PROSECUTION LAYS OUT ITS CASE AGAINST ACCUSED DOUBLE MURDERER

The prosecution laid ots its case yesterday against a Marine accused of killing two women in Twentynine Palms March 24. Reporter David Haldane was in court and files this story…

Rafael Aikens will stand trial for double murder. That’s the upshot of yesterday’s preliminary hearing at which the prosecution outlined its case against the 22-year-old Marine machine-gunner accused of killing Christy McKissic, 32, and her mother, Renee Metcalf, 62, both of Twentynine Palms. Prosecutor Shannon Faherty called four witnesses, all homicide detectives with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The gist: an eyewitness identified Aikens as the killer from a police photo lineup; a close friend told investigators that Aikens had spoken of killing two people; and a handgun Aikens gave to another friend to clean was later identified by a firearms expert as the murder weapon.

Rafael Aikens

Detective Brian Chambers

Detective Lisa Guerra

Detective Nichola Clark

Defense attorney Donald Calabria offered no witnesses on Aikens’ behalf.

Arraignment was set for August 17 in Joshua Tree Superior Court.

DESERT HOT SPRINGS WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN HOME FOLLOWING FIRE

The body of a Desert Hot Springs woman and her dogs were found in her home following a fire Thursday morning. Firefighters responded to the 9200 block of Calle De Vecinos about 8:30 a.m. As firefighters entered the home, they found the body of Jane Engel, 70, and her dogs. Fire investigators are working to discover the cause of the blaze and the woman’s death.

YUCCA VALLEY MAN ACCUSED OF BURGLARIZING HIS NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE

A Yucca Valley man was arrested Wednesday, accused of burglarizing his neighbor’s home. According to a Sheriff’s report, the resident of a home in the 57400 block of Hillcrest Drive came home from vacation and realized his house had been burglarized while he was gone. The resident checked his security camera and saw that his neighbor, identified as Robert Schmidt, 44, entered his home and stole a DVD player, phone chargers, and other items. When deputies questioned Schmidt, the report states that Schmidt admitted to entering the home and could tell deputies where each item had been in the house. Robert Schmidt was arrested on suspicion of burglary, and for violating post-release community supervision, and booked into the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $25,000.

THE SEARCH PROCESS FOR MISSING PEOPLE

It’s been a week since an Orange County couple went missing in Joshua Tree National Park, and searchers are still scouring the area where their car was found. Searchers from the national park, the Sheriff’s Department, Border Patrol, and Joshua Tree Search and Rescue are searching the Maze Loop Trail in a GPS/grid pattern. The searchers on the ground go out and search an area in a very systematic way, by putting in their GPS coordinates, searching the area in a grid pattern, then going back to the command post where they are debriefed. The support people at the command post then determine where to continue the search or if more searchers should go back and search the area again. For more information about getting involved in search and rescue, go to josar.org. Support people who plan the mission and work the maps and radios are needed just as much as the ground pounders who perform the actual search.

EAGLES TRIBUTE BAND AT TORTOISE ROCK CASINO TONIGHT

Tonight’s Live at the Rock free concert series will make you want to check in to the “Hotel California” with The Eagle’s tribute band “Heartache Tonight.” Reporter Mike Lipsitz says they look and sound like The Eagles, but “Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes”…

“Heartache Tonight,” The Eagles tribute band, is tonight’s featured band at the free 8 p.m. concert series at Tortoise Rock Casino in Twentynine Palms. Now in its third season, “Live at the Rock” presents a new tribute band on the outdoor stage each Friday night through October. “Heartache Tonight,” brings together music from all eras of this huge rock powerhouse that has over four decades of hits like “Life In The Fast Lane,” “Take It Easy,” and “Hotel California.” In the coming weeks catch the Live at the Rock tributes to Pink Floyd, Green Day, Nirvana, and Foo Fighters.

ANOTHER OBSTACLE FOR CADIZ PIPELINE PLAN?

The plan to pump water from an aquifer in Cadiz and sell it to Southern California cities hit another bump in the road this week. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power urged the L.A. City Council on Tuesday to support a bill, AB1000, in the state legislature that would strengthen safeguards for desert groundwater so that water transfers don’t negatively impact natural or cultural resources. The LADWP board president told the council that “the risks to the desert don’t justify whatever profits or potential jobs might be gained from taking water out of this important desert aquifer.” Cadiz Incorporated owns 24,000 acres surrounded by the Mojave Trails National Monument and uses water in the aquifer below it to irrigate various crops. It plans to pump out 16 billion gallons of water a year and send it to the LA area by piping it alongside a railroad. A spokeswoman for Cadiz said the LADWP’s presentation to the city council was not accurate concerning the “scientific, engineering, environmental, or legal aspects of the project.” Cadiz and claims the project would not harm the desert in any way. She added that 18 water agencies and organizations oppose AB1000; Joshua Basin Water District originally opposed the bill until the bill’s author agreed to amend the bill’s language to exclude water agencies from the bill’s provisions.

PORTION OF HIGHWAY 62 CLOSED IN AUGUST FOR WATER MAIN WORK

The Hi-Desert Water District will be replacing a water main on Highway 62 this month. The far right eastbound lane will be closed between Camino del Cielo and Kickapoo Trail from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays until August 31.

COTTONWOOD ENTRANCE TO JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK CLOSED DUE TO FLOODING

The Cottonwood entrance to Joshua Tree National Park is closed due to flooding, following the heavy rains this week. Park personnel are at the scene with heavy equipment to clear the road and repair the damage caused by flooding, and the road is expected to open sometime today.

BIG BAND CONCERT IN YUCCA VALLEY SATURDAY

Enjoy the sounds of Big Band music at Saturday’s concert in the park in Yucca Valley. Reporter Sara Snyder says this weekend’s band is the Ted Herman Orchestra, all the way from Palm Springs…

Saturday’s band at the Yucca Valley summer concert series features the Big Band sounds of the Ted Herman Orchestra. Ted Herman has been playing since 1963, and has played with some of the biggest names in the business: Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Prestey, and Liza Minelli. Enjoy the cool desert evening on the grass at the Yucca Valley Community Center. The gates open at 6:30 p.m.; the music starts at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair. Dogs are allowed on the upper soccer field only. The final concert next week features The Answer on August 12.

FUTURE OF THE GODDESS MOVEMENT AT RAINBOW STEW TOMORROW

A cross-cultural presentation about the future of the goddess movement is the final class in a series in the Women’s Heritage Project. Led by docu-filmmaker Meloney Hudson, the class will be held at Rainbow Stew on Saturday, August 5, starting at 10:30 a.m. A donation of $25 is requested, but no one will be turned away. For more information or to register, call 323-504-0260.

ART RECEPTION AT HOSPITAL TONIGHT

Hi-Desert Medical Center, in partnership with Hi-Desert Cultural Center, is holding an art reception for its art galleries at the hospital. Join them tonight at 5 p.m. to celebrate and support our local artists. Featured artists will be Joan Scott, Esther Shaw, and Krista Wargo.

RESERVE TICKETS FOR AUGUST IMPROV SHOW AT THEATRE 29

Theatre 29’s improv troupe, The Baker’s Dozen, has had wildly successful performances with enthusiastic audiences filling the theater to overflow capacity. Reporter Rebecca Havely has your invitation to its next performance next week…

The Baker’s Dozen improv troupe, directed by Chris Fleischman is a top notch cast of improvisers and special guest artists. Their next performance is Friday, August 12 at 7 p.m. Book your tickets now as they will sell out. The players will take the audience through a series of hysterical improvisational games where anything can happen and usually does. The troupe will gather suggestions from the audience as a source of inspiration to get started. Tickets are $10 each, military and seniors are $7 and $5 for students with ID. The show is rated PG13. For tickets visit theatre29.org or call the theatre 29 Box Office at 760-361-4151. The troupe will also perform September 23, October 28, November 11, and December 30.

MEALS AT VFW THIS WEEKEND

The Joshua Tree Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7264 will serve up a fish and chips dinner tonight, (Friday, August 4) from 4 to 6 p.m. Two pieces of fish are $7; three pieces are $8. Sunday’s breakfast is Kenny’s chicken fried steak from 8 to 11 a.m. And don’t forget Taco Wednesday from 11 to 1. The Post is located at 6402 Veterans Way in downtown Joshua Tree.

FREE MEAL IN TWENTYNINE PALMS SATURDAY

Reach Out Morongo Basin will prepare and serve a meal of green chicken enchiladas, salad, and dessert Saturday for Food For Life. The meal will be served from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Church of the Nazarene across from Del Taco in Twentynine Palms.

CAR WASH TO BENEFIT TWENTYNINE PALMS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

The Twentynine Palms High School football team will be hosting a car wash tomorrow, Saturday, August 5, from 8 to 1 at the Bowladium in Twentynine Palms. Proceeds from the car wash will help the team buy new uniforms.