ACCUSED DOUBLE MURDERER IN COURT TODAY

The man accused of killing two Twentynine Palms women is in a Joshua Tree courtroom today, as the prosecution lays out its case against him in a preliminary hearing. Law enforcement officials believe Rafael Aikens, 22, a machine-gunner attached to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment aboard the Combat Center, shot and killed Christy McKissic, 32, and her mother Renee Metcalf, 62, in their home in the 7700 block of Bedouin Avenue just after midnight, March 24. Rafael Aikens is being held in jail on $3.5 million bail.

ATTEMPTED MURDER, ELDER ABUSE CHARGES ADDED TO YUCCA VALLEY MAN ARRESTED MONDAY FOR ASSAULT

A 33-year-old Yucca Valley man who was arrested early Monday morning after allegedly stabbing another man, faces an additional charge of attempted murder and elder abuse. According to a Sheriff’s report, deputies were called to the 7200 block of Palo Alto Avenue in Yucca Valley Monday afternoon where the grandmother of Drew Childs, said Childs tried to suffocate her in her bed with a pillow about 8:30 p.m. Sunday night. She said she managed to get him off her after three to four minutes, but then he tried again to suffocate her a second time. She told deputies she became light headed and thought she was going to die. She said Childs had also broken her cell phone prior to the incident. The woman had multiple bruises and scratches consistent with an assault. Childs is also accused of stabbing Osbaldo Ramirez with an unknown weapon a few hours later. Drew Childs was arrested for investigation of assault with a weapon, attempted murder, and elder abuse, with his bail set at $1,050,000.

THE PUBLIC IS INTERFERING WITH THE SEARCH FOR MISSING HIKERS

About 25 searchers were out again Wednesday looking for the missing hikers who disappeared in Joshua Tree National Park Thursday. The car of Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph 21, was found in the parking lot for this trail last Friday. Park spokesman George Land said the search will continue, despite 100-degree temperatures, high humidity, and thunderstorms, until the end of the week, but the chances of finding the missing couple alive diminishes each day. So far, six searchers have had to be rescued themselves due to heat-related illnesses. Some people are ignoring the notice that the Maze Loop Trail is closed, and are trying to search for Nguyen and Orbeso on their own. Land said not only do these unauthorized searchers mess up the couple’s tracks, but their presence leaves behind smells that confuses the search dogs and causes problems. Some residents are urging rescuers to use drones to search for the missing cople; drones are illegal inside national parks and helicopters and airplanes can’t fly when drones are in the air. Remember, the Maze Loop Trail and trailhead are closed to the public until the search is over. Help the searchers do their job by staying clear of the area.

DESERT SURVIVAL TIPS

While the likelihood of finding the Orange County couple alive diminishes each day they remain missing—and it’s highly unusual for people to remain missing this long—reporter David Haldane has some suggestions o, how to avoid—and if necessary, survive—becoming lost in the desert…

Imagine a nightmare scenario. You’re hiking in Joshua Tree National Park and get injured or lost. The temperatures are in triple digits and no one can find you. How do you survive?

It’s a question that’s been on lots of minds lately, especially since last week’s disappearance of a young Orange County couple. Ranger George Land has some potentially lifesaving suggestions.

First, he says, try to avoid that situation altogether by not overestimating your abilities. Leave early when it’s relatively cool, hike no more than three or four hours and, most importantly, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Stop by the visitor’s center on the way in for instructions and maps. Carry at least a gallon of water per person per day. Wear a hat and bandanna to cover your mouth. And if your car breaks down, stay with the car.

Not all tragedies can be avoided. But if you follow these simple rules, the ranger says, they’re less likely to occur.

VICTIMS UNCOOPERATIVE IN YUCCA VALLEY STABBINGS

Sheriff’s deputies are investigating two stabbings in Yucca Valley Tuesday evening. According to a Sheriff’s report, a woman called about 6:40 p.m. to report that a man came to her door in the 55300 block of Santa Fe Trail and stabbed a man, and screamed to the dispatcher, “He’s squirting blood.” She then said she’d been cut, too, and was bleeding. When deputies arrived, neither victim cooperated with the investigation and gave very little information. Both victims were taken to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs.

MARINE ARRESTED AFTER 130 MPH PURSUIT FRIDAY

A high-speed chase from Joshua Tree to Morongo Valley Friday night resulted in the arrest of a 20-year-old Marine from Ohio. According to the California Highway Patrol, just before 11 p.m. Friday, Officer Casey Simmons attempted to stop a blue 2006 Yamaha R6 sports bike on Highway 62 near Sunburst Street in Joshua Tree for speeding in a 45 mile-per-hour zone. The motorcycle rider, later identified as Jeremiah Armstrong, a corporal with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, sped off, accelerating to over 80 miles per hour through Joshua Tree. Armstrong, pursued by Simmons, Officer Ryan Swanson, and Sergeant Turner, sped through Yucca Valley, running red lights with his speed reaching 130 miles per hour, in an attempt to elude officers. As Armstrong drove down the Yucca Grade, his motorcycle began to blow out thick white smoke. Armstrong eventually stopped on the Morongo Grade, just west of Hess Bouelvard, where he surrendered to CHP officers without incident. Jeremiah Armstrong was arrested for investigation of felony evading, booked into the Morongo Basin Jail, and released Monday after his arraignment on $100,000 bail. His next court appearance is Wednesday.

SLOW DOWN TO SAVE ON FUEL COSTS

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation is the second highest family expense each month just after housing. And while you may not be able to do much about your monthly car payment, your fuel costs can vary widely based on your driving style. Reporter Mike Lipsitz offers some tips on how to save at the pump picked up online at GasBuddy.com, and one of them is don’t drive at 130 miles per hour like Jeremiah Armstrong…

Hard breaking and fast acceleration can lower your gas mileage by 20 percent or more. Speed is another major factor. As your speed increases, so does aerodynamic drag; driving 62 miles per hour rather than 75 will reduce fuel consumption by about 15 percent. Excess weight also lowers fuel efficiency, so remove unnecessary items from your vehicle. Don’t be a drag; team spirit is great, but cruising around with flags, rooftop ornaments, or anything else that changes your vehicle’s aerodynamics eats more gas. Next tip: Get out of the drive-through. As a general rule, shut off the engine if you expect to idle for more than one minute. Keep tire air pressure at the level recommended for your vehicle. A single tire under inflated by two pounds per square inch (PSI) increases fuel consumption by one percent. Find the recommended inflation pressure for your vehicle on a sticker inside the driver’s door area.

LIGHTNING CAUSES TWO FIRES IN MORONGO BASIN WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Morongo Basin firefighters were called out to two fires Wednesday night caused by lightning. About 11:45 p.m., Twentynine Palms firefighters went to the 74300 block of Pinon in Twentynine Palms for a palm tree that was on fire in the yard. Firefighters had the fire out in about 10 minutes. A Joshua tree fire in Joshua Tree was much more difficult to put out though. County Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle said firefighters were called about midnight to an area off the 8900 block of Willow. Calfire, who assisted Joshua Tree firefighters, hiked about a quarter-mile into the desert to get to the tree on fire. Tuttle said they were out there about three hours trying to put it out. The storm Wednesday night caused lots of flooding on the roads, but Tuttle said firefighters were not called out for any rescues.

LOW-COST SPAY AND NEUTER AND VACCINATION CLINICS OFFERED IN AUGUST

The Animal Action League will be offering low-cost vaccine and microchip clinics in August for dogs and cats, as well as low-cost spaying and neutering. No appointments are necessary for vaccines or microchips; appointments are required for spaying and neutering services. Microchips are only $15, and can help reunite you with your lost pet. Clinics will be held in Joshua Tree, west of the dinosaurs on Highway 62, on August 4, 5, 8, 9, 18, 24, 25, and 31, and in Desert Hot Springs’ Wardman Park on August 14, 16, and 21. All clinics are held from 10 to 2 and are cash only. Visit animalactionleague.us for more information. To make an appointment for spay or neutering, call 760-366-1100.

MOVIES IN LUCKIE PARK PRESENTS A FINAL SUMMER FEATURE “FINDING DORY”

The final free movie of the summer in Luckie Park is a new family favorite. Reporter Rebecca Havely has the details…

The City of Twentynine Palms presents the final free movie of the summer, “Finding Dory,” sponsored by Z107.7 and other Morongo Basin businesses. Thursday night, August 3, the movie begins at 8 p.m. at Luckie Park on the north side of the racquetball courts. Dory is a wide-eyed, blue tang fish who suffers from severe memory loss. The one thing she can remember is that she somehow became separated from her parents as a child. With help from her friends Nemo and Marlin, Dory embarks on an epic adventure to find her family.

Refreshments will be offered by the Twentynine Palms Youth Club. Bring your family and friends along with blankets and lawn chairs to the final free showing of the season.

HELP AVAILABLE FOR BENEFITS CLAIMS FOR DISABLED AMERICAN VETS

Morongo Basin veterans are invited to meet with a Disabled American Veterans service officer at Copper Mountain College. The service officer can help veterans file benefits claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The service officer will be available the first and third Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Office of Student Services. DAV membership is not required; there is no charge for the assistance; and reservations are not accepted. For more information, call 760-401-8131.