VICTIM IDENTIFIED IN TUESDAY’S FATAL PEDESTRIAN CRASH IN YUCCA VALLEY

The driver of the car that hit and killed a pedestrian in Yucca Valley yesterday never saw the victim until he was on his windshield, according to the Sheriff’s deputy who investigated the accident. Deputy Ryan Arthurton said Bruce Ball, 67, of Yucca Valley, was crossing Highway 62 near Barberry Avenue about 5:15 a.m. when he was hit by Anthony Ruddy, 48, of Yucca Valley. Ruddy was driving westbound on the highway about 40 to 45 miles per hour in the number 2 lane at the time. There is not a crosswalk at that intersection, although there are crosswalks at the intersections at Sage Avenue and Dumosa Avenue, just east and west of Barberry. Arthurton said it’s unknown which direction Ball was crossing the highway because Ruddy never saw him until he hit the windshield of his Toyota Corolla. The force of the impact sent Ball flying about 60 feet west of the intersection. Ruddy immediately stopped, called 911, and tried to render aid, but Ball died about 5 minutes later. Arthurton said neither drugs nor alcohol appear to be a factor in the crash.

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK CLOSES TRAIL DURING SEARCH FOR MISSING HIKERS

Joshua Tree National Park announced yesterday the temporary closure of the Maze Loop Trail and trailhead while searchers look for two missing hikers. Tuesday was the fifth day in the search for Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 21, of Westminster. The couple’s car was found Friday at the trailhead for the Maze Loop Trail, just inside the Joshua Tree entrance to the park, after the owner of the AirBnb where they were staying reported them missing. Park spokesman George Land told Z107.7 News that at one time, more than 100 searchers were looking for Nguyen and Orbeso, as well as six dog teams, two helicopters, and two airplanes, in temperatures of more than 100 degrees. Searchers spotted the hikers’ tracks, but the tracks disappeared in the rocky terrain. Land said that oftentimes lost hikers will start discarding clothing, empty water bottles, and other gear, but the searchers haven’t found any discarded items. The search dog teams go out early in the morning, often before sunrise, before it gets too hot for the dogs. The rain and thunderstorms Tuesday forced the grounding of the aircraft in the search for the hikers.

TIPS TO AVOID GETTING LOST IN THE DESERT

With the search for a pair of missing hikers reaching its sixth day, reporter Rebecca Havely offers these tips on how to avoid getting lost in the desert—or anywhere else…
It’s not uncommon for people to become lost or turned around in Joshua Tree National Park. Thankfully, most find their way out, or are rescued by searchers. First of all, if you’re going in the desert, let someone know beforehand where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and give them your cell phone number. County Fire Battalion Chief Mike Snow offered these tips to avoid getting lost. He urged visitors and hikers to be familiar with the areas where they are going. Many maps can be preloaded onto your smart phone and used even in places where there is no cell service. Download the map before you leave home. Snow also said hikers could use a GPS to track your route and mark your way points. Some phones also have GPS apps. And another tip: look behind you occasionally so you can recognize the trail when you return.

YUCCA VALLEY TOWN COUNCIL APPROVES HOME ENERGY FINANCING PROGRAM

The Town of Yucca Valley made it easier for town residents to get financial help for home energy improvements at their Council meeting last night. Managing editor Tami Roleff has more on the PACE and HERO programs…
It may be easier for Yucca Valley residents to make upgrades to their homes, thanks to action taken last night by the Yucca Valley Town Council. The council, with Mayor Merl Abel absent, voted unanimously to approve participation in the PACE program, which will allow residents to use the HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) program to finance upgrades of energy efficient, water efficient, and renewable energy improvements to their homes, and put the payments on their property taxes. Some of the projects that are eligible under the PACE program are solar; heating and air-conditioning upgrades; new roofs, windows, and doors; tankless water heaters; and climate-controlled irrigation systems. A spokesman for the PACE program described it as a contractors’ stimulus program, saying that $3.6 million in funding will result in $6 million in economic stimulus in the community. The minimum loan is $5,000, with a five-year loan of 2.99 percent available (other loan terms are also available). For more information about the PACE program, see RenovateAmerica.com or HERO.com, or call, seven days a week, 855-437-6411.

AN ARREST AFTER A STABBING AND THEFT IN YUCCA VALLEY

A 33-year-old Yucca Valley man suspected of stabbing another man after stealing items from a woman’s apartment was arrested Monday. Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Millan said the victim received a phone call about 1 a.m. from Drew Childs, who told her he was at her apartment in the 7100 block of Palo Alto and he had taken some items. The woman and her boyfriend, Osbaldo Ramirez, drove to her home where they confronted Childs in her living room. The two men got into an argument and Childs allegedly stabbed Ramirez in the neck with an unknown object. Childs then left the scene, but was located by deputies near Palo Alto and Alta Vista about 2 a.m. Drew Childs was arrested for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon, booked into the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $50,000. Osbaldo Ramirez was taken to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs for treatment.

DESERT HOT SPRINGS MAN ACCUSED OF SHOOTING A MAN 5 TIMES IN A HOME INVASION

Desert Hot Springs police have announced the name of the suspect who was arrested Sunday, accused of shooting a man multiple times during a home invasion robbery. Altonia Jackson Jr., 22, is accused of invading a home in the 9700 block of Vista Del Valle about 6:45 a.m. Sunday morning, and shooting the resident five times before fleeing on a motorcycle. Arriving police officers saw Jackson riding away and began a pursuit. He was eventually captured on Indian Avenue just south of the freeway in Palm Springs. Altonia Jackson was arrested for investigation of attempted murder, home invasion robbery, carjacking, using a firearm in the commission of a felony, felony evading, being in possession of stolen property, and concealing a firearm. Jackson was booked into the Riverside County Jail in Banning, with his bail set at $12,550,000.

Altonia Jackson Jr.

MORONGO BASIN RESIDENTS GETTING HIT WITH THE MEDICAL ALERT SCAM

Scam artists continue to rip off residents of our Morongo Basin. Reporter Sara Snyder warns about the medical alert scam…
A new twist to the telemarketing scam. With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free of charge because a family member or friend had already paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information to “verify” their identity, and, as a result, were charged the monthly service fee. The system, of course, never arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting refunded. The Sheriff’s Department says be wary of “free” offers that require your personal information upfront and always verify with the friend or family member that the caller says paid for the service.

LOCAL THEATERS HOLD THEIR OWN IN REGIONAL AWARD NOMINATIONS

The four local theater organizations of the Morongo Basin were nominated for a large share of the Desert Theatre League’s 2016-17 season “Desert Stars” awards, announced Tuesday. The Desert Theater League is made up of some 30 theatrical producing organizations in the hi- and low deserts. The Hi-Desert Cultural Center earned the lion’s share of nominations for local theaters with 35. Those nominations include professional, staged reading, and children’s theater categories, which the other three theaters do not all compete in. The Cultural Center’s kudos included 11 for “Godspell” and eight for the Youth Theater production of “Shrek Jr.” Theatre 29 showed well with 15 nominations, including eight for the production of “Mary Poppins.” The St. Joseph’s Players of Yucca Valley also had a great showing with 14 nominations, with “A Few Good Men” garnering 13. The Grove’s Theater in Morongo Valley received seven nods, five for “Exit Laughing.” With more of the awards, here’s managing editor Tami Roleff…
In addition to the nominations for outstanding live theater work, Jeanette Knight of the Hi-Desert Cultural Center was named the winner of the Michael Grossman Award for inspiration. Theatre 29’s President Gary Daigneault was awarded the Joan Woodbury Mitchell Award for advancing the theater arts, and Theatre 29’s director/costumer Kathryn Ferguson was given the Bill Kuhlman Award for contributions to theater not seen under the lights. The Desert Theatre League’s Desert Star Awards will be presented at a gala in Palm Desert on October 8. For more information, on the nominees, see http://deserttheatreleague.org/

FREE BACKPACKS AT “COMING BACK TO SCHOOL DAY” FRIDAY IN JOSHUA TREE

Back to school already? The Morongo Unified School District thinks so. And its way of getting ready for that August 21 first day of school is with a Coming Back to School Day this Friday. Among other things, new and returning students, accompanied by their families, will be able to pick up free backpacks, sign up for school lunches, get dental screenings and find out about services related to domestic violence. The program runs from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, August 4, at the Joshua Tree Sportsman’s Club on Sunburst Avenue.

VOLLEYBALL CLINIC OFFERED IN TWENTYNINE PALMS

The Twentynine Palms Parks and Recreation Department and the Twentynine Palms High School volleyball coaches will be offering a volleyball clinic to girls and boys entering fourth through seventh grades. The clinic will teach the fundamentals of the game as well as specific skills to help participants play the game with confidence. No previous experience is necessary to register. The camp will take place August 7 through August 10 at the Twentynine Palms High School Gymnasium from 5:15 to 7:15 p.m. The camp fee is $50 per person and includes a camp volleyball. Register online through August 4 at 29palms.org or by calling the Twentynine Palms recreation office at 760-367-7562.