Valley News Staff

From the start of the new year when a snowstorm blanketed the area with the white stuff, to human trafficking and a local mayor finding himself in hot water, 2015 was a year full change and challenges for many and happy endings for others. As the hands of time move us into a new year, here is a look back at just some of the things that made the news in 2015.


Week of Jan. 9

A rare snowstorm that hit the valley on New Year’s Eve affected communities in varying degrees. Wildomar’s City Manager Gary Nordquist said he was woken in middle of the night on Dec. 31 from the fire department informing him of an influx of emergency calls pouring in from local residents stranded in cars as well as flooding.

A woman who was trapped on Ortega Highway, along with more than three dozen others during last week’s snow storm, said the experience was scary and preventable. Dyana Ferris, 46, of Temecula was trapped for more than 14 hours in her Lexus with nearly no fuel, no water and only two granola bars with freezing temperatures as snow slowly buried her car.

The City of Murrieta has the most employees at 356 and the largest population with just over 107,000 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but the best paid city official per resident actually comes from the region’s smallest city, Wildomar. With a projected population of 32,176, the city pays its City Manager Gary Nordquist just over $195,000 a year, which translates to a cost of $6.06 per resident.

Week of Jan. 16

Retired Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert was recognized during a retirement reception held on Tuesday, Jan. 13 at the fire department headquarters on Juniper Street. During the informal ceremony preceding the reception, city leaders, community members and Shobert’s peers praised him for the level of service and care he provided the community during his tenure with the department.

More than a dozen people arrived to a vacant and flat piece of earth in Menifee to celebrate groundbreaking for the city’s first business park, a project that has been in the works for nearly a decade but has struggled to find its roots in the midst of a struggling economy.

A convicted felon who stole from a Temecula store and grappled with an employee who tried to detain her surrendered to authorities and began serving a 90-day jail sentence. Shimone Antoinette Henderson, 47, of San Diego pleaded guilty in October 2014 to misdemeanor theft for taking merchandise from the retail outlet in the 40600 block of Winchester Road.

Week of Jan. 23

Thousands of people turned out Saturday, Jan. 17 in Lake Elsinore in an attempt to break the world record for the most participants in a circuit training class. Nearly 2,000 people came out to the event, held at Lake Elsinore Storm Stadium and hosted by Your Fit City and Breaking Records for Charities. Unfortunately, organizers were 73 people short of breaking the record.

Nearly three dozen volunteers gathered at Calvary Murrieta on Saturday, Jan. 17 to raise awareness about human trafficking and how to stop it. The Day of Action campaign included the distribution of fliers in the Riverside metropolitan area, Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Temecula and parts of the Coachella Valley. The notice detailed the consequences of sex and labor trafficking and how victims can get help.

A May 26 trial date was confirmed today for two people accused, along with a teenage boy, of killing a Wildomar man to prevent him from testifying in a criminal case. Anthony Albert Garcia, 34, and Summer Sharmaine Stephens, 40 — both of Wildomar — could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted in the Sept. 18, 2012, beating death of 42-year-old Steven Lawrence Markley.

Week of Jan. 30

Brandon Petrucci of Temecula is a self-admitted adrenaline junkie so when the 2006 Chaparral High School graduate heard from his father that he could ride in an authentic barnstormer biplane, he was quick to jump onboard. Brandon, who was confined to a wheelchair following a rollover vehicle accident that occurred when he was a junior at Chaparral, said that his father can be a bit of a prankster but was thrilled when his father’s promise came to fruition and he got to ride in the barnstormer biplane at the French Valley Airport.

A violation in rules during an Elks’ Hoop Shoot contest in Temecula left an 8-year-old girl disqualified from the competition. However, according to the director of the Elks National Foundation, the rule violation was not her or her family’s fault.

A man was killed and four others injured in an alleged DUI crash Saturday, Jan. 24 on a Murrieta freeway, according to reports. The driver, 18-year-old Calvin Alexander Cerda of Riverside, lost control of a 2004 Toyota Tacoma truck he was driving just before 4:30 a.m. after allegedly falling asleep at the wheel while drunk.


Week of Feb. 6

Rock the Oaks celebrated its 7th annual weekend benefit concert for Oak Grove Center for Education Treatment and the Arts on Jan. 30 and 31. Record crowds were in attendance, according to Gwyn Sanborn, orchestrator of the event. “Our acts were amazing this year,” stated Sanborn. “Every show, there was a standout performance. The Ranch Rockers band learned 25 new songs for the weekend, and they did an amazing job all the way around.”

Forty-one students at Vista Murrieta High School were asked to stay home from school due to a potential measles case reported by a school employee, according to a press release received by Valley News on Friday, Jan. 29. According to the release, Riverside County Public Health Officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser said the students who would be excluded from class have not been vaccinated against measles or cannot show proof of proper protection against the illness.

A crash in Old Town Temecula sent three people to the hospital Friday, Jan. 30. The crash on Old Town Front Street near Moreno Road was reported at 5:53 p.m. Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Carpenter said two vehicles crashed head-on after one car allegedly hit the brakes and slid into oncoming traffic. Three people were taken by ground ambulance to local area hospitals for treatment of unknown injuries.

Week of Feb. 13

The 9th annual Charity for Charity Stars of the Valley was a sold out event attended by more than 350 people on Saturday, Feb. 7 at South Coast Winery in Temecula. Each year, the organization selects three people – an adult, a young adult and a child – as its beneficiaries and presents them with their wishes at a Golden Globes-styled event. It also honors community members with awards in eight categories.

Members of the Joint Powers Authority voted to declare a recent audit of Animal Friends of the Valleys incomplete and delay renewing the contract between the two agencies during a special meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 5. The move came following a county report that highlighted shortcomings in the way the nonprofit runs its business. AFV provides a full range of sheltering services to the cities of Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Murrieta and Temecula. The audit was ordered by JPA Administrator Christopher Hans.

A man was hit by a car as he tried to catch his dog that broke free from its leash on Saturday, Feb. 7, according to police. According to the California Highway Patrol, the man was hit at 5:17 p.m. on Murrieta Hot Springs Road near Pourroy Ave. The man suffered minor injuries and was taken by ground ambulance to a local hospital.

Week of Feb. 20

Susan G. Komen Inland Empire Executive Director Katie Parker understands how a dog can help those who are going through a difficult time in their life. It was because of that understanding that the Susan G. Komen Inland Empire Paws for the Cure became a reality. “I have been a dog lover my entire life and really don’t remember ever a time that we have not had a dog or two as part of the family,” Parker said.

Reports offer upbeat outlook following Rancho’s purchase of Vail Lake lands

Temecula area water officials were breathing easier after a pair of recent reports indicated that last year’s $49.6 million Vail Lake land deal appears to be a sound financial investment. The reports from a pair of consulting firms, offered upbeat news regarding the district’s potential ability to recoup part of its purchase cost while providing a range of recreational uses. The 7,904 acres of property’s many attractions, located within 100 miles of nearly 20 million residents, “could be unique and offer very strong market appeal,” according to Rancho’s economics and feasibility consultant.

A 100-foot geyser shot up from a broken fire hydrant next to the Corner Bakery Café at the Promenade mall on Tuesday, Feb. 10 after a driver hit the hydrant and fled the scene. The incident happened shortly after 3 p.m. and the geyser lasted 15 to 20 minutes.

Week of Feb. 27

Jordi Toy was a typical Temecula 17-year-old girl and Rancho Christian High School senior when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia last September. Temecula residents responded to her illness on social media with prayers, assistance and support for Toy and her family. Toy was recently given a cancer-free diagnosis so to celebrate the good news and her 18th birthday, over 200 fans, friends and followers gathered at the Promenade Temecula in a flash mob to dance in her honor on Feb. 18.

Like any other parent, Daniel Clausen works hard to ensure his children receive the education they deserve, but a recently proposed change to school boundaries and a yet to be fulfilled promise of a new elementary school in Lake Elsinore has him concerned. A proposed zoning change would realign boundaries but keep the Alberhill Ranch Community zoned for Machado Elementary School, something which Clausen and a group of parents did not want.


Week of March 6

More than 150 participants, along with their dogs, came out in support of the event held at Town Square Park in Murrieta on Feb. 28, according to Susan G. Komen Inland Empire’s Development Manager Bruce Cripe. While attendance was lower than the previous year, Cripe still considered the event a successful one in the fight against cancer.

In the place of a name, Temecula officials have picked a pair of inspirational messages they say will “capture the intent” of the city’s $1.2 million special needs playground. That approach stemmed from scripture and a committee’s consensus, according to a city report and a council member’s remark at the playground’s recent dedication. The Feb. 25 event attracted hundreds of adults and noisy, scrambling children who celebrated the opening of a playground that has few rivals in the region.

Water levels at lakes and recreation areas throughout the state continue to drop as the historic drought experienced across the state extends its stranglehold on limited water supplies, but Lake Elsinore was faring comparatively well according to city officials. “Lake Elsinore has done relatively well during this historic drought as compared to many lakes and reservoirs throughout the state,” said city of Lake Elsinore Management Analyst Nicole Dailey.

A man and a woman surrendered to police and were arrested on March 3 following an apparent road rage incident they were involved in that left two people hospitalized with head injuries. The incident happened on northbound I-15 near Clinton Keith Road in Wildomar on March 2 shortly before 7 p.m. Gabriel Elijah Bowker, 20, of Grand Terrace was booked at the Southwest Detention Center on suspicion of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury. His bail was set at $1 million. Guadalupe Bowker-Cadena, 29, of Fontana was also booked at the center on suspicion of attempted murder and being an accessory. Four people, including two children, were transported to Inland Valley Medical Center about 7 p.m. following the incident.

Week of March. 13

It was difficult to tell who enjoyed Friday and Saturday more, classic car owners or the spectators in attendance at the second annual city sponsored Temecula Rod Run in Old Town Temecula that brought an estimated 45,000 people to the historic city. More than 700 shiny, tricked out classic cars and trucks lined every block in Old Town delighting both old and young visitors, some as far away as Minnesota and Indiana.

A state investigation into Dr. Nasir Ahmed of All Creatures Animal Hospital in Murrieta has led to protests by community members following numerous complaints of the veterinarian’s treatment of their animals. Protests, organized by Murrieta resident and pig breeder Lana Piercy who owns Piercy’s Farms, were held on Jan. 21 and Jan. 24 by a small group of former customers and animal rights activists who said they want the veterinarian’s medical license revoked and his business closed.

A wave of people flooded the area surrounding the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium to deliver a potent blow to Type 1 diabetes in a JDRF 5K walk on the morning of Saturday, March 7. The event’s goal was to raise money for research development and generate a finer lifestyle for those encumbered by Type 1 diabetes. $85,441 was raised by the walk.

A mother was accused of renting her two daughters out for sex — one of them 14 years old, the other an adult. Antwana Muhammad, 39, along with her live-in boyfriend, Charles Smith, 32, are suspected of exploiting her biological daughter to perform commercial sex acts throughout Murrieta, the San Fernando Valley and other locations across Southern California. The pair was arrested and jailed for their alleged part in the scheme.

Week of March 20

The full cast of Circus Vargas performers dance in the circus ring during the show’s opening night in Temecula on March 12. The circus was in town at the Temecula Promenade through March 22.

Two Lake Elsinore women who started a Facebook group to help those in need, are now also feeding those who can’t afford to purchase their own meals. “It started with ‘Free for all – Lake Elsinore,’ which is a Facebook group,” Sarah Elman said. She co-founded the group, now operated by seven people, with Veronica Nathan. “The group is geared towards helping the community in any way we possibly can,” she said.

Murrieta City Council voted 5-0 on March 5 to display the national motto “In God We Trust” in city hall, a move that was applauded by some and discouraged by others. In a presentation on the considered agenda item, Izzy Murguia, a senior management analyst told the council that the action stemmed from a September 2014 workshop where city leaders discussed displaying the national motto.

Week of March 27

Hand-clapping, foot-stomping and barefoot dancing highlighted the annual weekend Temecula Bluegrass Festival with visitors and local residents thoroughly enjoying the Old Town event. Hundreds walked up and down old town’s streets stopping to enjoy the bluegrass musicians, playing in front of the stores. Children couldn’t help grabbing their parents’ hands to dance to the upbeat music.

William Gary Simpson, 22, of San Bernardino County pleaded guilty on Friday, March 20 to the first-degree murder of Saskia Burke, 18, of Murrieta. Simpson was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the December 2011 knife attack in which he also attempted to kill Burke’s father and boyfriend. But Burke’s mother, Catherine, who witnessed the murder, is anything but happy about the situation. She wanted to see Simpson get the death penalty for the crime she said tore her family apart.

More than 100 students at Margarita Middle School along with their parents converged upon Temecula Valley Unified School District offices in protest of the board’s recent decision to dismiss Principal Karen Hayes. Hayes has been on administrative leave since the board made the decision earlier in 2015, according to reports received by Valley News. The students began their protest at the school, walking two miles to the district offices located on Rancho Vista Road. Upon their arrival, the group began chanting “Hayes stays” and “I believe that Hayes should stay.”


Week of April 3

More than 20,000 people flocked to Lake Skinner for the first annual Temecula Valley Family Fair held the last weekend in March. With three main stage concerts, vendors, more than 20 rides and fair foods like funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos, fair CEO Shannon Karrigan said the event delivered all that was promised and more. “The families really enjoyed the event. There were lots of smiles and many family memories being made,” she said. “It is very exciting to see a positive response from the community.”

Kiersten Myers is like many middle school students in Southwest Riverside County. She’s preparing spring projects, studying hard for tests, but unlike fellow students, she was sponsored by Hewlett Packard and busy at work editing film project from her recent trip to Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. “My daughter isn’t one of those kids who is searching for what they want to do with their lives when they grow up,” said Kiersten’s father, Matthew Myers. “She’s already doing it.”

A rare open seat on the Temecula City Council will be filled by appointment, and hopefuls have until April 10 to submit applications that detail their availability, education, work experience and political aspirations. Mayor Jeff Comerchero set the tone for the 50-minute discussion by stating that the upcoming process “is a very serious matter for the future of our city.” The decision to appoint, as well as the use of a two-page form to evaluate applicants, dominated the March 24 council meeting.

A shooting threat posted to social media involving a Lake Elsinore high school earlier in the week resulted in the arrests of three students on Wednesday, March 25. The School Resource Officer at Lakeside High School was informed of the threat and the campus was placed on a lockdown that lasted about two-hours for student and staff safety.

Week of April 10

It was standing room only for Former Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos at his State of the City address held at City Hall on the evening of March 31. With words, pictures, and emotional presentations, Ramos showed how he is making a difference for Murrieta, not by raising up his own deeds, but by applauding citizens who are helping to make the city a better place to live. With emphasis on safety, quality schools, location, and home prices, Ramos declared that Murrieta has each of the elements that make up a great quality of life.

Chances of landing a lunker in Lake Elsinore increased greatly with the first fish stocking in nearly two years. More than a half-ton of channel catfish and largemouth bass were delivered to the lake around noon on Friday, April 3, according to Lake Elsinore Director of Community Services Johnathan Skinner. “We got a little over 1,100 pounds of fish delivered (and) we did the stocking at La Laguna at the boat launch,” he said. “We haven’t done a fish stocking in about two years.”

Good Friday in Temecula was observed by a gathering of people, many who carried crosses, to commemorate Jesus Christ’s walk to Calvary, where he was crucified. According to event organizers, nearly 1,500 people gathered in the Temeku Cinemas parking lot, some bearing crosses they carried by hand, others with large wooden crosses carried over their shoulder, to journey together in an outward procession of their faith.

Week of April 17

Over 5,000 people attended this year’s Reality Rally event, in its fifth year of fundraising for Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center. The 98 reality stars in attendance – from primetime to lesser known cable channels – all capture attention beyond their 15 minutes of fame. At the heart of it is a real issue, which was the theme of 2015’s event, looking to a future with no breast cancer. “We are all touched by cancer in some way,” stated Gillian Larson, “Survivor: Gabon” cast member, and founder of the event.

The city of Murrieta announced the selection of a new Fire Chief. Effective May 18, Scott Ferguson will fill the position for the city. Ferguson, who is currently the fire chief for the Santa Monica Fire Department where he has served since 2010, said he is looking forward to serving Murrieta and its residents.

Hospice of the Valleys hosted its annual volunteer appreciation luncheon at the Murrieta Public Library on Saturday, April 11. Each year during National Volunteer Week, April 12 -18, the 33-year-old Murrieta based nonprofit organization hosts a luncheon to thank its 60 volunteers who provide support and companionship to members in the community with life-threatening illnesses. This year’s luncheon had a western theme and barbecued food was served to volunteers and about 20 guests who came to laud them. Guests included Murrieta’s Mayor Harry Ramos, Councilman Rick Gibbs and Councilman Jonathan Ingram.

A Temecula house party came to an abrupt end as shots rang out just after 11:55 p.m. Friday, April 10. One male victim was injured by the alleged shooter. The incident occurred in the 30600 block of Pauba Road. Paramedics rushed the victim to a local trauma center for treatment of a single gunshot wound.

Week of April 24

Dorland Mountain Arts Colony board members and resident artists were preparing for the upcoming annual “Arts under the Oaks” celebration in hopes of continuing the rebuilding of the 10-acre artists retreat destroyed by fire a decade ago. The colony is currently the home of four resident artists who would be showing off their works along with entertainment and refreshments. Located eight miles south of Temecula on Highway 79 South, the unique artists’ hideaway offered free admission and was open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Murrieta Chamber of Commerce celebrated young movers and shakers throughout the Temecula Valley during the third annual 40 Under 40 event held on Thursday, April 16 at the Lake Elsinore Storm Diamond Club. Winners were nominated community members then selected for the awards by a committee made up chamber staff and CEOs from other area chambers of commerce.

The Temecula City Council sifted through a handful of high-profile community leaders before it tapped Michael McCracken, a parks commissioner for the past seven years, to fill a rare open seat on its dais. McCracken was the lone applicant whose name surfaced for a vote, and the unanimous decision came at the end of a nearly three-hour meeting that featured little debate or contentiousness.

An explosion at a Murrieta apartment on Wednesday, April 15 forced evacuations as firefighters extinguished the flames. According to Murrieta Fire Department spokesman Matt Corelli, firefighters responded to a reported explosion at Silverado Apartments at 25100 Vista Murrieta Road just before 4:30 p.m. The initial response teal was made up of 16 firefighters.


Week of May 1

“For Your Eyes Only,” a James Bond-themed fashion show, was held on Saturday, April 25 in the Grand Ballroom at the Pechanga Resort & Casino. It was presented by the Inland Valley Business and Community Foundation as a fundraiser for its Student Scholarship Program and was attended by over 400 people. The participation of nine fashion companies, almost 100 models and seven entertainers resulted in two fashion shows, one at 4 p.m. and another at 7 p.m., with different designers, models and entertainers in each.

Dark clouds and rainy weather didn’t put a damper on the seventh annual Special Games held at Great Oak High School on Saturday, April 25. Joy filled laughter and smiles were the theme of the day as the athletes made their way through the entrance to the school’s football field. Supporters, caregivers and spectators cheered in welcome for each athlete participating in the event.

Bev-Ray Camera Shop – an Old Town Temecula fixture since 1998 – announced it was closing following the recent death of its iconic owner. It would be hard to measure the depth of the hole left by the death of Morris “Murray” Gutman. Gutman was the last of his kind, a rare blend of artist, storyteller, merchant, mentor and mechanic. His closet-sized store was his world, one rich in personal service and full of love for youth and the art and science of photography. Its closure would create a vacuum for a broad swath of amateur and professional photographers.

Two women were taken into custody on the evening of Monday, April 27 following a high speed chase through three counties that ended in a foot pursuit in the DeLuz area of San Diego County. Suzanne Steinmeier, 34, and Michelle Rivera, 32, both of Fallbrook were placed under arrest and booked into the Vista Detention Facility. Steinmeier was charged with felony evading and misdemeanor resisting arrest. Rivera was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest. Both women were wanted on felony warrants prior to the chase.

Week of May 8

Protesters from around Southern California put Murrieta back into the spotlight during a May Day protest geared towards immigration rights. Hundreds of protesters, many of whom were brought in on buses from around the region, stood outside of Murrieta’s City Hall just before noon on Friday, May 1. People on both sides of the issue stood outside the building located on Jefferson Street, chanting about their right to stay and for immigration while those with opposing views held up signs reading “Stop Illegal Immigration” and “Secure the Border.”

Cars lined Jefferson Avenue in Murrieta for the Oak Grove Center for Education and the Arts 11th annual Evening Under the Oaks on Saturday, May 2. The fundraising gala, held in support of the center’s new and much needed parking lot, was attended by almost 500 friends, fans and sponsors.

Water wasters were facing fines of up to $10,000, though homeowners need not worry, according to Meggan Valencia, public information officer with Rancho Water District. “It would actually be the water district that gets fined if we don’t meet the certain mandates that are being put out by the state board who is working with Governor (Jerry) Brown,” Valencia said. The fines would come from Brown’s new mandates in effort to help offset water usage during the ongoing drought.

Week of May 15

Nearly 1,000 people came out for the fifth annual American Heart Association’s Southwest Riverside Heart and Stroke Glow Walk at Lake Skinner on Saturday, May 9. At about 6 p.m., participants got ready for the walk by taking part in Zumba exercises and stretches as live music filled the background. Walkers hit the trails around the lake at 6:30 p.m. as the sun slowly went down behind the mountains to the west.

Murrieta City Council hosted a budget workshop meeting for the 2015/2016 fiscal year during its May 5 meeting. Finance Director Joy Canfield said she had budgeted for the reinstatement of 12 full-time positions as well as was projecting increased revenues to allow for vehicle replacements and the purchase of much needed technology items. Council heard an overview presented by Canfield that included past history of the budget and an update as to where the budget process is currently. The city lost about $14.8 million in revenue due to the great recession, she said.

A Lake Elsinore Police Department motorcycle officer was taken by ground ambulance to a local hospital following a crash on Tuesday, May 12. The crash involving a passenger vehicle and the officer was reported at about 9:40 a.m. at the intersection of Collier and Central avenues in Lake Elsinore. According to the California Highway Patrol, who was investigating the incident, the officer was taken to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

A man allegedly attacked and injured three adults and an 18-month-old boy in Menifee early on Monday, May 11. The victims were assaulted while in a Mazda hatchback that was disabled on the northbound I-215, just south of Newport Road. Officers responded just before 1:20 a.m. to the vehicle that was pulled to the right shoulder of the freeway.

Week of May 22

Multiple police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, responded with lights and sirens on to Shivela Middle School in Murrieta on Monday, May 18 during a mock active shooter drill on campus. The drill was held after school hours and was meant to sound and feel like a real incident to help prepare first responders to save lives in the event of a true shooting incident, according to spokesman Matt Corelli with the Murrieta Fire Department.

Eric Seaman, 29, a California native and UH-1Y helicopter crew chief with HMLA-469, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Camp Pendleton was announced as one of eight who perished in a helicopter crash last week during a humanitarian mission in Nepal. Seaman, who had served since 2009, was survived by his wife Samantha, son Roman, 2, and daughter Riley, 1. Samantha Seaman said her husband was a great father and a great Marine in a televised interview that aired on CNN Sunday

A $250,000 plan aimed at reviving an aging business district could bring the first residents – as well as six- and eight-story buildings – to a 560-acre area that hugs Interstate 15 in Temecula. That area, which is split by Jefferson Avenue north of Rancho California Road, has drawn the attention of city officials for more than a decade. Its future has come into sharper focus over the past four years as the Uptown Jefferson Specific Plan has emerged from consultant studies and many planning and community meetings.

A Menifee man who allegedly attacked a family along a freeway shoulder, slashing an 18-month-old child, his mother and others without provocation, was charged with attempted murder, six other felonies and one misdemeanor. If convicted as currently charged, Nicolas Lopez Garcia, 44, faces a sentence of about 25 years to life in prison. He is being held at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta in lieu of $2 million bail.

Week of May 29

The city of Murrieta’s Local Field of Honor display, courtesy of the Murrieta Rotary Club, pays tribute to local service members who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Dozens gathered at the Temecula Duck Pond throughout the course of the day on Saturday, May 23, to protest genetically modified food producer Monsanto and advocate for better food labeling during the third annual March Against Monsanto.

Temecula residents Ric and Anne Van Der Linden have seen more ups than downs in their 25-years of marriage. In celebration of their silver anniversary the two decided to take their success story on the road, in a way they are most comfortable—from the seats of their tandem bicycle. “We’ve distance-biked on our tandem bike for many years, and often discussed riding across the United States,” Ric said. “We decided this would be the year for us to bike across the country.” Their tour begins on June 27 out of Oceanside to Temecula. On June 28, they set off, starting at the Main Street Bridge in Old Town Temecula at 8 a.m.

A motorcyclist in Lake Elsinore was killed early in the evening on May 24 when he crashed into a mailbox and was ejected from the vehicle. The rider was identified as Lafayette Coons III, 32, of San Jacinto. Officers responded and located the collision in the 32000 block of Machado Street. The preliminary investigation revealed a motorcyclist traveling at a high rate of speed lost control for unknown reasons, striking a brick mailbox.

The first quarter of 2015 saw an increase in assaults and robberies in cities and unincorporated areas served by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. According to sheriff’s officials, the overall Part I crime rate edged up 1.7 percent from early January to the end of March. Part I crimes are classified by the FBI as offenses that include murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, auto theft and larceny. Part I data are divided into two categories – violent crime and property crime.


Week of June 5

A local Cub Scout earned a distinctive honor for his explorations into the world of science. Dallas Bowden, 9, earned the Dr. Luis Walter Alvarez Supernova Award, named after a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and professor who measured the magnetic moment of a neutron. He had to complete multi-step process that involved crafting experiments, learning about various scientists and performing scientific demonstrations in front of his peers for the award.

What a difference five years makes. Unemployment hovered around 10 percent, many companies were on the ropes and development had slowed to a crawl the last time Temecula Mayor Jeff Comerchero briefed business and community leaders at his State of the City talk. Attendance was anemic during that annual presentation. Now business is booming, unemployment has plummeted to 4.7 percent and the economy has roared back to life, Comerchero reported. Even the attendance has surged at the breakfast event held at the Pechanga Resort & Casino by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Today the picture is much brighter,” Comerchero told the capacity audience.

Ryan Jawad, 16, will be charged as an adult in the shooting death of Gage Seal, a 15-year-old freshman at Temecula Valley High School. The shooting occurred at a Lake Elsinore hotel in the 31000 block of Auto Center Drive just before 1 a.m. on Sunday, May 31. Jawad appeared with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Whitney Ryan, before Superior Court Judge Mark Mandio on Tuesday, June 2 and asked for a continuance to determine the probate council for Jawad’s case.

Week of June 12

The Murrieta Creek Regional Trail was officially opened for use following ribbon cutting ceremonies held on Saturday, June 6 throughout the four cities served by the trail, which when completed will span a total of 14 miles Currently only interim trails are open while others continue to be constructed according to Murrieta Recreation Supervisor Colby Diuguid who oversees all of the city’s trails.

Southern California measures itself in seasons – fire, earthquakes, floods and mudslides. The city of Temecula, home to over 100,000 people, strives to be prepared to handle each and every possible emergency for the safety of its citizens. Assistant City Manager Greg Butler and Emergency Coordinator Roberto Cardenas are responsible for doing just that. In Temecula, all plans are modeled after a nationwide standard and the city contracts with CAL FIRE, CALEMA, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Three youths were arrested on Friday, June 5 for vandalizing a church in their neighborhood, causing more than $60,000 in damage. The vandalism occurred Monday night at the First Lutheran Church in the 600 block

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