At the Lake: Murder suspect in court
During both his entrance to and exit from the courtroom, accused murderer Ramiro Vazquez Galicia blinked a lot, as if stepping into a bright room.
Or being on the verge of tears.
Galicia didn’t cry, though, and said little during his hearing Tuesday in Tahoe Township Justice Court as his attorney, Tod Young, said he needs time to consider a deal from prosecutors, examine the case and look into the law.
Vazquez Galicia, 36, remains in jail.
A preliminary hearing remained scheduled for the afternoon of March 15. In a preliminary hearing, similar to a shortened trial with witness testimony, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence to keep the case going.
Young said he will know by Friday whether the offer will be accepted.
Vazquez Galicia was arrested in November when he phoned authorities from a motel lobby saying he wanted to turn himself in after the body of his estranged girlfriend, Jazmin Gonzalez-Morgado, was found in a room on the eighth floor of Horizon Casino Resort.
According to court documents, Vazquez Galicia told investigators he hid in the closet of a room on the eighth floor, where the 22-year-old Gonzalez-Morgado worked as a housekeeper, with a plan to cover her mouth with duct tape so he could speak to her.
The plan faltered, and a bloody hammer, bloody scissors, a wig, two rolls of duct tape, a utility razor and a note were found in the room along with the woman’s body, according to court records.
Evan Garcia, an alleged accomplice and once charged with accessory to murder, will appear in court the same day and for the same reason as Vazquez Galicia. Garcia’s preliminary hearing will be in the morning. He is charged with a misdemeanor of conspiracy to violate a restraining order.
When former South Tahoe High softball coach Rich Barna learned that Whittell had an opening, he didn’t waste any time in starting the employment process. He talked with school administrators, filled out paperwork and, with his experience, was offered the job pretty quickly.
Then came the last step.
“I had to talk with the real boss after that,” Barna said. “I ran it by my wife and she supported it all the way. Now here I am.”
Barna, who resigned from STHS following the 2005 season due to time constraints, inherits a team that lost only one player off last year’s squad that qualified for the Northern 2A regional tournament. Four returning Warriors were either first- or second- team all-league selections, led by junior Abby Kingman, senior Megan Esquivel and junior Austyn Harrington.
Kingman, who has been voted all-state her first two seasons, hit .551 with 20 runs scored last year. Esquivel, meanwhile, led the team with a .552 average and hit two home runs with 19 runs scored.
Harrington is considered the team’s top pitcher, while sophomore Justin Pritzker and Kingman round out the staff. Joan Browne was a second-team selection and is one of the league’s top returning infielders.
“We have a lot of talent on this team and I think we can go all the way,” said Esquivel, who will split her time between catcher and first base. “We have a pretty good starting lineup. Probably our only weakness is that we have a lot of young players, but it’s just going to take them time.”
Although Whittell went 5-14 last season and lost its first two games in the regional tournament, it returns more starters than any other team in the league. The Warriors, though, still have to contend with Battle Mountain, the defending league and state champion that boasts returning league and state player of the year Aranxta Kovis.
Barna, who spent six years as South Tahoe’s varsity coach, has already instilled a level of confidence in his new players.
“He’s a good coach and he does well with us and teaches us new drills,” Harrington said. “We’re going to be able to hit Battle Mountain this year. We weren’t able to do that last year, so I think we can do really well.”
With all the talk of improving transit service, the South Lake Tahoe-area operator of the BlueGo bus service has been hit with an ultimatum that may run its legal course.
The city is ordering a business and financial plan from the new owner of the bus company, Area Transit Management, and it could be in breach of its contract with the city ” which owns the property on Shop Street where the business operates.
The city provides state transportation funds to its transit franchisee in the amount of $685,000, along with El Dorado County’s $320,000. And the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency serves as a conduit for staffing expertise and replacement bus funding. As of two weeks ago, the bistate regulatory agency tasked with preserving Lake Tahoe clarity had secured $2 million to move the vehicles into a clean-burning diesel technology.
Plans aside, Area Transit Management has until April to deliver the city its request, as the rift has been turned over to the company’s and the city’s respective legal departments.
“They’ve been put on notice. We’re not going to let this go on forever. We spend thousands of dollars for this service,” City Manager Dave Jinkens said Tuesday. The city requested the information a few months ago.
ATM changed hands from longtime President Ken Daley to Andrew Morris in November for an undisclosed amount.
And the city contends it needs to know more to approve such a turnover under its contract agreement of August 1996.
In a letter to former owner Daley, the sale requires providing the city with a business plan, signatures and legal names and corresponding information of all parties whose names have an ownership interest, a financial statement from a certified public accountant, a listing of assets, a current credit report, a copy of the sales transaction, management detail, preliminary plans and a resume of Morris.
The latter two Morris said he’s provide in a letter.
But Daley’s attorney, Jeff Rahbeck, disagreed with the other demands.
“It’s our position (the city doesn’t) approve the transaction,” Rahbeck said Tuesday.
Daley declined to comment about the amount of the transaction or the legal matter at hand.
But the issue may not rest until it comes before the City Council come April. The change of hands requires council approval, Jinkens and Councilman Bill Crawford contend.
“The new owner has to disclose his capacity to run this business,” said Crawford, an avid critic of the BlueGo bus service.
Many seek changes, including more reliable pick-up hours and a pilot program that provides free service to the disabled, something that David Kelly, BlueGo advocate and spokesman for the Tahoe Area Coordinating Council for the Disabled, endorses.
And San Francisco is now talking about offering fare-free public transit rides known as its “Muni” bus system, according to Tuesday’s report by the San Francisco Chronicle. But the costs would have to be evaluated.
“The problem is the money,” said Kelly, after pitching the city to put more funding into the program.
The BlueGo program, once deemed a $4 million venture, has undergone its reductions in routes and other services, and Kelly said the result is showing.
The lack of money is something Morris said he understands completely. The new owner has major expansion plans he’d like to implement, but he contends there’s only so much to go around “especially with the cost of maintenance.
“There are no breaks for these buses,” he said of the demanding schedule.
The former Davis resident, whose background is in waste management, pledged he would write the city a letter indicating who he is, what he’s done and what he’d like to do for ATM. He’s kept Daley on as a consultant for a year until the things have been ironed out.
He wants to expand the service, buy more buses and add more stops.
“It’s all driven by funding, or the service is not going to be there,” he said.
While a recent set of storms brought several feet of snow to the Lake Tahoe Basin, snowpack levels remain well below average.
Currently, the snow-water equivalent at Marlette Lake is 54 percent of normal, said Gary Barbato, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service, Reno. Even though the latest storm added almost 20 percent to the snow-water equivalent level (which was 38 percent on Feb. 21), it is unlikely that we will reach normal levels for the season this month.
Snow-water equivalent is measured by a “SNOTEL,” which weighs the snow and computes the amount of water in the snow based on a ratio of depth and weight.
“If it’s a cold storm, you’re going to have light snow with not much water; if it’s a warmer storm, the snow will be heavy and wet,” Barbato said. “The snowpack is our water supply so you want water in the snow.”
Unfortunately, we’re not expected to get much more snow at least for the next few weeks.
“In order to get up to normal, you’d need more than three times the average precipitation for March,” Barbato said. “We’re getting into the time of year where the sun is getting stronger, the days are getting long ” it’s not ideal for snow, but it’s not impossible.”
There is a possibility that the end of March could bring us close to average ” especially if the weather mimics that of last month, when precipitation reached 133 percent of normal due to storms that occurred in the last week.
“We got a healthy dose of winter about the last week of February and that’s about it,” said Dan Greenlee, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We typically peak April 1 and the forecast I’ve seen shows warm, dry weather for the next few weeks so we may be living with the snowpack we have right now.”
Living with the snowpack means drinking and using the water it produces.
“We will probably be okay ” the reservoirs are fairly full,” said Kerry Garcia, assistant director of USGS NV Water Science Center. The Lake Tahoe Basin will be fine because lake level has not been significantly affected by this year’s dry winter. Likewise, Reno’s water supply comes from Lake Tahoe and several other reservoirs in the region, so residents need not worry.
“Carson is a little different because once the upstream runoff ends, there is no reservoir for the rivers, so farmers who use that water for irrigation might face a shortage,” Garcia said. He noted that drinking water in the Carson Valley comes from groundwater, which is not likely to be affected by one dry season.