Marian Regional Medical Center
Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, like all hospitals, is teeming with physicians, nurses and other health-care workers who are mandated reporters, people who are required by law to report suspected or known instances of abuse. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk file photo)

Since Noozhawk’s founding in 2007, we’ve made it our mission to provide professional local journalism that keeps you informed and connected to the community that matters most to you: this one.

Unlike some of our competitors, our independent newsroom is united with local readers’ interests in telling the stories that we all have a unique and vested interest in.

You know you can rely on our commitment to breaking news, but we have several other initiatives we’re looking forward to this year. The biggest is the launch — finally — of our new, faster and more efficient website, which has long been in development through our partnership with Newspack.

We have an upcoming in-depth series on Santa Barbara County’s mental health crisis, in partnership with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism; there’s another year of local elections, of course; and we’re working on a deep dive on the county’s housing dilemma. We’re also developing additional e-Bulletin offerings tailored to readers’ specific interests.

We’re excited to continue this important work throughout 2022 and beyond, but I’m asking you to take part in our spring membership campaign to help us make our plans a reality. The funds we raise during this drive will support our new projects as well as the critical work our professional reporters and editors produce day in and day out.

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According to our Google Analytics, Noozhawk had an audience of 102,477 readers this past week. What follows is my take on your Top 5 most-read stories during that period.

As a reminder, this is my opinion column, not a news story. And I’m Noozhawk’s publisher, not a reporter.

1. Mother Convicted of Killing Newborn Sues Santa Maria Hospital After 2nd Baby Removed

A Santa Maria woman who gave birth at Marian Regional Medical Center last year is suing the hospital and dozens of individual defendants for telling social services workers about the baby boy. The notification, which she contends was a violation of her rights, led to the removal of the infant from her custody.

That’s the gist of the lawsuit filed on behalf of the mother, Maribel Sanchez, and her baby’s daddy, Eduardo Chavez.

But as our Janene Scully was first to report, the case may not be quite so simple.

You see, back in 2016, when Sanchez was a 15-year-old Santa Maria High School student, she was convicted in the brutal murder of another newborn son, whose tiny body was found carved up with a broccoli knife, stuffed in a plastic bag and stashed behind some shoes in the bathroom of her family’s apartment.

After her conviction, she was sentenced to six months in a residential treatment program.

In that case, Santa Maria police discovered the dead baby after being alerted by Marian medical staff that a teenage girl seeking treatment at the hospital appeared to have just given birth.

In this case, Sanchez gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Feb. 27, 2021, but a nurse contacted social workers as a mandated reporter under state law.

“The nurse employee had no reason to believe that plaintiffs’ newborn child was in danger of being harmed or would otherwise not be cared for,” Santa Barbara attorney Eric Woosley wrote in the civil complaint he filed on behalf of Sanchez and Chavez.

“Plaintiffs’ newborn child was in fact not in danger of being harmed, or otherwise not cared for, as evidenced by the fact that (the baby) was eventually returned to them, albeit eight months later.”

The lawsuit, filed in Santa Maria Superior Court in February, names the hospital and a small army of individuals as defendants. The suit claims hospital representatives violated the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, a state law that protects patients’ private health-care information.

It’s not known what prompted the call to the authorities, but nurses and other medical staff are among those considered mandated reporters who are required to report known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

The mandated reporter law also includes protections from civil and criminal liability.

After a custody hearing, a judge ordered the baby removed from Sanchez and Chavez’s care, noting that “the circumstances of the prior murder are just too concerning to have no concern about the safety of the child.”

The court temporarily transferred custody to Sanchez’s parents, but also granted Sanchez and Chavez supervised visits and family reunification services. A state appellate court agreed with the call in a Dec. 22 ruling.

In their lawsuit, Sanchez and Chavez are seeking compensatory, statutory and punitive damages above $25,000, along with attorney’s fees.

Officials with Marian Regional Medical Center have declined to comment on the litigation.

By the way, hawk-eyed readers may wonder why Noozhawk identified Sanchez as the mother now but used “Maribel S.” during her murder trial then. In general, it is not our policy to identify minors in criminal cases but, now that she’s an adult and her name is a matter of public record in her civil filing, anonymity is no longer justified.

2. Homeless Woman Found Dead on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara

An employee of a downtown Santa Barbara business arrived for work March 28 and found a homeless woman dead on the sidewalk in front.

Santa Barbara police Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale told our Tom Bolton that a 9-1-1 call reported an unresponsive woman in the 1200 block of State Street around 8:20 a.m.

“After an initial investigation, it appears an employee of a local business called 9-1-1 when they noticed the female was nonresponsive,” he said. “Sadly, it seems the female had been deceased for several hours prior to first responders arriving.”

Foul play is not suspected, Ragsdale said, but the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau is investigating the cause of death.

Authorities are trying to confirm the woman’s identity and locate her family.

Ragsdale said employees told officers that the woman often camped and slept in front of the business.

3. Steady Rain Expected in Santa Barbara County Beginning Sunday

Santa Barbara waterfront

The art of rain on the Santa Barbara waterfront. (Mike Eliason photo)

Many of us in drought-weary California are skeptical when weather forecasters predict a 100% chance of rain a week ahead of time. This time, they were right.

A storm that moved into Santa Barbara County in the early morning hours of March 28 gave the area a good soaking before clearing out.

According to Santa Barbara County Public Works Department monitoring stations, San Marcos Pass was a few drops shy of 2½ inches of rain, while other sites throughout the county ranged from more than an inch along the coast to well above 2 inches along the ridgeline of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Refugio Canyon above the Alisal Fire burn area recorded 2.36 inches, but there were no major problems reported below. Our Giana Magnoli rounded up local storm-related incidents, most of which were minor inconveniences.

Although helpful, the storm didn’t do much to relieve the county’s severe drought conditions. The National Weather Service said only about a quarter-inch of rainfall was measured locally in January and February so our dreams of a March Miracle were dashed again.

4. Bill Macfadyen: Sunday Funday at Red Rock Pools Ends in Heartbreaking Tragedy

I have nothing new to report on the tragic death of 37-year-old Edgar Adrián Chico Oaxaca of Santa Barbara, who died in an apparent drowning March 20 at the Red Rock pools area on the upper Santa Ynez River in the Santa Barbara County backcountry.

A GoFundMe account to support his widow, Karla Hernandez, and their three young children had raised nearly $6,500 as of April 1. Click here to make an online donation.

5. 332-Unit Heritage Ridge Apartment Development Proposed for Goleta

Heritage Ridge project

Goleta is putting the heritage in Heritage Ridge. (The Towbes Group rendering)

With its latest appearance before the Goleta Planning Commission, the third phase of the Willow Springs housing development continues to crawl its way through the city’s interminable planning process.

The 332-unit Heritage Ridge Residential Apartments — a joint venture of The Towbes Group, Red Tail Multifamily Land Development LLC and the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara — contains 228 market-rate apartments along with 63 units for low-income families and another 41 for low-income seniors. The project includes a two-acre public park.

It’s planned for a 17-acre, pork chop-shaped parcel north of the Willow Springs I and II phases between South Los Carneros Road and Aero Camino, south of the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Willow Springs II was completed back in 2014, while Willow Springs I got started before Noozhawk even existed.

As our Serena Guentz reported, the Planning Commission heard public comment on the development the night of March 28. A number of people spoke both for and against.

The commission made no decisions but will resume discussing the project on April 25.

•        •        •

Good Reads

Here are four important stories that are worth your time, and our latest activities guide for your kids:

» Man Gets 15-Year Prison Term for DUI Crash That Killed Goleta Couple — In a case that still reverberates throughout the community, Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral were run over and killed by a drunken driver as they walked their dog in western Goleta one afternoon in 2020. Our Tom Bolton reports on the sentencing of the Santa Barbara resident behind the wheel.

» Apples to Zucchini Cooking School Adds Science as Ingredient of Success — Our Ann Pieramici just completed a three-part, Hutton Parker Foundation-sponsored series on Apples to Zucchini (A to Z) Cooking School. You’ll be inspired to enroll but if you can’t, perhaps you’ll be stirred to make a donation.

» Michael Towbes Plaza at Santa Barbara Library Moves Forward with $10.9 Million Contract — From homeless hangout to an inviting public space for everyone, there may be life left in downtown Santa Barbara. Our Josh Molina has the details, as well as an update on Coast Village Road’s attempt to not follow downtown’s devolution.

» Santa Barbara Rejects Report By County Civil Grand Jury Criticizing City’s Permitting Processes — Our Josh Molina has the latest head-scratcher on the city’s consistent inconsistencies.

» ParentNooz Camp Guide — Check out Noozhawk’s 2022 ParentNooz Camp Guide for the latest youth activities opportunities.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Search for Suspects in Shooting on Santa Barbara’s Eastside Runs Late Into the Night.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

This is a fascinating look at a vitally important chapter in U.S. history: What Archaeologists Are Learning About the Lives of the Chinese Immigrants Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

Finally, I have way more than a peek at Montecito Peak. It’s in my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Americans Held Hostage: Day 214

With predictable results, it’s Taliban time in Afghanistan. That’s too bad for the U.S. citizens and green-card holders we abandoned 214 days ago — especially if you’re female.

•        •        •

Watch It

So, it’s not just Santa Barbara County.

YouTube video

(Holderness Family Vlogs video)

•        •        •

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If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!

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