A Joshua Tree courtroom was filled Tuesday afternoon with family and friends, as well as Marines, of both the victims of a double murder, and the man accused of killing them. Rafael Aikens, 22, pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance since he was arrested for the murders of Christy McKissic, 32, and Renee Metcalf, 62, last month. Judge Bert Swift assigned a public defender to represent Aikens, and set Aikens’ bail at $1,750,000. Deputy District Attorney Shannon Faherty requested that the bail amount be doubled, since there were two victims, who were each shot with a firearm, but Swift denied her request, saying the bail amounts could not be stacked on top of each other. Faherty then requested a change of judges, which was granted. Aikens’ next court appearance will be April 12 with Judge Rodney Cortez, at which time Faherty will request the bail amount be re-visited. McKissic and Metcalf were shot in their home in the 7700 block of Bedouin Avenue in Twentynine Palms just after midnight March 24.
The Trump administration removed a major roadblock to plans to pump ancient groundwater from the Mojave Desert east of Twentynine Palms to urban areas of Southern California. The federal Bureau of Land Management rescinded a 2015 finding that Cadiz, Inc., needed to obtain a federal permit on 43 miles of railroad right of way before it could build a water pipeline. The $225 million project still needs approval from the Metropolitan Water District to use the Colorado River Aqueduct. In 2008, Cadiz entered a lease agreement with the railroad company to build a pipeline between the Mojave Desert to the Colorado River, using the railroad’s right of way over federal land. From the river, water would be brought to Southern California using the aqueduct. In 2002, the water district’s board voted down an earlier version of the Cadiz project that also needed to use the aqueduct. The project is staunchly opposed by environmental and desert advocates, who say it would rob the desert of the water that plants and wildlife need to survive.
Santa Margarita Water District graphic
Recently, some Morongo Basin residents were called by people pretending to be employees of Southern California Edison. The callers said the residents had outstanding bills, and demanded the customers make payments with prepaid cards over the telephone. Edica Gonzalez offers these tips on how to avoid being a victim of these types of scams…
Imposters claiming to be from SoCal Edison are calling businesses and residents, and telling them their electric bills are overdue. The caller demands immediate payment through a prepaid cash or debit card to avoid having their electricity disconnected. The scammers then collect the value deposited on the card. A Southern California Edison spokeswoman said SCE employees will never ask for payment over the phone, in person at a customer’s business or residence, nor does SoCal Edison accept PayPal payments. Customers should never give out personal information over the telephone. Do not call back the number given to you; use the phone number on your electric bill. Customers suspecting a fraudulent call should ask for the caller’s name, department, and business phone number, and then they should call SCE at 800-655-4555 to report the incident. For more ways customers can stay safe, see the safety tips at www.sce.com.
A Landers woman was arrested Monday following a suspected drunk driving crash, in which officers discovered she had left her 7-month-old baby home alone. Per a Sheriff’s report, Erica Silva, 34, called 911 about 3 p.m. after she crashed her car on Winters Road near Sunburst Avenue. She told dispatchers she was unhurt, but she had been drinking and had left her baby at home alone so her daughter wouldn’t be in the car with her. Deputies went to her home in the 700 block of Fair Acres Road where they found the doors unlocked and the baby home alone with a soiled diaper and no food or water available. Child Protective Services took the child. Erica Silva was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence, and child endangerment, booked into West Valley Detention Center, with her bail set at $105,000.
Photo courtesy Scott Doten
A Yucca Valley man who said he was threatened with a gun by his daughter’s former boyfriend was arrested Monday when deputies determined he had warrants for his arrest. Sheriff’s reports say the daughter called the Sheriff’s Department about 9:20 p.m. to report that her ex-boyfriend had broken into her house about 9 p.m., forced her father, Daniel Mauck, 53, into a bedroom, held a gun to his head, and asked him if he wanted to live or die. By the time the daughter and deputies arrived at the home in the 7000 block of Prescott Drive of Yucca Valley, the suspect had fled. Mauck was uninjured, but deputies determined he had no-bail warrants for his arrest for drug paraphernalia, running a drug house, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was booked into the Morongo Basin Jail and is being held without bail. Deputies are searching for the man suspected of threatening Mauck.
As of April 1, the town of Yucca Valley is collecting a 1 percent sales tax, with a portion of the proceeds being used for town infrastructure and programs, and a portion to be used to lower the sewer assessment for residents. As part of the sales tax measures, the town council agreed to appoint a commission of residents to oversee the revenues and expenditures of the Measure Y and Measure Z funds. At last night’s meeting of the Yucca Valley Town Council, council members appointed seven residents to the Revenue Measure Oversight Commission. Managing editor Tami Roleff says the council changed up the recommendations made by the council’s own ad hoc committee for the commission…
An ad hoc committee composed of council members Jeff Drozd and Bob Leone went through 13 applications from town residents who’d like to serve on the town’s revenue oversight commission (which would oversee the revenues and expenditures of the Measure Y and Measure Z funds), and chose seven they recommended. But when Mayor Merl Abel noted that none of the ad hoc committee’s selections for commissioners lived in the Paradise Valley neighborhood, the council decided to throw out the slate of seven and vote on commissioners individually. Appointed for four-year terms ending in 2021 are Lori Herbel (Country Club neighborhood), Paul Hoffman, George Huntington (both Sky Harbor neighborhood), and Joanne Keiter (Western Hills). Appointed for two-year terms, ending in 2019, are Dale Charrette (Story Park), Larry Burge (Paradise Valley), and James Ricker (central Yucca Valley). Appointed as an alternate, in case one of the commissioners can’t fulfill the commitment, is Brad Napientek (Juniper Terrace/Story Park). The initial staggered terms are to ensure a quorum at the end of the first service term.
The Morongo Unified School District Board of Education holds a special meeting today to appoint an acting superintendent. A district spokeswoman told Z107.7 News, “The appointee will be filling in for Superintendent Tom Baumgarten who is out on ‘an extended sick leave.’” She declined to provide further details, except to say that Baumgarten’s leave is expected to last at least four weeks. The meeting gets underway 10 a.m. at district headquarters on Utah Trail in Twentynine Palms.
The regular, twice-monthly meeting of the Joshua Basin Water District is tonight. Reporter Mike Lipsitz has this preview…
Three discussion items are the focus of tonight’s meeting of the Joshua Basin Water District the board. First topic is on tank rehabilitation and associated costs. The second topic is covers estimated water loss in the system and actions planned to address the situation. And the final topic is a review of a water line replacement project in the La Brisa area and associated costs. Those items and others will follow public comments. The consent calendar, committee, staff and director’s reports come later. It all starts at 6:30 p.m. at district offices on Chollita Road in Joshua Tree.
After more than 17 years of dancing at the Yucca Valley Elks Lodge, the Star Twirlers Square Dance Club has lost its lease. Classes for line dance and square dance will now be held in the clubhouse at the Aztec Mobile Home Park on Church Street in Yucca Valley. The Star Twirlers will hold its line and square dance classes Thursday, April 6, at the clubhouse with line dance at 6, square dance at 7, and a square dance workshop for experienced dancers at 8. The cost is $5. The club is still looking for a location for its two monthly dances. For more information, call 760-365-3518 or check the club’s Facebook page.
The St. Joseph’s Players of Yucca Valley will perform “A Few Good Men” for the Marines aboard the Twentynine Palms Military Base this Saturday. Reporter Rebecca Havely has the details…
“A Few Good Men” finished its run at St. Joseph’s Church in Yucca Valley with rave reviews and standing ovations. The community theater troupe has volunteered to take the production to the Sunset Cinema Theater aboard the military base for one final performance. This Saturday, April 8, at 1 p.m.—by special arrangement with MCCS—the community theater troupe will perform the show live on stage. All military personnel are invited to attend free of charge.
The cast of “A Few Good Men”
If you are wondering what essential oils are all about, Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley will hold three free informational introduction classes. You’ll be able to experience the oils and see for yourself how many uses they have. Classes are set for 1 p.m. Thursday, April 6; 11 a.m. Monday, April 10; and 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 26. Rainbow Stew is located on the south side of the highway in Old Town Yucca Valley.
The Chaparral Artists’ Guild will hold its spring photo show at Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley from April 9 through May 10. Photographers are invited to bring in their work Thursday, April 6, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., or Friday, April 7, from 10:30 to noon. An opening reception will be held Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3. Rainbow Stew is located on the south side of Highway 62 in Old Town Yucca Valley.
In high school sports today, the Yucca Valley High School softball and tennis teams will host Desert Hot Springs at home. Softball and tennis both begin at 3:15 p.m.
Also today, the Twentynine Palms High School softball team will travel away to Thermal to play Desert Mirage High School. First pitch is at 3:15.