Archive | December, 2012

UT Desperado Changes Plea To Not Insane And Not Guilty

Posted on 28 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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In what could indicate a change in defense strategy, Angela Hill charged with the attempted murder of a Wendover business woman a year ago changed her plea from ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ to ‘not guilty’ last week in Elko.

rattanaHill along Logan MacFarland of San Pete, Utah are accused of a multi state crime spree a year ago that claimed the lives of an elderly Utah couple, critically injured Rattana Keomanivong in Wendover and a bevy of other crimes a year ago this week.

While found competent to stand trial last summer, Hill entered her “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea in September. She changed it last week to a simply “not guilty”.

“It could show her attorney has given up on a battered woman’s syndrome defense,” said an attorney not connected with the case. “Or that they are going with her as an unwilling hostage to MacFarland.”

In interviews with various media outlets shortly after her arrest, Hill and some of her family members, asserted the she too was a victim in the week long rampage that ended January 3, 2012 when the couple surrendered to Nevada lawmen after two days hiding in the Pequop mountains.

Those claims were almost immediately dismissed by the District Attorney’s office as well as neighbors of Hill’s family who knew the woman growing up

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“That is exactly how she acted when she got caught stealing, smoking or skipping school,” said one resident. “Most of the time it worked. She is a good looking girl who looks and acts so remorseful. So you give her a second chance.”

Despite her claims of being forced to go with MacFarland it was Hill who took Keomanivong in her car while MacFarland followed closely behind in the couples stolen vehicle.

bordernyAccording to police reports it was also Hill who held Keomanivong at bay while Hill drove with a gun pointed at the Wendover woman’s head. And it was also Hill who shot Keomanivong after Keomanivong counterattacked biting, scratching pummeling and kicking Hill out of the car.

Hill’s already tenuous claims of being a victim were further weakened when new charges were leveled against her from Sanpete County after her arrest in Nevada.

Sanpete County prosecutors charged Hill with two counts of second-degree felony burglary and one count of third-degree felony burglary.

According to an arrest warrant the burglary happened December. 28, 2011 at a Mount Pleasant home.

The homeowner told police that two women, later identified as Hill and Allison Boudreaux, came to the house to talk about buying a trailer, the document states.

Boudreaux allegedly spoke with the woman and kept her occupied while Hill and MacFarland went through the home and stole a purse, a laptop, two guns and two saddles, according to the warrant.

That incident occurred on the same day but earlier than another burglary that ended in the murder of an elderly couple Woody and Ann Fullwood.

While Sanpete police at first emphasized that Hill was not connected to the Fullwoods’ killing, her participation in the previous burglary could indicate a change of thinking.

WEN12272012A04MacFarland also has not been charged yet in the Sanpete murders but is identified as a person of interest.

A year ago, Keomanivong was being hailed as a hero who by fighting back and thwarting an attempted car jacking played a key role in ending a murderous cross country crime spree by a modern day Bonnie and Clyde.

Keomanivong had no idea that the young couple who initially stopped her as she left the Red Garter early Saturday morning had allegedly committed two murders hours before.

In fact no one knew that the Fullwoods were even dead in their Mt. Pleasant home.

All Rattana knew was the two guns pointing in her face were real and that the man and woman behind them looked ready to use them.

For their part, the killers must have thought their luck was holding when they first saw Keomanivong, Asian and standing less than 5’1” tall and tipping the scales at barely 115 lbs., the Wendover woman probably appeared to be the perfect victim, a submissive sheep ready for slaughter.

The couple felt so confident that their newest victim would not put up a fight that it was the woman Hill who accompanied Ranatta in her car while MacFarland followed behind in the couples’ stolen car.

They were wrong.

WEN12272012A03What they soon discovered that on that slight frame were steel bands of pure muscle and far from being a sheep, Keomanivong had the heart of a tigress. The owner of the local gym Animal House, Keomanivong won the Wendover Strongest woman contest this summer.

As soon as the odds evened with only Hill and Keomanivong in the car,   Keomanivong attacked her car jacker by “biting her ear, neck and forcing her from the vehicle,”. Hill fired a shot at the woman as she drove away, according to the police report.

Keomanivong was struck in the back of the head, but she was able to drive herself to the police station and give police a description of the two before she was airlifted to Salt Lake for emergency surgery. She is doing well after surgery and should be home within the week.

Thwarted in their attempt to steal Keomanivong’s vehicle the couple sped off west bound on I-80. Their stolen  Saturn was found abandoned in Wells.

If Keomanivong had not fought back and won, police speculate it could have been hours if not days before the two slipped up again.

WEN12272012A09“They had already established a pattern of attacking helpless people, robbing them, stealing their vehicles and killing them before anyone knew what was happening” said one detective. “If not for Mrs. Keomanivong they could have been well on their way to Reno or San Francisco with a trail of dead bodies behind them.”

Despite the accolades, Keomanivong must now live with injuries for the rest of her life. Early hope that she would completely recover have faded. A recent brain scan suggests that some of the damage may be permanent or take a very long time to heal. With medical bills piling up she still must go for weekly check ups.

In a related development MacFarland will be in court January 9th for is own competency hearing.

 

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Ely Man Faces 20 Years In Guitar Theft, Elder Abuse

Posted on 28 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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An Ely man is spending the holidays in jail and facing the wrath of an elderly woman when he gets out after allegedly “borrowing” her prized guitar and selling it.

Zachary Peters-Mullens spent Christmas in the White Pine County Jail and may also ring in the New Year behind bars on a $20,000 bail on one count each of home invasion, grand larceny and exploitation of an elderly person.

bordernyAccording to the White Pine County Sheriff’s office Peters-Mullins allegedly thought he could score some quick cash by selling his grandmother’s prize guitar he ‘borrowed’ earlier this month.

When the Ely grandmother found out her property missing, she confronted her grandson he said he lent it to a friend and would retrieve it. According to the sheriff’s office the guitar did indeed change hands but for profit and not a jam session.

Peters-Mullins broke into his friends house but the guitar had already been sold and his friend called the police.

WEN12272012A09“Hopefully he will learn his lesson,” said a White Pine Deputy. “If spending the week in jail over christmas and New Years doesn’t do it, maybe having to face his very upset grandmother when he gets out will.”

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Elder abuse is a relatively new catagory of laws on Nevada’s books. Under Nevada law, elder abuse is much more than causing physical harm to an older person. Those who exploit, isolate or neglect an elder for which they provide care for may be convicted of elder abuse. An elder in Nevada is defined as someone over the age of 60.

The penalty for elder abuse in Nevada depends on the type of abuse with which the suspect is charged. However, regardless of the type of abuse, those convicted of elder abuse in Nevada face double the prison sentence they normally would for the same crime committed against a non-elderly person.

Peters faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

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In His Own Words– The Shooting Of Elko Deputy Len Van Natter

Posted on 28 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

Editors note: We are pleased to give our readers the first hand account of Elko Sheriff’s Deputy Lenwood Van Natter of his near fatal shooting while attempting to arrest Peter Mark Coca in Wells last February. Van Natter’s story will be published over the next three weeks.

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There was term Americans once used in older, more rustic times when referring to a soldier seeing combat for the very first time.  It was said that once you stood in the battle line for that first time, shoulder to shoulder with your compatriots, facing a live enemy who was standing directly across the field some fifty yards in front of you, and he put his rifle to his shoulder, and you to yours, and you both fired on command and at least one of you survived, you had seen the elephant.

I saw the elephant myself one cold night, on the evening of February 24, 2011, in the small high desert town of Wells, Nevada. I took five bullets from a .223 carbine in an unprovoked ambush during a domestic violence call, and I survived.  My story is not a particularly heroic one; I faced a determined armed foe and I lost the only gun battle I’ve ever been in.

I have not lose the fight, however. What makes this a story of ultimate victory, and not of defeat, is a story of how mind set, some equipment modification, training, the support of family, friends and strangers, and sheer Scot/Dutch stubbornness, the willingness to go as far as I could and keep going, has seen me though my devastating injury and subsequent long-term recovery.

This is what I saw.

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I had been serving as a Nevada peace officer, in one capacity or another, for just about nineteen years at the time of the incident.  I have had some run-ins during that time with the usual dirt bags, scrounges, and other less savory types who all thought they were smarter than me, or tougher, or just more stubborn, but I have always prevailed, winning every battle that was attempted against me.  I hate to lose. Little chaps my hide more than the thought of losing at anything, especially on the job, as a peace officer.  It gets especially

chapped at the thought of losing to a POS.

I have always played by the rules, too.  We are the good guys, and we are supposed to live by the rules.  That is how we should alway roll, and that is always how I’ve operated.  Always!  No exceptions!

bordernyAs everyone knows, working within the rules, laws, policies, and regulations makes a cop’s work more challenging, to say the least, but I firmly believe these are very necessary to differentiate us from the killers, cretins, perverts, rapists, and the other nasty two-legged creatures who prey on the weak and on the unaware, who kill, maim and destroy with little remorse, and who would take our society back to the Dark Ages, if it were not for a thin blue line of dedicated, hard-working, unforgiven men and women who keep those nasty creatures of the night at bay.  This is the nature of the beast, and I have always believed that the fight must be taken to the bad guys in any and every way that is lawful, ethical, and within departmental policy.

This has, over the years, hardened my resolve to help those who cannot help themselves.  I have always wanted to get those who hurt others who were usually guilty of nothing more offensive than being in the way or available, and put them away.  I have seen far too many dead children, the victims of abuse and reckless endangerment.  Too often, nice people are horribly victimized, their trust betrayed and abused by selfish, evil persons who care only for themselves, nasty types who want nothing less than constant instant gratification.  This perhaps explains my mindset that night and how I got myself hurt.

On the night of the incident, I was assigned to patrol the City of Wells.  It was not my regular beat, so I was not entirely familiar with it.  I was normally assigned to the Elko/Spring Creek patrol area, an area with a larger population and one that covered many more square miles than little Wells.  Several deputies, myself included, had been temporarily assigned to the Wells area for shift coverage one night a week, for shift coverage.  The Wells division was undermanned, and a portion of the Elko resources were necessary to help alleviate the manpower shortage.

WEN12272012A03I was still becoming familiar with the town and the surrounding area, even after being sent there to patrol several times throughout the previous year.  Learning Wells, and its citizens, was not as easy as one might think, as there could normally be only one one or two calls a night, if any.  The few calls I got in Wells prior to getting shot there had been the ones that warranted reports, however. In the two weeks prior to my shooting, I had made a domestic violence arrest each time I went to Wells.

So here it was again that I was being dispatched to another report of a violent domestic disturbance.  This one had been reported as being in progress at an unknown address on a quiet residential street in town.  A fellow deputy, Mark Hawkins, and two troopers from the Nevada Highway Patrol, Ben Jenkins and Jeff Howell, were in town and they, too, responded to assist.  This would later prove very fortuitous to me.

I was eating at a local truck stop prior to the call, and Mark had rolled into town about half-way through my shift, having been assigned to help cover the town after I had made those two domestic arrests in the previous weeks. He met me in the diner and we BS’d as I finished eating.  Trooper Jenkins joined us, and we were shooting the breeze with him, when dispatch gave me the call.  The dispatcher advised that the female caller had fled the home with a house phone and they had lost contact with her.  Before losing contact, the caller claimed that her husband had a gun and he was going to “get the cops”.

This was a red flag.  It was a very big red flag.  It was one I noted, and then filed away.

I am quite willing today to admit that I pretty much ignored that red flag after I filed it away.  I cannot do anything more than warn others today to be alert to the red flags that may pop up from time to time during the course of any call.  Ignore them at your own risk, as I found out later that night.

We searched the general area of the call for more than a few minutes, covering several city blocks, but we unable to locate the alleged victim.  It was as if she had been swallowed up by the earth.  This was another red flag, I now realize, one that I did not identify that night. It should have caused me to approach the call differently, realizing that it is not normal for an victim to hide on these calls, but in my mind that night, a woman was in distress and I was focused solely on finding and helping her.

WEN12272012A04I remember following Trooper Howell’s unit down a dark alley that ran parallel to a property in the area, which we all later discovered belonged to the couple involved in this disturbance.  Unbeknownst to me, and to the other officers on scene, her husband sat hidden in the darkness on the roof of his garage, directly over our patrol vehicles as we drove down the alley.  He was armed with a rifle and he watched us drive past.

It was later said he was laughing at us.

I had no idea who was involved, where any of the parties were, where they lived, nor what we were facing.  I felt, after many minutes of fruitless seating, that we were not going to find the victim, and I had had made up my mind that we could clear from the call. I was going to advise dispatch that we were unable to locate the alleged victim, when Mark broadcast that he had located an armed male suspect on the roof of the garage I had driven past just a few minutes prior.

There are times in our lives when we come to those special forks in the road which, when we choose to take one road or the other, take us down a path toward a life-altering and unforgettable experience, one that changes us physically and emotionally, if we survive that trip.  I was now facing such a fork in the road, faced with a couple of courses of action that could determine the outcome of the event, for better or for worse.

I was in an intersection about seventy yards to the east of Mark when he made the call. I could see the lights of Mark’s unit, and those of Trooper Howell’s unit, illuminating the garage.  At this point, I had two ways I could have handled this.  On one hand, I could have stayed at the intersection, taken up a position, and covered the other officers directly at the scene with either one of the thirty caliber rifles I carried in my unit.

Or, I could rush headlong into the kill zone, going blindly where no cop should go unprepared, and maybe help my buddies.

Yeah, I opted for the second choice.

On retrospect, I think I chose rather poorly. I rushed in without a thought toward any alternative.  This was because of mind-set, a mind-set I had developed over the years on the job.  My choice greatly affected my ability to do my job.  It also affected the outcome of the incident.

WEN12272012A09At that time, I was a trained sniper/observer and I had the tools and the skills to affect the outcome of most any critical incident from a long distance.  However, at that time, in my hurry to get into the fray, I was locked in patrol mode. I failed to consider the other options that may have been available to me.

The really bad thing about rushing into a scene is that once the sh## hits the fan, or once the bullets start flying, you are in it and you quickly realize it is very difficult, if not impossible, to safely get your ass out of the fire and take up a better, safer position.  Once you’re in it, you’re in it and you have to suck it up: your options have become very limited.  You are in the sh## and it stinks.

Still unaware of my potentially deadly mistake, I parked my vehicle behind another one on the street across from the end of the suspect’s garage.  I could not able to see him, as a tall camp trailer was parked directly across the street from me, obscuring my view of him.  I put my unit into park, advised dispatch that I was on scene, and then I opened the door.

That was when I heard long string of rapid gunshots.

My immediate response was of disbelief and shock.  Was someone actually firing a weapon?  Who in his right mind would do that in the middle of town?  Was he shooting at me?  Is this really happening?

I figured out I was not the target right then, as no bullets were hitting my unit.  I yelled “Shots fired!” into the radio mike and I bailed out, running around and taking up a position on the other side of my vehicle. I searched for the shooter but I could not see him.

It was very disconcerting, not knowing where he was.  Someone had fired shots, and I had no idea who, where, and why.

I had drawn my sidearm, but I still felt very vulnerable. I could tell by the volume of shots that the shooter was firing a small caliber semi-automatic rifle.

Silly me, bringing a pistol to a rifle fight!

There were, perhaps, a couple of dozen of rapid shots fired, and then it got very quiet.

My buddy Mark ran across the street and said he had returned fire with his own pistol.  In his excitement, he asked me if that was okay.  I told him that was great!  At least someone was able to show this guy we were not entirely defenseless.

Trooper Howell had taken cover behind his Chevy Caprice and had been pinned down.  Several rounds had been stopped by hard points in his Caprice, which saved his life.  Trooper Jenkins, Mark, and I were across the street, hunkered down behind my own patrol unit.

I still felt very underarmed, in spite of my forty-five, so I decided to get the patrol carbine from my unit.  I figured if the bad guy had a rifle, I wanted one, too!

I holstered my sidearm and unlocked my patrol unit.  After several seconds of fumbling, during which I felt very exposed, vulnerable, and scared, I managed to locate the switch to the gun lock and I pressed it, releasing my carbine.  I charged the weapon and turned on the electronic sight, all of which managed to make me feel a little better.  Now, at least one of us was now armed with a long arm on our side of the street.

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I have heard that people often do the strangest things in stressful situations and I was no exception that night.  Reasoning that I did not want anyone getting into my vehicle and going through my stuff, I locked it up after closing the door!

After some jockeying around in the dark, we took up positions behind the several vehicles on that side of the street.  I crouched at the right front corner of a pick-up truck standing across from the very dark property of the suspect.  I remember admiring the very nice push bumper attached to the front of it.

After several minutes, to my amazement, several cars drove through the scene during the lull.  This freaked me out a bit, which added an even more surrealistic feeling to the event.  It has since re-enforced my belief that most people go about their lives oblivious to the potential threats around them, until something bad happens to them.  There was a dangerously armed person at large, one who had just shot at a bunch of cops, and these people, being clueless or curious, were driving right through our scene!  Incredulously, we watched them go through without incurring any harm.  Our shooter did not fire as the each slowly rolled by.

After several more minutes, I noticed the sound of a faint male voice coming from the darkness across the street.  I peeked my head up a little and I could make out the outline of a male figure coming slowly out from between the camper and the garage.  I could not see if he was armed. Only his head and shoulders were visible, outlined by the light reflected off the garage.

My mind raced: is this the bad guy?  Was he hunting us?  I then started reasoning, it had to the shooter!  He had come from the direction of where the bad guy had been up on the roof earlier. No one in his right mind would willingly enter the scene of a gun battle, right?  I had to act, not knowing how dangerous he could be.

I still had my doubts, however, so I thought I would give him a quick challenge.  I did not want to expose my position to him, or to anyone else who may have been involved, so I called out to him once.

“Who’s there?”

It was all I could think of saying at the time.

There was no response from him, so I acted.  I aimed my carbine across the hood of the vehicle, took aim at the center of his chest, and I fired five shots.

I missed!

Incredibly, at a distance of less than forty feet, I fired at a live standing target and I missed him!  My first reaction was of disbelief, as he threw up his arms and yelled loudly, “I’m not him!  I’m not him!”

Well, if you are not “him”, who in hell are you, and why are you here?

bordernyAfter that brief moment of disbelief at missing such a close target, with a carbine, nonetheless, my stomach dropped.  I realized with horror that I had sent five bullets downrange, and I had no idea where they went!  A brief image of my bullets ripping through a baby in a crib somewhere flashed through my mind, and I shuddered.

Then, immediately after I fired the five shots, to my complete disbelief and extreme confusion, a door opened on the house behind the guy I had just shot at, and a man stepped outside and looked around!

“What is going on here?”, was my first thought.  Each passing moment was adding to the surrealistic, dreamlike quality of the mess I was in, as nearly everyone across the street were acting much more unpredictably than I had thought possible.  Are we humans so messed up as a species that most of us have lost our survival instincts?  Who, upon hearing shots being fired and knowing that his house has taken hits from bullets, exposes himself in that manner?

I later learned that the male figure that I had just fired at and missed was one of the suspect’s sons.  His father had called him prior to the shooting and told him that the cops were going to kill him that night.  The boy, just seventeen, then ran across town to the property, hearing the shots his father had fired at two of us from the roof of the garage.  He walked past two shot-up marked police vehicles to get where he was, just before I opened up on him.  You would think it very unlikely he could have realistically claimed ignorance to the gravity of the situation that night, that he did not know he was entering a combat zone, but he did, later, in court.

I heard later that he had been bragging at school afterward that he was there to draw us out.

Trooper Jenkins and Mark began yelling at the figure in the dark, giving him verbal commands

continued next week

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NDOT Snow Plow Crews Keep Holiday Roads Safe

Posted on 28 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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While most Nevadans were nestled all snug in their beds or cuddled on the couch this Christmas, the holiday snow storms were a call to action for Nevada of Department Transportation snow plow crews.

“We put in 28 hours from Christmas eve to Christmas day,” said West Wendover chief Donnie Anderson Wednesday. “And looking at the weather we are by no means finished.”

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The storms or rather series of storms struck northern Nevada Christmas Eve day and with just a few hour respite on Christmas day, resumed Christmas night.

At one point in the early morning hours of December 26th chains or snow tires were mandatory from the Utah border to California on Interstate 80.

bordernyYet despite this almost overwhelming deluge not a single major accident was reported over the three day snowfall in the state.

Most of the credit goes to the unsung heroes of the NDOT.

“I learned early on that you really can’t beat Mother Nature,” said NDOT Wendover crew chief Donnie Anderson last year in an interview with the High Desert Advocate. “But you can put up a good fight.”

Anderson and his crew have the responsibility to keep the roads clear from the Utah state line to the foot of the Pequop to the west, Lages Station to the south and the Montello road and all other minor state roads in the area.

Sometimes it is a thankless task.

“There are times that the snow falls faster than you can remove it,” Anderson added. “You just got to keep on going there are a lot of people who depend on us. Sometimes we pull 16 hours shifts just enough to get some sleep and then back on the road again. But it is work that has to get done.”

And for the past three years it is a job that has to get done for less and less.

WEN12272012A03Now in its third year of billion dollar plus budget shortfalls the NDOT like all state agencies is gearing up for another round of cuts.

“So far despite the cuts we have been able to keep on top of things,” Anderson said. “The governor has been real good about authorizing every thing we need during a storm. But it does take a lot of paper work. some are talking about contracting out to private companies for snow removal but there is no way anyone can do it more efficiently or cheaper than our crews.”

“Our guys know they are needed and they will go above and beyond to keep the roads clear,” He added. “They know that a lot is depending on them, some times peoples lives and they take their responsibilities seriously.”

A visit to the West Wendover station reveals just how serious these men take their jobs.

Despite of 12 and 16 hours shifts the station itself is immaculate worthy of a military inspection.

WEN12272012A04The snow plows are gleaming and obviously in tip top shape. There is not a single tool out of place and the sand and salt mix reserves spread by the plows in their wake is topped off.

“It takes about 30 minutes to do a walk through before you go out on the road,” anderson explained. “These are heavy, expensive and complicated machines. it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get out on the road and break down because you missed something or forgot to do something.”

Thanks to satellite tracking and improved communications road warriors have a much better lead time to prepare before a storm than they did even a decade ago.

“The national weather service is excellent about giving us advance warning,” Anderson said. “before a storm hits we have usually have about three hours to prepare. that can be a life saver. Still when a monster storm hits, it hits hard. We know what we are in for.”

According to Anderson this year has been in the middle for snow fall.

“It has been heavier than some lighter than others,” He added. “we have another three months to go I will tell you when the season is over.”

The worst season Anderson remembers is the winter of 92-93.

“It was incredible.” He recalled. “We had literally tons and tons of snow and when it wasn’t snowing, it was drifting back across the roads. During the storms people would just stop their cars on the road because they could see or couldn’t get to the shoulder. I almost plowed into one but at the last second saw it. I was able to steer around it stopped and told the driver to follow me and we got through, but it was hairy. the visibility was just about zero even in the plow.”

WEN12272012A09According to the Discovery Channel driving a snow plow is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs just below fishing in the Bering Sea.

Every winter across the United States dozens of these Road Warriors are injured  some are even killed on the job keeping the highways passable and Nevada has one of the best records in clearing snow of all the Rocky Mountain states.

“I am proud of the job we do,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you have to give up a Christmas or a Thanksgiving, storms don’t respect holidays, but we keep the roads open.”

 

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Toast Road Crews, Gun Control Is For Morons

Posted on 28 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

hcWe are ambivalent about snow.

It is really a love hate relationship.

It is nice to watch it fall, even fun to play in but on the other hand it is cold and wet and dangerous to drive in.

When we do not have to drive anywhere we have more affection for snow than animosity. It is the other way around when we have to take the road that day. Often we will delay or cancel business trips just to avoid driving in it.

We count ourselves lucky that we have that option.

But we count ourselves luckier still that we live in a place where our road crews fight the good fight every winter to keep our roads open.

Can anyone imagine how our life would be without these unsung heroes?

These men who on any given night or day must get up and get out in the worst possible weather to keep our roads and our economy going?

Other jobs my have more panache, more cachet but these men literally keep us alive and our businesses running smoothly.

So this New Years come snow or no, we will raise a glass and toast our road crews and wish them well and G-d’s speed.

 

The hinterland of central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all those other -stands is not an area known for its manufacturing prowess or its inhabitants personal hygiene or education.

Indeed one would be hard pressed to find a more backward, ignorant and generally disgusting place and people.

Yet despite this sorry state of affairs this region does make something and we aren’t talking opium or child brides of both sexes.

Despite the fact the average resident has just a passing acquaintance with the written word, Central Asia produces a bumper crop of guns. Big guns, small guns, automatic, semi atomic, revolvers, you name it and on any street in any village, town or city in the area you can find it and find it pretty cheap.

One would think that manufacturing something as complicated as an AK-47 or even an Enfeild would demand a certain level of civilization beyond that of camel herding.

One would be wrong.

The gun smiths of central Asia do a bang up job of creating knock offs of some of the most deadly weapons known.

No they are not idiot savants, it is just that guns even the “complicated” assault rifle is pretty easy to make. Yes it took a while to invent, but once made any moron with a lathe can produce one.

And make no mistake most of the people in central Asia are morons.

If morons like this can reproduce enough guns for an army, surely our morons can do the same.

Thus is the rub about gun control.

Sure we can ban any weapon we have in mind to ban.

We can even confiscate every assault rifle or every fire arm in the country.

We won’t be able get rid of them.

They are so damned easy to reproduce anyone with pocket money will still be able to buy or make one.

The same is true for large magazines, silencers, even telescopic sights.

We aren’t talking rocket science here. On second thought given the simplicity of a RPG we are.

Gun control sounds nice but we would have as much luck trying to control gardening.

We would have better luck in limiting the number of nut jobs we allow on the streets.

That was something that did have success back before the 1970’s when our state asylums were mostly closed and thousands of lunatics were put on our streets to swell the ranks of the homeless and cause our murder and violent crime rate to skyrocket.

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Christmas Crash

Posted on 23 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

An unidentified driver tried an innovative way to leave the Montego Bay Parking lot, Sunday morning. photo Janell Green

An unidentified driver tried an innovative way to leave the Montego Bay Parking lot, Sunday morning.
photo Janell Green

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Drug Super Store Duo Both Face Prison Time

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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With her no contest plea accepted by the court last week, both Angelica Nunez-Alcala and Juan Luis Davila are facing prison time for running what was described as an illegal drug superstore from their home in Wendover.

Nunez-Alcala pled no contest to two felony charges, possession with intent to sell and conspiracy, last week in a plea bargain with the Elko County District Attorney.

No contest or in Latin nolo contendere is a plea where the defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge, serving as an alternative to a pleading of guilty or not guilty. A no-contest plea, while not technically a guilty plea, has the same immediate effect as a guilty plea, and is often offered as a part of a plea bargain.

Unlike a guilty plea, a defendant in a nolo contendere plea may not be required to allocute the charges. This means that a nolo contendere conviction typically may not be used to establish either negligence per se, malice, or whether the acts were committed at all in later civil proceedings related to the same set of facts as the criminal prosecution.

Under sentencing guidelines and depending on the details of the plea bargain Nunez-Alcala could be sentenced from one year to five years in prison and face fines up to $10,000.

Her husband Juan Luis Davila pled guilty in November to one count each of drug trafficking and conspiracy.

newmontxThe difference between the two suspects is the degree of the felonies. Drug trafficking is a class “B” felony punishable with minimum term of imprisonment in the state prison is not less than 1 year and the maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed is not more than 20 years, as provided by specific statute. A fine may also be imposed, but this depends upon the particular offense.

Possession with intent to sell is a class “C” felony punishable with imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 5 years. In addition to any other penalty, the court may impose a fine of not more than $10,000, unless a greater fine is authorized or required by statute.

A SWAT team of Elko County Narcotics agents raided a West Wendover home September 14, describing it as a ‘illegal drug super market’ and and arrested the couple. According to the Elko County Narcotics Unit press release agents spent three months investigating the couple.

While the raid was dramatic and the bails were huge, the actual amount of drugs seized were quite small.

cinemaxAfter serving the no knock warrant and arresting the pair, agents spent several hours searching the residence and found according to the release: 2.25 ounces of meth, over four ounces of cocaine, more than 12 ounces of marijuana and a small amount of psychedelic mushrooms. Agents also seized over $10,000 in cash and two handguns, one of which was reported stolen recently in Battle Mountain.

According to family member the two did not even own the mobil home they  were living in and their newest vehicle was seven years old. Alcala at least  also had full time legitimate job. And while her husband was described as a ‘frequent flyer’ in the Elko and West Wendover Court system Alcala, until the September raid, had no criminal record.

The amounts of illicit drugs seized did not however include any amounts agents may have purchased from the couple during the three month investigation.

The affidavit that led to the warrant permitting the raid indicates that police gained. probable cause by an earlier search of the couple’s trash cans published on page two of this edition.

The couple’s young child was also present during the first moments of the raid and was placed in the care of relatives.

Shortly after the arrest Nunez’ bail was slashed from over half a million dollars to just $10,000. The bail reduction allowed the woman to leave jail and reunite with her child and also prompted speculation that she would not serve any hard time in prison.

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Jan. 4 DateLine NBC To Feature Wendover Murder

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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After months of delay, the tragic murder of 16 year old Micaela “Mickie” Costanzo by Kody Patten and Toni Fratto will be featured on the NBC news magazine “Dateline” on January 4, 2013.

Producers from the program have already conducted interviews the Costanzo family as well as the Pattens and the Frattos it is unknown whether either Kody Patten or Toni Fratto were interviewed for the program.

mickeyc-1Costanzo was killed by the Wendover teens in March 2011. Both are now serving life sentences in the Nevada prison system.

It will be the first time the story will be covered by a major national network although the story along with interviews of Mickie’s mother Celia Costanzo and Toni Fratto’s mother Cassie as well as a jail house interview with Toni Fratto were featured on the syndicated talk show ‘Anderson’ starring CNN anchor Anderson Cooper earlier this year.

The program was originally set to run in early November, then postponed to December.

Given the horrific events in Connecticut last week Dateline producers may feature Kody Patten’s violent and disruptive behavior from his elementary school days to his high school years.

Just as mass murderer Adam Lanza showed signs of mental illness years if not decades before last weeks events in Newton, Patten was not an alter boy who suddenly went bad.

At least from the time he was 10 years old Kody Patten was considered a monster by almost everyone who had to deal with him with the exception of his parents.

“He was just an awful kid,” said one of his elementary school teachers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He attacked other students, used vulgar and obscene language. I couldn’t turn my back on him couldn’t even let him sit with the rest of the class. But the worst thing was that when you tried to discipline him his father Kip would come and threaten to sue the school. Kip would argue every single point of Kody’s infractions. Finally instead of suspending him for one thing a wrote out a list. I think the longest was 14 separate major infractions in one week.”

tfrattoThe younger Patten’s behavior was so out of control that he was taken out of the classroom by the time he was in 6th grade and by the time he was in junior high school, teachers actively sought to have him expelled.

“A number of Kody’s teachers, myself included, argued regularly that he be expelled to protect students. The administration seemed intimidated by his parents,” wrote one of his Junior High School teacher’s on the Advocate’s web page www.coyote-tv.com.

When contacted that teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity provided a litany of the younger Patten’s more egregious and memorable offenses.

“This was junior high, pre-teenagers, I never thought I would ever push for the expulsion of so young a kid but he was unbelievable,” the teacher said. “Like I said in my post, his parents mostly his dad Kip fought for him tooth and nail. I am all for dad’s sticking by their sons but it’s a father’s job to raise a good man not a murderer.”

It is unknown whether the Patten’s sought any kind of psychiatric help for their son however the Advocate was able to confirm that at least by the time the younger Patten was a senior and perhaps much earlier he had been labeled with a learning disability.

suppsx“That is a major part of the problem,” said a highly placed administrator. “The way the state and federal law is written now it is extremely difficult if not impossible to expel a student if the parent vigorously opposes the process especially if the student is labeled learning disabled.”

The Elko County handbook on student discipline bears out that assessment in black and white. Students with ‘learning disabilities’ not only cannot be expelled but also cannot be suspended for more than ten days in any given school year and according to other school administrators not connected with the Elko District getting such a diagnosis is all too easy.

“It doesn’t take much,” said John Karas Director of the online high school the Beacon Academy. “Once they get the label and their parents still support them the only way to get them out is if they commit a felony and end up in jail.”

Patten came very close to that scenario about four months before the murder of Mickie Costanzo when he attacked his girlfriend/ accomplice Toni Fratto on school property and on video tape.

Dateline NBC, or Dateline, is a U.S. weekly television news magazine broadcast by NBC. It was previously NBC’s flagship news magazine, but now focuses mainly on true crime stories. It airs Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern Time and after football season on Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.

While Mickie Costanzo’s murder has been mostly ignored by the national television media it has been covered thoroughly locally and on regional television in both Reno, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City almost from the moment the girl was reported missing.

hrxmasIn addition to the local media the story has also been picked up by most national newspapers and in the blogosphere primarily by politically liberal ones such as the Huffington Post and smaller evangelical Christian ones as well as the foreign Press primarily in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The common denominator in almost all of the non-local coverage is Fratto’s and to a lesser extent Patten’s membership in the LDS Church.

In Great Britain and in Australia and other parts of the English speaking world Fratto is invariably referred to as the ‘Mormon Teen Killer’ either in headlines or the lead paragraph.

Patten is now a resident of the infamous Ely State Prison, called by inmates “The Graveyard”.

According to former and present inmates Ely Max earned its name due to what they call the larger than normal number of deaths at the facility than other prisons.

“Ely State Prison is a place of death, stagnation, misery, pain, loneliness and indeterminate lock down. If you were to take a walk on one of these depressing tiers back here in “the hole,” you would hear many disembodied voices ring out, yelling in anger and frustration, trying to tell you how bad it is for us in here, in between the isolated confines of steel and stone.” Wrote an inmate under the pseudonym of ‘Coyote’ “…I can see why Ely State Prison is labeled “The Graveyard,” there are so many deaths there. It is a locked down, maximum security prison, all but half of one unit – the workers unit – which is on one side of Unit 8…”

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Oil Search Takes Holiday

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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Oil drilling at Ferguson’s springs 20 miles south of Wendover is taking a break for the holidays but the crew will be back next month said owner Eddie Moses, Tuesday.

While not saying much more than that, Moses who has drilled everywhere from North America to the Middle East, added that his company would be using the holiday off time to study the results of the test well that began drilling in October.

Some of the largest oil exploration companies in and out of the country are betting that oil can be found in Nevada and with drilling going on all over the state including just 20 miles south of Wendover they are putting their money on the line.

Exploration giant Noble Energy has leased 330,000 net acres in Northeastern Nevada and is looking for reserves of half a billion barrels with an exploratory drilling program beginning in 2013.

The drill head located just 20 miles south of Wendover near Ferguson springs is owned by Pebble Energy.

Since the early 1980 geologists have looked at Nevada as a prime candidate for oil exploration.

xmasadsbIt was always known that there was some oil in the state.  But the issue has been the economics.  Back in the early 80’s, when oil was at a then very high $30 a barrel, the economics of exploration and production still weren’t very attractive.  At $70 to $90 a barrel, the sales price vastly exceeding the lift cost causes the potential of Nevada to become far more attractive.

In addition to price fracking has put previously unrecoverable oil in reach.

Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer, as a result of the action of a pressurized fluid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks.

Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydro fracking, commonly known as fracking or fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction.

Successful fracking has created an oil boom throughout the United States and will according to analysts help turn America into the largest oil producer in the world by the next decade.

And if preliminary tests yield anywhere near there forecasts, Wendover, Ely, Elko and Wells could become part of that boom.

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Idaho Apaches Makes Pit Stop

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Howard Copelan

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Apache Helicopters from the Idaho national Guard roared through the Wendover sky Wednesday on their home from a cancelled training mission in Texas.

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