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ALUMNI NOTEBOOK: NU grad Aycee Willis returns from injury, helps William Jessup top Arizona Christian

Aycee Willis, a 2017 Nevada Union graduate, returned to action for the William Jessup University women’s basketball team and helped the Warriors knock off conference foe Arizona Christian University, 66-56, Saturday night.

Willis, a junior guard, tallied nine points in her first game back after a thumb injury sidelined her for several contests.

The win was the third in a row in Golden State Athletic Conference play for the Warriors (13-7, 6-3), who currently sit in fourth place in the conference standings. The Master’s University (20-1, 8-1) and Westmont College (15-3, 8-1) are atop the GSAC with Vanguard University (14-3, 7-2) in third place.

For the season, Willis has started 15 of the team’s 20 games and is averaging 10.7 points per game.

During her time at Nevada Union, Willis was an All-Sierra Foothill League selection as a sophomore and helped the Lady Miners win a league title her freshman season.

She went on to be a standout at Sierra College where she was an All-conference selection and helped the Wolverines make the playoffs in consecutive seasons before transferring to William Jessup.

Meadow Aragon, a 2019 Nevada Union graduate, and the Western Oregon University Wolves took a couple losses last week, falling to conference combatants Northwest Nazarene University, 63-53, and Central Washington University, 70-50.

Aragon, a freshman forward, finished with four points and four rebounds against Northwest Nazarene. She tallied two points and grabbed three rebounds in the bout with Central Washington.

For the season, Aragon has played in all 15 of the Wolves’ games, averaging 3.1 points per game and 3.2 rebounds.

While at Nevada Union Aragon was a four-year varsity player, helping the Lady Miners reach the playoffs three times. She was an all-league selection as a sophomore and a junior, and was named the Foothill Valley League co-MVP her senior season.

Western Oregon (5-12, 2-8) is a Division II school which competes in the Greater Northwest Athletic Conference.

Men’s College Basketball

David Menary, a 2016 Nevada Union graduate, and the University of Redlands men’s basketball team powered past Whittier College, 105-86, Saturday.

Menary, a 6-foot, 5-inch senior forward, scored 13 points, dished out six assists, pulled down six rebounds and nabbed two steals in the victory. He was one of five Bulldogs to score in double digits.

Menary and Redlands also faced off with Chapman University last week. They trailed by 11 at halftime and made a spirited comeback, but came up just short, 82-78. Menary notched 15 points, four assists and three rebounds in the loss.

For the season, Menary is averaging a team-high 14.5 points per game to go with 4.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

Menary was a standout for the Nevada Union hoops program, playing three-years at the varsity level and helping the Miners reach the playoffs in the 2015-16 season. He earned All-Sierra Foothill League First Team honors in both basketball and volleyball his senior year at NU.

Redlands (11-6, 4-4) is a NCAA Division III school that plays in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs are currently tied for third place in conference play with Whittier (9-8, 4-4), Chapman (12-5, 4-4) and Cal Tech (6-11, 4-4). Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (14-3, 6-2) sits atop the standings.

David O’Looney, a 2019 Nevada Union graduate, and American River College went 1-1 in conference games last week, topping Sierra College, 60-54, and falling to Sacramento City College, 75-64.

O’Looney, a 6-7 freshman forward, tallied 14 points and eight rebounds in the loss to Sacramento. He had two points and six rebounds in the win over Sierra.

On the season, O’Looney is averaging 8.8 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game.

O’Looney was an All-Foothill Valley League selection in both basketball and golf in his senior year at Nevada Union.

American River (11-8, 6-3) competes in the California Community College Athletic Association’s Big 8 Conference. The Beavers are currently in third place behind leader Santa Rosa Junior College (16-5, 8-1) and Diablo Valley College (13-7, 6-2).

Have we missed anyone? If you know of a college or professional athlete with local ties, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.

Healthy You: 2020

Welcome to Healthy You: 2020

2 of 4 suspects in Grass Valley home invasion robbery take pleas

Two of the four suspects in a Nov. 27, 2018, home invasion robbery pleaded guilty Monday to one count of assault with a firearm, in return for a three-year prison sentence.

The trial for Giovannie Morrison, 39, and Alton E. Morrison, 38, was set to start Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court. They also were facing a charge of home invasion robbery, and could have faced a maximum sentence of 12 years if they had been convicted on both counts, Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee said.

Morrison and Edmondson both entered pleas of guilty pursuant to People v. West, meaning they do not admit to the charge. They are set to be sentenced on March 9.

The two remaining defendants — Christopher Brandon Mapp, 31, and Lorne Leroy Scott, 32 — are set to go to trial on Feb. 4.

The four men allegedly tied up people at a Pleasant Street residence before robbing them of 97 pounds of suspected pot and then fleeing in two separate cars. The resident freed herself and contacted police.

Placer County sheriff’s deputies received the description of one vehicle, stopping a silver Nissan occupied by Mapp and Scott at Highway 49 and Dry Creek Road and then stopping a brown Toyota occupied by Morrison and Edmondson.

After a preliminary hearing into the evidence, Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger ruled the detention of Morrison and Edmondson was illegal and that evidence found in their vehicle, as well as identification by the victim at the scene of their arrest, would not be allowed at trial.

The issue with the arrest of Morrison and Edmondson off Highway 49 in Auburn was the fact that they were in a vehicle whose description did not match the be-on-the-lookout advisory issued by the Grass Valley Police Department. Moments before, Mapp and Scott had been pulled over and detained in a silver sedan that did match the suspect vehicle description. Defense counsel argued successfully there was no legal basis for the traffic stop of the second car and the warrantless search of their vehicle.

“A good deal of evidence was suppressed” in the case against Morrison and Edmondson as a result of that hearing, Lisonbee said Monday. Lisonbee stressed that no plea offer has been made to Mapp or to Scott, who remain in the Nevada County Jail under $500,000 in bond each.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

‘Nothing is wasted when you’re pouring positivity into a child’; CASA volunteers find rewards in working with foster children

Nevada County has pulled something off that few, if any, other California counties have been able to do.

Every child who enters the foster care system in Nevada County is assigned a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA. Advocating for the county’s most vulnerable population, these volunteers serve as an invaluable resource by serving as a support system and voice for children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Yet in spite of the county’s high CASA participation, there is always a need for more, and the program is now accepting applications for the upcoming 35-hour CASA training, scheduled to take place from mid-March to mid-April.


While the children — who range in age from newborn to age 18 — receive services and care from many professionals, such as social workers and attorneys, case loads are large. By contrast, a CASA’s job is to focus on one child or sibling group. The CASA spends time listening to the child and learning about the child’s experiences and life in the family, foster home and school. Additionally, CASAs work collaboratively with social workers and attorneys to gather and share information that will help the court decide what course of action is in the best interest of the child.


Emerging statistics are encouraging. With a CASA, a child spends an average of eight fewer months in foster care and is half as likely to re-enter the child welfare system. Children with CASAs are also more likely to receive needed services, do better in school, and are more likely to find a secure and safe home.

Yet around the state, the need for CASAs has never been more dire. On any given day in Los Angeles County, there are roughly 30,000 children in foster care, with just 1,000 CASAs able to serve them. Statewide, only 17% of the 55,000-plus foster children are assigned a CASA, with the goal being a less-than-acceptable 30%.


“Our numbers are tiny as compared to other communities,” said Melinda Douros, Nevada County’s CASA program manager. “We are so fortunate to be the only county that serves every kid. We also have good retention when it comes to volunteers — about half have been with us more than four years. Some have been with us more than 10, and one for 22 years. But volunteers cycle in and out and there is always a need for more. There are currently about 50 active CASAs.”

CASAs are given authority by the court to examine educational and medical records, and to speak with teachers, doctors, therapists, family members and other service providers to help determine what is best for the child in his/her present situation and in the immediate future. Their work, said Douros, is expected to be neutral, open-minded, objective, and fact-based. CASAs are entrusted with a profound responsibility. Not only do they give information to the court to help determine what is in the child’s best interest, they identify resources that will help the child in the here and now.


“The most rewarding part about being a CASA has been building trust with a youth who has never had an opportunity to trust an adult,” said Suesan Larsen, a Nevada County CASA and former foster parent. “Showing up and doing what you say you’re going to do — that’s huge. Most of these kids don’t know what that feels like. It’s important for potential volunteers to know that we receive excellent support from case managers and the CASA director. You’re not in this by yourself — they’re always a phone call away.”

CASAs often work to find scholarships that enable kids in foster care to attend summer camp and other activities that remind them that foster care doesn’t define who they are. They help find donations of music lessons, sports equipment, prom dresses and tutoring, said Douros. They help arrange for extra-curricular activities like gymnastics and martial arts to empower the children and bring a sense of normalcy to their lives. They play Frisbee, eat ice cream, take walks and hang out with children who have often felt forgotten and powerless. CASAs help let children know they matter and that their voices can — and should — be heard.

“This is such a needed thing for these kids — I’ve seen lots of changes, all for the positive,” said Larsen. “It’s an honor to be a part of this program.”


CASA volunteers themselves are often changed as much as the children they serve, said Douros, as they develop a new understanding and compassion for victims of trauma, including the child’s family.

“Just watching CASAs find a way into these children’s hearts and make a palpable difference is very rewarding,” add Douros. “CASAs often ask, ‘Am I really making a difference?’ I tell them that nothing is wasted when you’re pouring positivity into a child. Believe me, it’s in there, and it always will be.”

For more information about becoming a CASA, visit www.ConsiderCASA.com, call Child Advocates of Nevada County at 265-9550, ext. 222, or email Melinda@caofnc.org. Community members interested in applying to the CASA program or finding out more about it can attend “Intro to CASA,” an informational meeting with CASA staff and Judge Candace Heidelberger at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at Child Advocates’ office, 200 Providence Mine Rd., Suite #210 in Nevada City.

The 35-hour training will take place between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, March 16 through April 22, (no class April 6 or 8) at the same location.

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

‘He’s been very strong’: Nevada Union High School student working toward recovery after snowboarding incident

Soccer, snowboarding, climbing, surfing, scuba diving — Ryan Bodine has jumped into a number of activities from a young age.

According to his mother, Yolanda Bodine, the Nevada Union High School senior hopes to engage in environmental studies in college — in part because surfing instilled him with an appreciation of the sea.

“He loves the ocean,” she said, “and the distress that the ocean is in right now has made him want to be a part of fixing that problem.”

On Jan. 20, Ryan went snowboarding at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, Yolanda said. On his first run he took a jump and overshot it, awkwardly landing on his sacrum and sustaining a C7 burst fracture, which is a severe spinal cord injury, said his father Rich Bodine.

Yolanda said after the incident Ryan’s friends and a ski patrol officer quickly ushered Ryan to the first aid area.

“Within an hour, he was in a helicopter and here in Reno,” Yolanda said by phone.

Since that day, Ryan has been at Renown Regional Medical Center in Nevada. He had surgeries to repair the damaged area, and to stabilize and relieve pressure from his spine, Rich said.

“The surgeon was excellent; it all went exactly as it was supposed to and the care has been phenomenal,” said Yolanda.

The support from family and friends back home in western Nevada County has also been substantial, with a number of his friends visiting Ryan in the hospital. On Jan. 22, a GoFundMe account was launched to help pay for Ryan’s medical expenses. The fundraiser had surpassed $42,000 as of Monday morning, had drawn 332 donations, and has been shared 1,500 times.

“We all know that our community is like none other when it comes to these situations, and everyone rallies to help each other — and we’ve had that same experience,” said Yolanda.

Prayers, Facebook messages and offers of food, lodging and financial support have inundated the family.

While the GoFundMe has been gaining steam, Rich said their goal of $100,000 is only a “drop in the bucket” of what will ultimately be needed to help Ryan recover medically.


Ryan Bodine’s parents say don’t have a complete picture of what that process will look like. But they do believe he will soon enter a 30-day live-in recovery facility at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

While in Reno, Rich said his son spent time speaking with Roy Tuscany, founder of the High Fives Foundation, a Truckee-based nonprofit working to improve the lives of individuals who have become disabled while engaging in sports activities.

“He’s been very strong,” said Yolanda, “and he’s understanding more and more what his limitations might be.”

Ryan’s parents still don’t know if their son will be able to walk again, but they said the possibility has not been ruled out.

“We’re very hopeful because he’s made a lot of progress in a short amount of time,” said Yolanda.

One thing the family does know: Ryan is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, which he hopes to reach by his birthday, March 28. To gain that status, he’ll have to complete his planned bicycle repair station at Western Gateway Regional Park in Penn Valley.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

Nevada City defense attorney named director of state association

Criminal defense attorney Stephen Munkelt is slowly wrapping up his private practice after representing defendants in Nevada County for more than 30 years. But that doesn’t mean he plans to enjoy some well-deserved leisure time.

Instead, Munkelt is already six months into a new position as executive director of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a statewide association of more than 2,000 criminal defense lawyers.

The association, Munkelt said, was formed in 1973 by a group of prominent defense attorneys in a post-Watergate climate of a criminal justice system becoming more punitive and less observant of defendants’ rights.

“They wanted to create an institutional voice for criminal defense and for the accused,” he said.

Munkelt — who passed the bar in 1978 and who then subsequently joined Defenders Inc. in San Diego — first learned of the organization while attending its annual seminar in San Francisco. He heard legendary defense attorneys Gerry Spence (who represented Karen Sllkwood’s family and defended Randy Weaver, among other high-profile cases) and Tony Serra (Huey Newton and, more recently, Derick Almena in the Ghost Ship fire case) speak on jury selection and the structure of the law.

“I do not think I have missed more than two of these seminars since then,” Munkelt said.

Going to the seminars hosted by the organization helped Munkelt feel less isolated after he moved to tiny rural Nevada County in 1987.

“It was often a lonely pursuit up here,” he said of the small number of criminal defense attorneys in practice locally. “It was a way to get support for my approach, to keep myself energized and inspired.”

Munkelt joined the board of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice in 2009, and was elected secretary in 2011, also serving on its legislative committee. He accepted the part-time executive director position last July.

‘The real deal’

“Several very, very impressive candidates applied,” said Jacqueline Goodman, the association’s past president. “In the end, it was an easy decision because we had seen what a remarkable lawyer, and a remarkable professional, he was.”

Goodman said California Attorneys for Criminal Justice is the main association for criminal defense attorneys in a state that produces some of the most highly regarded criminal defense lawyers in the country.

“The executive director has to be well-respected among the highest-caliber attorneys,” Goodman said. “Stephen really is somebody who is not putting on a show. He’s not fluff. He’s the real deal. … He always has some sage advice or an interesting take, he has always struck me as being smart and wise, which are not the same thing.”

Munkelt also has proven himself to be savvy and adept at the management aspect of the position, Goodman added.

“We made a very good choice,” she said.

“California Attorneys for Criminal Justice is the pre-eminent statewide organization for criminal defense attorneys,” local attorney David Alkire said. “They not only provide continuing legal education seminars, they also do important lobbying work in Sacramento in support of criminal justice reform. In order to have a new executive director of Munkelt’s stature is a great benefit.”

Munkelt said his interest in the position stemmed from a desire to reduce the amount of time he spent representing clients in court.

“This was an opportunity to do something new and refreshing, supporting goals I have been committed to my entire adult career,” he said.


Munkelt was not be able to pursue those goals right off the bat, however. He started right after one staff member left and the other went on vacation.

“I took over an office with nobody home,” he laughed.

Munkelt’s very first task became a personnel search. Next up: a complete redesign of the association website, which went live in November. Then, a revamping of outdated bookkeeping and accounting systems.

“I’ve spent an awful lot of my time building the infrastructure,” Munkelt said.

Now, he said, he will be able to turn his attention to helping the association’s committees become more active, assisting in lobbying efforts, strengthening ties with other state and national groups, and improving access to in-house legal education programs.

Recruitment of younger attorneys is a primary focus, Munkelt said, noting, “This generation of lawyers in their 30s, they don’t join organizations. … I have to figure out what resonates, to attract them.”

The association’s principal goals are two-fold, Munkelt said: Professional education, with seven seminars a year including one on capital cases, and legislation. The association wants California to adopt a jury selection protocol in death penalty cases that eliminates prosecutorial race and class bias, Munkelt said.

“The other top priority is to guide the bail reform process in California,” he said, “so that we have fewer people held in jail who have not been convicted of a crime.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

‘It’s more of a convenience yard’: Grass Valley Recycle decides to remain open in new format

Grass Valley Recycle stopped taking California Redemption Value products, canceled its contract with CalRecycle and cut off its phone line.

In November, the company had planned to close its doors because “the scrap metal market crashed,” said Doug Bigley, president of Celestial Valley Ventures, Inc and owner of Grass Valley Recycle. Today, there’s still no money in it, he said.

The recycling outlet stopped taking cardboard, and a few months ago Bigley said he was considering renting the space out to a number of interested parties.

But over time Bigley found that Grass Valley Recycle was able to sustain itself by collecting small electronic waste products (like printers), mattresses, ferrous and non-ferrous metals — but not purchasing items.

“It just kind of happened that way,” said Bigley. “We’re more of a convenience yard.”

Now, Grass Valley Recycle is not taking California Redemption Value products and still does not have a phone line, but it is open in conjunction with Celestial Valley Towing, which accepts cars, scrap metal, RVs and more.

“We’re basically not buying anything,” said Bigley.

The recycling space phased out its weekend hours, remaining open only during the week.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

Dr. Jeff Kane: Getting our money’s worth in healthcare

Raising the subject of healthcare inevitably cranks up the arguments: Obamacare, single-payer, private insurance, who’ll pay and for what. A subtler but more difficult issue, though, is healthcare’s very purpose. Unless we address that, we’re headed toward bankrupting ourselves with little benefit, no matter what our payment plan.

Let me explain. We Americans made a billion medical visits in 2018 and walked away with prescriptions seven out of ten times. We’re getting plenty of healthcare—and paying more for it, by the way, than patients in any other developed country—so why is our national health declining?

And declining it is. Our infant mortality rate, a standard marker of a country’s overall health, now ranks 55th best among nations. Our life expectancy famously rose over the past century, but dropped in each of the last several years.

We’re less healthy because we address illness’ end-stage manifestations while ignoring its causes. As your doc I might be able to patch up that organ that fizzled out, but why it fizzled is literally none of my business. This narrow focus essentially band-aids patients and then returns them to the same conditions that brought them in in the first place. We may as well try cleaning the creek without considering the pig farm upstream.

Let’s look at how this works. Life expectancy, for example, is decreasing mainly due to deaths from drug overdoses— a number that in 2017 was twice that of motor vehicle deaths. A further drop in expectancy results from an increase in liver disease, principally alcoholic cirrhosis. Add the rise in our suicide rate, up by a full third since 1999. (In contrast, during the same period the global suicide rate declined by almost 30%.)

Drug overdoses, alcoholism, and suicide: endpoints of misery. The numbers shout that a lot of us are mortally unhappy.

The happiest folks, the ones at the other end of the spectrum, don’t self-destruct, and many of those in-between do, but slowly. In the early 1970s 15% of us were clinically obese, thus risking several serious illnesses. By 2008 34% of us were obese. In the early 1970s no states had an adult obesity rate greater than 25%; now thirty-two states do. Ninety percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. (Reducing personal sodium by 1,200mg per day could save up to $20 billion a year in hypertension treatment and other medical costs.)

I could mention other dietary hazards, insufficient exercise, immersion in stress and pollution, on and on, but you get my drift. In lemming numbers we’re damaging ourselves and then asking healthcare to clean us up. That institution responds as it’s now tooled, with glamorous technologies at prime expense. But even the most impressive imaginable machines can’t amend a lifestyle any more than we can glue together a broken promise. Too often today’s healthcare amounts to enabling illness-causing behavior rather than increasing health.

So what’s to be done? We can start by recognizing that this frustrating situation stems from a cultural delusion. We act as though much of our behavior isn’t under our control and in any case needn’t be our responsibility since medical panaceas, as marketing tells us, are constantly in the pipeline. “Ask your doctor,” the ads may as well say, “if this medication will repair your life.”

It’s astonishing that our current healthcare system sees illness as occurring in a vacuum. Sure, some of it may be random, but a great fraction results from personal choices and inequities. So augmenting health can’t be just up to docs. Hopefully, the recognition that our national health is declining will encourage all of us to see beyond simply who will pay and for what.

Jeff Kane is a physician and writer in Nevada City.

United Way of Nevada County raffles off Disneyland getaway

United Way of Nevada County is raffling off a trip to Disneyland as one of their fundraisers. The raffle prize includes round-trip airfare for two on Jet Blue, five one-day park hopper passes to Disneyland and a $500 Disney gift card to use on accommodations or for purchases at participating Disney locations.

Tickets are available at B&C Ace Home & Garden, The Union and through the United Way of Nevada County office. For more information, or to arrange the purchase of tickets from our office, contact the local office at 530-274-8111 or admin@uwnc.org. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20. The drawing will be held on Feb. 14. Ticket holders need not be present to win.

All proceeds go to United Way of Nevada County, which focuses on the basic needs of the community (access to health care, food and emergency shelter). United Way’s vision includes a community where all individuals and families achieve their desired potential through healthy lives, education and income stability.

Gaylor Spurgeon: Iran knew exactly what it fired on

In response to Jim Warren’s tirade (letter to the editor on Jan. 22) of such an asinine suggestion that President Trump is somehow, someway, over the rainbow responsible for the shooting down of Flight 752 (PS752) after the brilliantly, successful tactical accomplishment of taking out one of the utmost threatening terrorist of our time is ludicrous.

Current radar with today’s technology, profiles air traffic. You can get an app for your smartphone that does that! The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps knew exactly what they fired on. A cruise missile they say? Really? The flight had just taken off. A visual would have told them that it wasn’t a cruise missile.

A big thank you goes to President Trump and our military for saving thousands of lives by preventing the terroristic actions of a sadistic general.

Gaylord Spurgeon

Penn Valley