shop.

Perry and the Scotts may be coming ashore but they’re not abandoning their fleet of restaurants.

Ted Hoagland, marketing director of Hayes Commercial Group, said they’ll continue to own and operate two other Santa Barbara legends, Harry’s Plaza Café in Loreto Plaza and the Tee-off Restaurant & Lounge.

5. Man Arrested After Allegedly Setting Off ‘Flash-Bang’ Device in Restaurant at Santa Barbara Harbor

Brophy Bros. in the Santa Barbara Harbor is usually lively and loud as locals and tourists alike cram in for clam chowder, beer-battered fish and chips, and marina and mountain views.

An exploding flash-bang device is not part of that picture.

Explosive remnants

A customer allegedly got a bang out of his visit to Brophy Bros. in the Santa Barbara Harbor, but it’s not known why. (Santa Barbara Police Department photo)

As our Tom Bolton first reported, emergency responders converged on the restaurant at 119 Harbor Way around 7 p.m. March 8 after a customer allegedly threw the device, which is used by trained law enforcement and military personnel to create sound and light diversions.

According to Santa Barbara police Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale, surveillance video from inside the restaurant showed a man walking out of the restroom and throwing something near the kitchen.

“A bright flash could be observed from the object that was thrown by the subject,” he said.

Ragsdale said the man then returned to his table, where witnesses pointed him out to police.

Eric Carl Strand, 55, of Goleta, was arrested on suspicion of maliciously and recklessly possessing a destructive or explosive device, and exploding or igniting a destructive device, both felonies, Ragsdale said.

He was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, with bail set at $500,000.

There were no injuries in the incident, and Ragsdale said the circumstances remained under investigation.

“The motive is unknown at this time,” he added.

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Good Reads

Here are three stories that are worth your time:

» New Lompoc Center Aims at Keeping Teens Safe and Successful — Our Janene Scully reports that Lompoc residents are not just fretting about youth violence but taking a key step to guide kids toward success.

» Local Ukrainian Raising Money, Sending Cards to Orphans and Elderly as War Continues — Our Josh Molina follows Ukrainian immigrant Timothy Pryko, co-owner of four assisted-living facilities in Santa Barbara County, as he works with organizations helping to support people in need in his war-ravaged homeland.

» ‘A Portrait of the Artist’ Museum Exhibit Shows Different Side of Heiress Huguette Clark — Our Serena Guentz stopped in at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for an exhibition featuring paintings by reclusive heiress Huguette Clark and never-before-seen photos from her personal albums.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Authorities Identify Surfer Who Died After Collision at Rincon Point.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Talk about a survival story: Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s Lost Ship, Found in Antarctica After 107 Years.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

There’s no hive nor hair of them now, but I was delighted to welcome a swarm of honey bees in my orchard this past week. My Instagram feed was the bee’s knees while it lasted.

•        •        •

Americans Held Hostage: Day 193

Does anyone care anymore about the U.S. citizens, green-card holders and Afghans who worked for our embassy and military in Afghanistan and were abandoned 193 days ago despite our promises to get them out before we ran away from the Taliban? Asking for a friend.

•        •        •

Watch It

My wife has this purse.


A post shared by SAM FEHER (@samanthafeher)

(@samanthafeher video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.