A Highway 101 crash course ends in death. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

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This column is my own take, i.e. opinion, on your Top 5 stories, which is how you can tell that I typed it the old-fashioned way. If Facebook ruled the world, and my brain waves were directing what I typed, you’d be reading about chocolate, Lopez, brisket, the NFL draft and why the Dodgers seem to be no better than a .500 team right now. Did I mention chocolate?

1. Woman Driver Killed in Highway 101 Crash Near Gaviota

A Buellton woman was killed April 18 when the car she was driving crashed through a guardrail on Highway 101 north of Gaviota and plunged off the side of the roadway.

The California Highway Patrol said 57-year-old Sang Oudinarath was driving south on the freeway about 8:30 a.m. when she lost control of her Honda sedan on the Nojoqui Grade just north of the Highway 1 exit at Las Cruces.

Oudinarath was declared dead at the scene, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni.

Light rain was falling in the area at the time, but the CHP is still investigating the circumstances of the crash.

2. Ax-Wielding Man Arrested in 7-Eleven Robbery in Santa Barbara

A middle-of-the-night confrontation at a 7-Eleven near Santa Barbara’s West Beach neighborhood escalated almost into a literal hatchet job April 18. There were no injuries in the incident, but a transient was arrested as a suspect in the case.

According to police Sgt. Joshua Morton, a clerk called 9-1-1 about 2:45 a.m. to report that he was being threatened by an alleged shoplifter at the convenience store, at 331 W. Montecito St. on the corner of Castillo Street.

The clerk had followed the sticky-fingered suspect out of the store and demanded that he either surrender what he took or pay for the goods. At that point, Morton said, the accused shoved the accuser, who promptly pepper-sprayed him.

The man left the premises, but returned a few minutes later armed with an ax and screaming at the clerk that he was “going to slice his face off,” Morton said. Ax Man then fled the scene.

Officers reviewed the store’s surveillance video, and quickly found who they were looking for, just a block away at Bath and Montecito streets.

Morton identified the suspect as Robert Jude Giles, a 35-year-old transient, and said he had a lengthy criminal record from other states.

Giles was booked into County Jail on suspicion of armed robbery, making criminal threats and brandishing an ax.

Not an episode of 'Storage Wars'. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

Not an episode of Storage Wars. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

3. Man Arrested after Standoff with Police on Santa Barbara’s Westside

A brief standoff on Santa Barbara’s Westside ended peacefully April 19, but not before a man vowed to burn down a house and threw a few threats at police officers for good measure.

“Juan, what is the frequency?” (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

“Juan, what is the frequency?” (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

According to Anthony Wagner, a new Police Department spokesman, a neighbor reported that a man was pointing a gun at a woman while pouring gasoline inside a residence in the 600 block of West De la Guerra Street, near San Pasqual Street.

“It was reported that the subject was darting erratically inside and outside of the home,” he said. “The subject stated he would burn the house down.”

Authorities say police and firefighters quickly responded to the 5:30 p.m. summons, a secure perimeter was established and nearby residences were evacuated.

“The subject yelled to officers, ‘Leave or I’ll shoot you,’ as well as other threats and potential delusional statements,” Wagner said. “The suspect stated there were other subjects in the home with guns and knives, and he was doing his part to flush them out by attempting to set the home ablaze.”

To quote Hank Azaria, because it just seems appropriate: “And Brockmire is officially disturbed.”

Fortunately, police were able to negotiate with the suspect — later identified as Juan Luis Mora, 30, of Santa Barbara — and he was taken into custody without further incident.

Wagner said officers searched the house but found no guns or people. They did find narcotics, drug paraphernalia and flammable liquid, he added.

Mora was booked into County Jail on suspicion of possessing narcotics and drug paraphernalia, as well as threatening police officers.

The Creekside Restaurant & Bar, at 4444 Hollister Ave. near Santa Barbara, has a new look and a new lease on life. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The Creekside Restaurant & Bar, at 4444 Hollister Ave. near Santa Barbara, has a new look and a new lease on life. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

4. BizHawk: New Owners Look to Bring Passion, Local Vibes to Revived Creekside Restaurant & Bar

For decades, the Creekside Restaurant & Bar was a hidden gem of Noleta, just beyond the Santa Barbara city limits at 4444 Hollister Ave.

The place had fallen on hard times, however, and early last year, the owners changed the name to Boondocks before abruptly shutting it down.

Now, the Creekside is back, and it appears to be better than ever.

Owner Dave Burkholder, general manager Rich Hollowell and executive chef Kyle Jones held a soft opening earlier this month, and our Sam Goldman reported that around 600 people showed up.

“The idea behind opening this place is I live about 30 seconds away,” said Burkholder, who also owns The Neighborhood Bar at 235 W. Montecito St. near West Beach.

He brought on Jones, a fixture at The Neighborhood, and Hollowell, a mixologist and former manager of Olio e Limone downtown and restaurants at Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta and the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez.

Jones describes the menu as “California barbecue,” which includes tri-tip instead of brisket among other delectable treats.

There are plans to bring back music nights and the place has extensive outside seating on two patio levels with fire pits. Children’s games also are available to keep kids busy.

“This is sort of our restaurant and bar’s motto: We’re family till 8, and we’re fun till close,” Burkholder said.

The Creekside is open from 4 p.m. till 1 a.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 1 a.m. on weekends.

There may be a murderer on the loose in the community, but things are all quiet here. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

There may be a murderer on the loose in the community, but things are all quiet here. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

5. Woman Found Shot to Death in Orcutt Neighborhood

The body of a young woman was discovered in the parking lot of a quiet and neatly kept Orcutt residential complex around 7 a.m. April 16 — Easter Sunday.

Elyse Marie Erwin, 1988-2017. (GoFundMe photo)

Elyse Marie Erwin, 1988-2017. (GoFundMe photo)

Here we are five days later and the only details the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has bothered to share with the public are these:

» Her name is Elyse Marie Erwin, 28, of Santa Maria.

» She was shot in the head.

» Homicide is suspected.

» The forensics unit has finished processing the scene in the 100 block of Goodwin Road, near Orcutt Road just west of Highway 135.

“Due to the active investigation, still in its early stages, no additional details regarding the crime will be released at this time,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement April 17.


As our Janene Scully reported, Erwin was the mother of a 6-year-old daughter and had been working as an event coordinator at The Monarch Club, a popular wedding destination at Trilogy at Monarch Dunes in Nipomo.

She graduated from Santa Maria High School and Allan Hancock College, and worked at Santa Maria Country Club for five years before joining The Monarch Club team two years ago.

“She was a beautiful and wonderful loving woman, mother and friend who touched every single one of our hearts,” reads a statement on a GoFundMe page that was started to help her family. As of April 21, nearly $13,000 had been raised, far more than double the initial goal. Click here to make an online donation.

In addition to her daughter, Leila, Erwin is survived by her mother, Denise Erwin; her father, Erin Erwin; siblings Brittany and Matthew; and both sets of grandparents.

A rosary will be held at 6 p.m. April 23 at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 414 E. Church St. in Santa Maria, with a funeral mass at 10 a.m. April 24, also at the church. A celebration of Erwin’s life will follow at Santa Maria Country Club, 505 W. Waller Lane.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call sheriff’s detectives at 805.681.4150 or the anonymous tip line at 805.681.4171. My apologies for almost forgetting that last part — an honest mistake, considering the Sheriff’s Department’s news blackout.

Noozhawk’s note, and an update: This column is posted on Noozhawk at 8:30 a.m. every Friday. Just after 9 a.m. April 21, North County editor Janene Scully received a text message — from a source not connected to the Sheriff’s Department — that an arrest had been made and a suspect was being arraigned within the hour in Superior Court in Santa Maria.

Janene raced over in time to learn that the suspect had been arrested two days before, on April 19, but sheriff’s officials had sat on that information for two days.

Jorge Fernandez Tovar, looking awfully smug for a guy potentially facing the death penalty. (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

Jorge Fernandez Tovar, looking awfully smug for a guy potentially facing the death penalty. (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

With the victim’s family present in the courtroom, Jorge Fernandez Tovar, Erwin’s ex-boyfriend and the father of her daughter, made an appearance on charges of felony murder, plus a special circumstance for lying in wait, and allegations that include discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury and use of a firearm.

Because of the special circumstance, if the 26-year-old Tovar is convicted, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole

As Janene first reported, Deputy Public Defender Adrienne Harbottle asked to continue the hearing so a colleague could be appointed to handle the case.

Judge John Fisher consented, ordering Tovar to return to court May 12. At the request of Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian, he declined to set bail — so Tovar was sent back to County Jail.

According to the suddenly talkative Sheriff’s Department, Tovar had been immediately identified as a person of interest, was located at his Lompoc residence and detained for questioning.

He was arrested April 19 at a custody hearing for his daughter, who is staying with other family members and has been granted a criminal protective order from her father.

For all its loquaciousness, the Sheriff’s Department still provided a lame nonexplanation for why it chose to withhold basic public safety details from … the public. You know the drill: Oh, how we wanted so badly to say something … but the open investigation … yada-yada-yada … blah blah blah.

As I said, unbelievable. And inexcusable.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Woman Jumps From Moving Car on Highway 101 North of Carpinteria.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

The Science Behind Why Your Shoelace Knot Is Doomed to Fail. In my experience, this is not a problem if you only wear Anderson Bean cowboy boots. Just sayin’.

                                                                  •        •        •

Watch It

A woodpecker saw its window of opportunity, and decided it was better than winging it. HT to my daughter, Kirsten Macfadyen.

YouTube video

(Greg Alm video)

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

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.