Corral family memorial
Family, friends and complete strangers packed a roadside vigil held for Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral at the scene of the hit-and-run crash that killed them. A second memorial at Santa Barbara City College also drew hundreds of well-wishers. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

Just when you thought the Houston Asterisks, nee the Houston Astros, could not make bigger fools of themselves in the sign-stealing scandal they used to cheat themselves to a world “championship,” they opened their mouths and did just that.

In a comically absurd and spectacularly unbelievable dumpster fire of a “news” conference on Feb. 13, Astros owner Jim “Cringeworthy” Crane and two toadies only raised more questions and suspicions about their cheating scheme that has made a mockery of Major League Baseball.

Of course, their arrogant nonapology apology was made possible by the half-assed investigation by MLB’s incompetent commissioner, Rob Manfred, who allowed every player to get off scot-free and has stubbornly insisted that Houston’s ill-gotten 2017 World Series “title” cannot be vacated.

Smug in the belief that their shiny “championship” trophy and bling will not be relinquished, the Astros have declared themselves ready to put what they did in their past and move on.

But baseball doesn’t work that way as the Asterisks will find out in a few weeks.

Several thousand Los Angeles Dodgers fans have already bought tickets to the Anaheim Angels’ home-opening games with Houston just so they can spend the entire series chanting “Cheaters, Cheaters.” I’m pretty sure that refrain will rain down like thunder all season long, and deservedly so.

The Houston weasels may have met their match locally with the suspect in a hit-and-run collision that killed a Goleta couple. Like them, he appears to be a real “stand-up” guy.

The tragedy of Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral has certainly captured the attention of the community. According to our Google Analytics report, Noozhawk had an audience of 202,440 readers this past week.

Three of our team’s stories about the couple were among our Top 5 most-read articles, and there were five of them in our Top 8.

In case you’re inclined to start hating on me like I hate on the Asterisks, please be advised that the whole point of these Best of Bill columns is to review the Top 5 stories that you were reading over the last seven days along with my take on them.

In other words, this is my opinion column. As you already know by now, I’ve got plenty to say this week.

1. 2 Pedestrians Killed in Hit-Run Collision on Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta

Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral and family

The Corral family, from left: Mary Jane, Azalea, Rose, Dominic, Dahlia and Adolfo. (Corral family photo)

Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral were just out for a late-afternoon stroll Feb. 9, walking the family dog on the bike path along Cathedral Oaks Road near their western Goleta home.

Adolfo Corral

Adolfo Corral

Mary Jane Corral

Mary Jane Corral

The walk was an enjoyable end to what had been a magnificent winter day. They had no way of knowing it would be their last.

At the same time, authorities say, Eric Mauricio Ramirez-Aguilar of Goleta was driving his Nissan 370Z Roadster convertible westbound on Cathedral Oaks Road, allegedly drunk and speeding as he neared the sweeping curve west of Brandon Drive.

He apparently lost control of the car, which plowed into the Corrals near Ellwood Ridge Road. Adolfo died at the scene, while Mary Jane was rushed by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. She died there of her injuries.

Ramirez-Aguilar wasn’t finished, though.

As our Tom Bolton was first to report, after hitting the Corrals he appeared to drive through vegetation for over a hundred yards more — longer than a freaking football field — before his car came to a stop at a chain-link fence.

Then, according to authorities, he got out and ran away. Like a coward.

The car’s license plate and registration yielded everything authorities needed to identify the 39-year-old suspect, and it was just a matter of time before they got their man, although I use that term sarcastically.

Eric Mauricio Ramirez-Aguilar

Eric Mauricio Ramirez-Aguilar allegedly ran but ultimately could not hide. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

That search is an interesting story in itself, but officials have thus far refused to divulge many details of what the fugitive was doing over the next three hours.

What Tom was able to confirm is that Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputuies took Ramirez-Aguilar into custody around 8:45 p.m. in Carpinteria, where the car in which he was a passenger was pulled over on the Casitas Pass Road exit ramp on northbound Highway 101.

The driver surrendered but was determined not to have been involved. Ramirez-Aguilar claimed he did not speak English and initially refused to get out of the vehicle.

We’ll come back to that loser in a few paragraphs, but the deaths of the Corrals have been reverberating through the community in astonishingly large — and tragically gut-wrenching — concentric circles.

The Corrals, both 44, left behind four children — Azalea, 20; Dahlia, 17; Dominic, 14; and Rose, 10 — and a very large extended clan of relatives.

Beyond that, the two longtime local educators were connected to hundreds, if not thousands, of students, parents and friends, which has extended the grief to so many corners of our community.

Mary Jane was a computer specialist at La Patera School in the Goleta Union School District and served as a popular substitute teacher. She also was active with her three daughters in the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast.

Adolfo was Santa Barbara City College’s equity, diversity and cultural competency coordinator, but had been part of the SBCC family for more than 15 years. He worked previously as a student program adviser for Extended Opportunity Programs and Services; was a science, technology, engineering and math transfer center coordinator; and an adjunct professor in professional development studies.

In the darkest of hours there often are remarkable displays of grace, and one of this saga’s unexpected ones is perhaps its most heartbreaking.

It has been Azalea Corral, cruelly thrust into the role of matriarch of her family, who had to establish a GoFundMe account and who has been front and center at the two packed community memorial services held for her parents — one at the scene of the crash the day after and one at SBCC.

That is an unfair and uncomfortable position for any 20-year-old, and I have been praying especially hard that God grants her the strength she will need to take care of her siblings and herself. I’m asking you to do the same.

For Ramirez-Aguilar, meanwhile, God may have mercy on his soul but the criminal justice system should not be so charitable.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley said he has been charged with two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, one count of hit-and-run causing death, and one count of driving under the influence causing great bodily injury — all felonies.

He also faces special allegations of fleeing the scene of a fatal collision and injuring multiple victims.

As if he were a Houston Astro, Ramirez-Aguilar entered not-guilty pleas at his Feb. 11 arraignment in Superior Court. He’s due back March 9 for a preliminary hearing, and is currently being held in County Jail with bail set at $1 million-plus.

Ramirez-Aguilar is no stranger to trouble. Superior Court records reviewed by Noozhawk show he pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor child cruelty filed in 2018 and was placed on supervised probation for four years.

According to the files, Judge Tom Adams included conditions that he abstain from all alcohol and drugs, and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week.

As a matter of fact, on the day of his arraignment, he actually was due in court to answer for an alleged probation violation.

A rosary service for the Corrals is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at St. Raphael Catholic Church, 5444 Hollister Ave. in Goleta, with a Mass of the Resurrection at the church at 10 a.m. Feb. 20, followed by interment at Calvary Cemetery, 199 N. Hope Ave. in Santa Barbara.

A GoFundMe account to assist the family has raised more than $200,000 as of Feb. 14. Click here to make an online donation.

In one tiny bit of good news, the Corrals’ dog was unhurt in the collision. It was later found and reunited with the family.

2. Memorial Service Planned for Dos Pueblos High Student-Athlete Trevor Katz

Trevor Katz

Trevor Katz, forever young. (Miranda Hough photo)

Dos Pueblos High School junior Trevor Katz collapsed during a Feb. 4 track & field team practice on campus and was rushed to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital. Sadly, he could not be revived and died of an undisclosed cause.

Tall and lanky, the teenager ran for the Chargers’ varsity boys cross country team that won the Channel League championship last fall. A popular presence at the school, he was an outstanding student and a member of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy.

Trevor was buried in a private ceremony at Goleta Cemetery last week, but a celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 23 at the school’s Elings Performing Arts Center at 7266 Alameda Ave. in Goleta, with a reception to follow in Sovine Gym.

“As a member of the DPEA, cross country and track and field programs, Trevor was well known and well liked, and his loss will be felt by many here at DPHS,” Principal Bill Woodard said in a message to the Dos Pueblos community.

Trevor is survived by his parents, Nicole and Jared Katz; an older brother, Owen; and a younger sister, Justine.

In a post on the school’s Facebook page, the Katzes thanked the “DP community for its outpouring of love and support during this very difficult time.”

Donations in Trevor’s name and memory can be made to Safety Town of Santa Barbara County, P.O. Box 416, Santa Barbara 93102.

3. Amtrak Train Hits Vehicle on Tracks Near Carpinteria

Car crash

All aboard. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

Talk about a close call.

A driver rolled her car off Highway 101 in Summerland the afternoon of Feb. 8, the vehicle ended up on the Union Pacific railroad tracks a good 30 yards below the roadway and then it was hit by a passing Amtrak train.

Somehow, the motorist was able to get out of the car before the collision and the engineer was able to slow the train to lessen the impact — of a car getting T-boned by a moving train.

The California Highway Patrol said the woman was driving a Toyota Prius south on the freeway at about 12:35 p.m. when, for unknown reasons, she drove off the road and down the embankment between Evans Avenue and Padaro Lane.

The vehicle came to a stop on the tracks.

Carpinteria-Summerland fire Battalion Chief Mike Gallagher told our Tom Bolton that the driver, whose name was not released, had minor injuries and was transported by an American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

“It went a lot better than it could have, that’s for sure,” he said, noting that the Amtrak engineer had “slowed the train down considerably.”

The woman was lucky — “like, go buy a Lotto ticket-lucky,” Gallagher said.

The CHP is investigating the cause of the crash. There were no other injuries in the wreck, and Amtrak officials were assessing the damages to the train and the tracks.

4. BizHawk: Lokum, a Turkish Coffee and Treats Shop, Opens on State Street in Santa Barbara

Levent Derdiyok and Bulent Derdiyok

Lokum Turkish Delight & Baklava co-owners Levent, left, and Bulent Derdiyok had me at “baklava.” (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Downtown Santa Barbara is brimming with coffee shops so it can be hard to stand apart from the crowd.

Brothers Bulent and Levent Derdiyok think they’ve accomplished that with Lokum Turkish Delight & Baklava, a Turkish coffee and treats shop they opened at 1019 State St.

Lokum’s strong Turkish coffee is not for the faint of taste, but the shop’s sweet treats are right up my alley, including the aforementioned baklava, candy, nuts, fruit and other delights with creme, fig, pistachio and walnut flavors.

“We just wanted to make something different on State Street with unique, ethnic things,” Bulent Derdiyok told our Josh Molina. “As you know, State Street the last couple of years, business has gone down, business is getting slow.

“We want to give a little bit of life to the street.”

The brothers may add breakfast to the menu in the future, and the colorfully decorated restaurant offers free Wi-Fi. The aim is to get patrons to linger, as is the custom in Turkey.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

5. Police Release Name of Man Shot to Death in Lompoc

A 39-year-old man found shot to death inside a Lompoc residence on Feb. 8 has been identified by police as Bobby Joel Contreras.

According to police Sgt. Chip Arias, Contreras’ body was discovered inside a home in the 600 block of North Fourth Street between East Airport and East College avenues, south of Pioneer Park. The 9-1-1 caller who reported the crime initially had described it as a stabbing.

Police have declined to say whether gang activity may be connected to the incident, which evidently occurred between 1:30 and 3 p.m.

“We’re still going in a lot of different directions,” Arias said of the investigation.

He said Contreras had a full-time landscaping job and had attended a men’s breakfast at church that morning. Otherwise, he said, he was low-key and kept to himself.

“He lived his life,” Arias said. “He was trying to better his life.”

No arrests have been made in the case, but detectives are asking anyone with information to contact police at 805.736.2341.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Motorcyclist Killed in Crash on Fairview Avenue in Goleta.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

After nearly 400 years, a golden opportunity: Gearing Up to Hunt for Treasure, and a Lost Spanish Galleon, at the Bottom of the Sea.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

@sadiethealaskanmalamute was the star of my Instagram feed this past week. You’re welcome.

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Watch It

Don’t mean to badger you but get a move on, buddy.

YouTube video

(Peninsula Open Space Trust video)

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

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