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Nevada County police blotter: Caller reports homeless people camping, defecating near business

GRASS VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT

7:31 a.m. — A caller from the 1800 block of East Main Street reported that a pedestrian was hit by a car at the intersection. The condition of the pedestrian was not specified, and a police report was taken of the incident.

11:55 a.m. — A caller from a rehabilitation center on the 200 block of Gates Place reported a client that was being verbally violent, yelling at staff and pounding on walls. The individual later left the facility before police arrived.

4:09 p.m. — A caller from the 100 block of Neal Street reported an unknown man who she claimed had been following her around and staring at her all day.

6:50 p.m. — A caller from a business on the 2000 block of Nevada City Highway said that someone had stolen an air purifier from their business and that they had video surveillance of the theft. A police report was taken of the incident.

9:31 p.m. — A caller from a business on the 800 block of Sutton Way reported that there were numerous homeless people in the area who were illegally camping and defecating near the business. Police responded and had them move along.

NEVADA CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT

2:54 p.m. — A caller from Highway 49, near Gold Flat Road, reported a vehicle that was speeding and dangerously swerving all over the roadway. The car was described as a green Chevrolet SUV.

4:43 p.m. — A caller from a gas station on Sacramento Street, near Prospect Street, reported that an intoxicated man was harassing her and her boyfriend.

— Stephen Wyer

Nevada County school district hit by destructive TikTok trend, sees surge in school fights

A viral social media trend that purportedly encourages students to destroy school bathrooms and engage in other forms of destructive behavior has made its mark in Nevada County, even as school district administrators say that they are also dealing with a notable surge in physical altercations between students.

The TikTok trend, which has been sweeping schools across the nation in recent weeks, according to NPR, has caused enough damage and disruption at Nevada Union High School that school principal Kelly Rhoden sent out an email earlier this week pleading with students and parents to help put a stop to the trend, which she said has cost the school time and money to address.

“There is a significant uptick in daily destruction to student restrooms and other locations on campus,” Rhoden said in the email. “The issues we face every day in our restrooms are becoming an epidemic after the recent TikTok challenge to destroy school bathrooms were seen on our campus … We are asking parents to have conversations with their student(s) about the issues around negative social media, negative TikTok crazes.”

Students who engage in the TikTok trend typically damage school facilities, most often bathrooms, while using the hashtag “deviouslick” or “deviouslicks“ to gain attention for their actions.

On Wednesday, Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden said Nevada Union has had to temporarily close numerous bathrooms on campus due to students damaging or destroying installations such as faucets, soap dispensers, mirrors and toilets. While McFadden echoed Rhoden in asking parents for help, he also lambasted TikTok itself for failing to take any significant action to put a stop to the trend.

“I think we have to talk about the irresponsibility of TikTok and other social media outlets in allowing this to go on,” McFadden said, expressing disappointment at what he argued has been a lack of internal accountability on the part of the application’s developers.

“Venues like TikTok are really reaping the rewards of this situation while the rest of us are left to clean up the mess … it’s irresponsible from a public standpoint, because school districts are having to spend taxpayer money to respond to this issue — the question I ask is, where is the accountability on the part of these entities?”

FIGHTS

In addition to dealing with damage to facilities resulting from the social media trend, Rhoden and McFadden both said the school district has also seen a recent rise in physical fights between students on campus, mostly at Nevada Union and Silver Springs high schools.

In most cases, these altercations have been successfully deescalated by campus security and school staff, although administrators have had to contact the Sheriff’s Office on multiple occasions, McFadden said.

While declining to go into more specifics on the specific incidents due to concerns regarding student privacy, McFadden said the surge in school fights can be linked to the social isolation students experienced for over a year between 2020-21, when schools statewide were closed due to the pandemic.

“We’ve had an increase in the number of altercations between students in the last two weeks … and really we’re seeing that happen all over state and the nation, as students come back after being gone for more than a year … they’re all relearning how to operate, how to interact, on a high school campus,” McFadden said, noting that many new students in the district are attending in-person high school this semester for the first time as a result of the school shutdowns.

While Bear River High School has been able to avoid the uptick in school fights experienced at Nevada Union and Silver Springs, the school has not been spared from the destruction caused by the TikTok craze, said Principal Chris Roberts.

Like its sister schools, Bear River’s bathrooms have been a scene of chaos in recent weeks, with toilets plugged with paper, soap dispensers destroyed, and restroom walls struck with graffiti, Roberts said, adding that the damage has taken a tremendous toll on the school’s custodial and maintenance staff who have to clean up the mess.

While Bear River, like Nevada Union and Silver Springs, has been able to successfully identify and penalize a number of the student perpetrators behind the damages, Roberts said his administration’s approach to handling such incidents has been to emphasize education and “restorative practices” — making students understand the consequences their actions have while generally avoiding draconian punishments.

One classroom exercise that Roberts said he conducted recently was to ask students how they would feel about a rival high school‘s students coming to Bear River’s campus and destroying or damaging school facilities. The principal said that the response to the question was overwhelming — students uniformly insisted that such actions should meet with the strictest of punishments.

“So then I said, well let’s flip the script — how would you feel about that same question if it was people in our own student body that were doing this? And the whole room got real quiet,” Roberts said. “We agreed that as bad as that kind of behavior would be, it’s that much more disrespectful and disloyal to your school for you to be engaging in those actions.”

Like McFadden, Roberts agreed that the uptick in such destructive behaviors has a lot to do with the social isolation that students experienced as a result of the pandemic. He also agreed with the superintendent that app developers such as TikTok should be taking more accountability for the harm that these trends cause in communities such as Nevada County.

“…It’s extremely irresponsible for (TikTok) to allow this stuff to continue, knowing that it’s a national issue and that it’s causing these kinds of problems,” the principal said.

Punitively, McFadden and Roberts said that some of the students caught engaging in damaging bathrooms had been issued disciplinary warnings or even suspended. Both urged parents to take extra time to monitor their children’s social media use and to not hesitate in talking to their them about social media issues such as the TikTok trends.

At a districtwide level, Roberts said that all of the high schools are holding mandatory advisory periods at least once a week, as part of what the principal called “re-socialization” efforts aimed at re-acclimating students to in-person academic life. As a part of this initiative, Roberts said that Bear River students meet with teachers one-on-one every Monday to discuss not just academic issues but life in general, in an attempt to help students feel included in the overall school community.

“We want to give teachers the opportunity to connect with students on a different level, not purely academic but more social … in these meetings we talk about team building, the impact your actions have on others, and the common good … we’re really taking this stuff to another level,” Roberts said.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Man convicted in sex abuse case sentenced to 280 years to life

A Nevada County man is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being found guilty of sexually abusing and assaulting a former domestic partner over a prolonged period.

On Tuesday, Wesley Carl Panighetti, 62, was sentenced to 280 years to life in state prison, after having been convicted on nine different felony charges earlier this year. Panighetti was formally convicted on three counts of forcible sodomy, two counts of forcible oral copulation, one count of criminal threats, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of attempting to dissuade a witness, and one count of battery upon a protected person, Nevada County District Attorney Jesse Wilson said.

Described by one prosecutor as “every woman’s worst nightmare,” Panighetti had been accused of victimizing his former partner during the course of an intermittent relationship that culminated in an incident of sexual assault, which prompted the victim to contact law enforcement.

Panighetti’s criminal history — which included two separate strike offenses in accordance with California’s three-strikes law — combined with the gravity of the charges that he was convicted on, both played a role in the court’s decision to hand down the 280-year to life sentence, Wilson said in a statement.

Wilson also praised the victim for having the courage to come forward with the allegations against her former partner, adding that the woman’s cooperation with law enforcement was key in securing Panighetti’s conviction and sentence. At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors read a formal statement on behalf of the victim.

“In (the statement), she detailed the terrors she had been subjected to at the hands of the defendant over the course of their 20-year, on-and-off relationship,” Wilson said. In that statement, the victim recalled, “the power that he had exercised over her, her resulting trauma, and her appreciation to the Nevada County Deputy DA handing the case…”

CONTRACT

Panighetti, who was originally arrested in June 2020 in connection with the case, was described by prosecutors as a skillful manipulator who had managed to coerce his victim into staying in the relationship even after he had repeatedly abused her.

In perhaps his greatest act of deception, prosecutors say that the defendant convinced the woman to sign a contract that Panighetti would later use in court to defend himself, arguing that the victim had consented to acts of bondage, domination, and sadomasochism that often occur outside the boundaries of most sexually intimate relationships.

However, this contract itself was the result of coercion, as the victim had only signed under significant “duress” as a result of continual manipulation on the part of Panighetti, said Deputy District Attorney Helenaz Hill, who prosecuted the case.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Full statement from Jesse Wilson, Nevada County district attorney

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Court sentenced defendant Wesley Panighetti to 280 years to life for 3 counts of forcible sodomy, 2 counts of forcible oral copulation, one count of criminal threats, one count of first degree burglary, one count of attempting to dissuade a witness, and one count of battery upon a protected person (DV victim). Defendant’s indeterminate (life) sentence was based on the fact that he had two prior strike offenses for felony assault which also provided the basis for 2 prior serious felony enhancements (Nickel priors) that applied to each of the felony counts for which he was convicted, increasing his exposure on each felony count to 35 to life. The Court denied the defense request to strike the strike priors under Penal Code section 1385 as well as the enhancements. He was ordered to register as sex offender for life and to submit bodily fluid samples and prints for entry into the CODIS DNA system. A criminal protective order will also be issued to further protect the victim.

At the sentencing, the prosecution read the victim’s impact statement, in which she detailed the terrors she had been subjected to at the hands of the defendant over the course of their 20 year on and off relationship, the power he had exercised over her, her resulting trauma, and her appreciation to the Nevada County Deputy DA handing the case as well as her Victim-Witness advocate Kim Leland for supporting her throughout the emotionally and mentally taxing process of a criminal prosecution.

This case was investigated by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney Investigators and prosecuted by DDA Helenaz Hill. ‘

Wesley Panighetti

Nevada County police blotter: Caller says man threatened him with 8-inch knife

GRASS VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT

Tuesday

8:50 a.m. — A caller from a homeless shelter on the 1200 block of Sutton Way reported that a man had pulled an 8-inch knife on him and threatened him with it.

4:16 p.m. — A caller from a restaurant on the 200 block of East Main Street reported an individual who the caller said had defecated in front of another business earlier that same day. The suspect was purportedly associated with a van that the caller said was unlawfully parked in a handicapped spot.

5:05 p.m. — A caller from the 800 block of Sutton Way reported a man who, while drinking a bottle of alcohol, apparently pulled down his pants and exposed himself while urinating into the street. A police report was taken of the incident.

6:44 p.m. — A caller from a residence on the 200 block of Sutton Way reported a history of domestic violence involving a male suspect who had allegedly tried to kill his partner on at least one occasion. Police responded and arrested the suspect, who was booked into jail for violating the terms of an unspecified court order and for drug possession.

NEVADA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Tuesday

1:30 a.m. — A caller from Layla Lane, near Devonshire Circle, reported that her landlord was behaving belligerently, yelling and banging cars, and threatening to pop the caller’s tires.

8:36 a.m. — A caller from Banner Lava Cap Road, near Old Tunnel Road, reported a woman who was apparently standing in the middle of the roadway, gesticulating and screaming loudly. Deputies responded but were unable to locate this individual.

9:07 a.m. — A caller from a business on Hollow Way reported that someone had stolen some beer from their store. A police report was taken.

11:14 a.m. — A caller from Highway 49, near Flume Street, reported seeing a person who was purportedly wanted by law enforcement for assault and battery.

11:58 a.m. — A caller from Owl Creek Road, near Jones Bar Road, reported ongoing issues with a homeless individual who was allegedly “being unsafe with fire.” No further details were provided.

12:17 p.m. — A caller from a residence on Bitney Springs Road, near Gold Eagle Way, reported ongoing issues with bears in the area. No further details were provided, except that the caller said that Fish and Wildlife authorities had failed to take action about the issue.

— Stephen Wyer

Woman on probation accused of felony robbery, faces multiple charges

Prosecutors have filed charges against a Grass Valley woman who is accused of shoplifting from multiple businesses on Mill Street before assaulting a store owner who tried to stop her.

Sylvia Natalie Valdez, 38, is charged with one felony count of robbery by means of force or fear, as well as one misdemeanor charge of shoplifting, according to documents filed by the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office. Valdez, arrested Thursday by the Grass Valley Police Department, made her $100,000 bond on Monday and was released from custody, jail records show.

On Thursday evening, police were alerted to a report of a woman shoplifting from several businesses on Mill Street, according to Officer Clint Lovelady. The suspect, later identified as Valdez, apparently had taken several hundred dollars worth of clothing from the establishments, and fled from the scene after being contacted by one of the store owners, Lovelady said.

While fleeing, Valdez apparently turned around and slapped the pursuing shop owner several times in the face, according to a police report. The victim, a woman who owns a home decor and accessories shop on Mill Street, suffered just minor injuries and did not require any treatment, the officer said.

A bystander dining outside on Mill Street observed the altercation and was able to chase down and successfully detain Valdez until police arrived, Lovelady said.

Because Valdez was already on court-ordered probation for a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon at the time of this incident, she is also facing a separate charge in that case for violating the terms of her probation, records show.

The various of items of clothing that Valdez stole, totaling approximately $950 in value, were returned to the establishments to which they belonged, Lovelady said. The targeted businesses have not been identified by authorities.

Valdez appeared in court on Friday for an arraignment hearing, and is scheduled to appear again on Sept. 30, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Sylvia Natalie Valdez

Man accused of holding knife to coworker’s throat, threatening to kill him

A Grass Valley man accused of holding a knife to a coworkers throat and threatening to kill him was arrested Monday after turning himself in, police say.

According to the Grass Valley Police Department, Rees Edward Williams, 25, was arrested Monday afternoon on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats. Both charges are felonies.

Williams was released from Nevada County jail Tuesday after making his $25,000 bond, records show.

In an email statement, Williams’ former employer, Atria Grass Valley—a convalescent home for the elderly—confirmed that they had terminated Williams from their employment.

Police had been looking for Williams for several days after his managers at the convalescent home (located on the 100 block of Sutton Way), had filed a police report regarding an incident involving Williams that occurred September 14.

The report alleges that Williams held a kitchen knife to a male coworkers throat and made statements indicating that he intended to kill the victim and another male coworker, according to GVPD Sgt. Clint Bates.

It is not clear what prompted the altercation, Bates said, expressing that the incident appeared to have started with a relatively inane and ordinary kind of disagreement between coworkers, before quickly escalating.

The threats Williams allegedly made were uttered not only towards the man that he assaulted but another coworker who was present and witnessed these events as well, Bates said. No one suffered any physical injuries during the incident.

After the police report was filed, authorities were unable to locate Williams for several days before the 25-year-old ultimately turned himself in at Grass Valley police headquarters Monday afternoon, Bates said.

In a statement provided to The Union, Atria’s regional vice president Aron Alexander said that the senior care facility had terminated Williams immediately after conducting an internal investigation into the incident, emphasizing that swift action was necessitated by the seriousness of the situation.

“The safety and well-being of our residents, staff, family members and other visitors are our top priorities at all times. Immediately following this incident, we notified local authorities and initiated our own internal review,” Alexander said.

“The staff member involved was promptly suspended and terminated. Because this is a legal matter, we cannot comment in specific detail except to say that our focus remains on the safety and well-being of our residents and staff members, as always.”

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Rees Edward Williams

Nevada County police blotter: Caller reports violent altercation between 2 sons

GRASS VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT

Monday

2:31 a.m. — A caller from the 900 block of Sutton Way reported getting into a physical altercation with her ex-boyfriend.

8:12 a.m. — A caller from a bank on the 300 block of Brunswick Road reported an ongoing issue with a transient, who apparently was regularly leaving trash all over the area and had made violent threats to the bank manager.

10:56 a.m. — A caller from a hospital on the 300 block of Joerschke Drive reported being harassed by a nurse who works at the hospital.

1:18 p.m. — A caller from a business on the 1000 block of Plaza Drive reported a homeless individual who was blocking the front door with their cart and refusing to leave when asked to do so.

NEVADA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Monday

1:13 a.m. — A caller from the area of American Hill and Constitution Court reported a heated and possibly physical altercation between two adult males. The calling party claimed that the confrontation started when an unknown man walked up and started yelling and punching him.

7:58 a.m. — A caller from Pekolee Drive, off Highway 49, reported a car that was going over 100 mph and passing cars on the right side of the road, even though there wasn’t a passing lane. The vehicle was described as a dark green Subaru.

11:28 a.m. — A caller from a residence on Erin Place, near Cottage Hill Drive, reported the theft of three pistols and a shotgun from their residence. The caller advised that they knew the suspect personally, and that this individual had made threats with a firearm.

11:59 a.m. — A caller from Creek View Drive reported that two individuals were squatting on his property, and apparently had made threats of violence when the caller approached them.

1:24 p.m. — A caller from Willowbrook Lane, near Penn Valley Drive, reported that their 17-year-old foster child had run away from home for unspecified reasons. No description was provided of the missing teen, who had also apparently stolen an iPad before leaving home.

1:53 p.m. — A caller from a residence on Sunset Hill Road reported receiving death threats over the phone. No other details were given, and a police report was taken of the incident.

2:56 p.m. — A caller from Broken Oak Court reported seeing multiple individuals break into someone’s car and rifle through the contents for almost an hour before leaving.

3:28 p.m. — A woman calling from a residence on Strawberry Circle, near Ginger Loop and Wildflower Drive, reported a physical altercation between two of her sons, at least one of whom was heavily intoxicated and armed with a knife. The situation apparently escalated, with multiple individuals apparently suffering wounds to the throat, although it was unclear who had inflicted the injuries.

5:46 p.m. — A caller from Banner Quaker Hill Road reported seeing someone shoot a bear in the area. The incident was referred to Fish and Wildlife authorities for further investigation.

— Stephen Wyer

Man faces lewd acts charges

Mark Steven Brocke

A Tennessee man was arrested Monday on decades’ old child molestation accusations, authorities said.

Mark Steven Brocke, 49, faces seven counts related to lewd or lascivious acts against a child under 14, reports state.

According to District Attorney Jesse Wilson, Brocke’s conduct is alleged to have occurred between July 26, 1998, and July 25, 1999, as well as from 1999 to 2012.

“And, when we reviewed the reports, the prosecutor decided to file charges,” Wilson said.

At the time that charges were filed, according to Wilson, Brocke was out of state and had to be brought to Nevada County.

Brocke remained jailed Monday under $800,000 in bond, reports state.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

Woman pleads guilty to $77K FEMA fraud in connection with Paradise Camp Fire

 

Deborah Laughlin, 64, formerly of Paradise, pleaded guilty Monday to making false statements in an application for FEMA benefits in connection with the 2018 Paradise Camp Fire, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced in a news release.

According to court documents, FEMA provided disaster benefits to certain qualified individuals whose primary residence was damaged or destroyed in the Camp Fire. On Nov. 15, 2018, Laughlin falsely claimed 7209 Skyway, Apt 18 in Paradise, as her primary residence at the time of the Camp Fire. In fact, at the time of the Camp Fire, other individuals were renting and residing in the mobile home located at this address. Based on her false statement, she received $7,886 to replace essential items damaged by the disaster and $1,788 for two months of rental assistance. In addition, Laughlin received temporary housing from FEMA in a manufactured home from June 24, 2019, until April 7, 2021. The money and housing Laughlin received caused an actual loss to the United States of at least $77,249.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shelley D. Weger is prosecuting the case.

Laughlin is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on Dec. 20, 2021. Laughlin faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, including California wildfires or COVID-19 relief efforts, or who believe they have been a victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 866-720-5721. Alternatively, information can be submitted via email to DHSOIGHotline@dhs.gov.

Source: The US Department of Justice

Nevada County police blotter: Caller dials 911 in attempt to get friend’s number

GRASS VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT

Saturday

10:45 a.m. A caller near French Avenue and Jenkins Street reported a man slumped over in the driver’s seat of his blue pickup for two days.

2:16 p.m. — A caller on East Main Street reported a long parade disturbing the peace. The reporting party threatened to spray people with their hose if they did not cease and desist.

Sunday

9:23 a.m. — A caller near Golden Gate Terrace reported a possible overdose of a man in a sleeping bag in the middle of the roadway.

NEVADA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Friday

7:48 a.m. — A caller on Ridge Road, near Zion Street and Forsmans Place, reported he found baby flying squirrels he wanted to turn in.

9:22 a.m. — A caller on Cooper Road, near McCourtney Road and Scotts Drive, reported a fawn stuck in a fence with a broken leg.

1:20 p.m. — A caller near Brunswick Road and Wood Rose Way reported a mama bear was hit by a car and two cubs were in the area.

5:11 p.m. — A caller near Floriston Way and the on-ramp onto Interstate 80 reported the start of a transient camp.

10:24 p.m. — A caller near Dalmatian Drive and Highway 174 reported that a man became angry with her after she denied further advances after their date. The reporting party said she was fearful because the man knew her home address.

Saturday

3:54 a.m. — A caller near the dead end of Little Valley Road reported his “patience wearing thin“ because of neighbors launching acorns at his house with a slingshot.

7:37 a.m. — A caller near Town Talk and Old Tunnel roads said officers are required to “move along” homeless people according to the Safe Streets Act (1968) and reported multiple transients smoking cigarettes in the woods.

9:02 a.m. — Dispatch recommended a Nevada County resident contact the Federal Aviation Administration after a caller near Alta Street and Cooley Drive reported drones flying around in his backyard and possibly filming him.

2:48 p.m. — A caller on Robinson Road, near Copel Lane and Trilobites Court, dialed 911 in search of a friend’s phone number in Reno. Caller was advised not to call 911 to get help finding a friend’s phone number.

Sunday

8:05 a.m. — A caller on Lake Wildwood Drive, between Huckleberry and Foxtail drives, reported a man bathing in her creek. According to the reporting party, the man evaded Lake Wildwood Security.

3:31 p.m. — A caller near John Bauer Avenue and Loma Rica Drive reported a gray Cessna crash at the end of the Airport Runway 7 .

— Rebecca O’Neil