The beginning of 2019 brings with it a new year of stories. This gives staff an opportunity to look back over the previous year to see which stories had the biggest response with readers. The best way to gauge the popularity of past stories is through calaverasenterprise.com and its unique page views.
According to the views, the top stories included several revolving around cannabis. Sadly, other stories were about murders, domestic abuse, business closures and more. Though these online versions of Calaveras Enterprise printed stories continue to increase in page views, the ranking numbers as printed here were compiled Dec. 26.
Here are how local stories in 2018 ranked among readers.
1. Supervisors ban commercial cannabis cultivation
The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors voted to ban commercial marijuana cultivation on Jan. 10, signaling the end of a program that permitted hundreds of growers and raised more than $10 million for the county budget. Before adjournment, the county agreed to work to submit separate documents that would regulate and ban cannabis for a June ballot to allow voters the opportunity to decide. The election would have to be called by the Calaveras County Elections Department before Feb. 21 to qualify for the June ballot.
If approved, the regulatory structure would have permitted outdoor farming activities on only large General Forestry, Agriculture 1, Agriculture Preserve and Unclassified zones. During the meeting, an altercation between two people in the audience delayed proceedings for more than an hour.
2. Questions raised in child’s drowning
Clifton Williams, a 3-year-old boy, was found unresponsive in a San Andreas residential pool on May 16. Neighbors told of seeing an unattended child roaming in the street and in hazard-riddled yards. They have also cited repeated complaints lodged with Child Protective Services that failed to produce any change in the situation. Family members traded accusations on social media, and both the boy’s father and his maternal grandmother sought to have his paternal grandmother, Darlene Williams, held responsible for alleged neglect in connection with Clifton’s death.
3. Murphys area incident followed illegal pot exchange
An armed robbery in the Murphys area resulted in a deceased suspect and a critically injured victim on June 24. The alleged suspects were discovered to be known documented gang members from Illinois belonging to the Black P Stones and Latin Kings criminal street gangs, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities later pieced together the story of a drug deal between gang members and occupants of a previously legal marijuana cultivation site.
4. FBI takes over marijuana case
The preliminary hearing for five suspects who allegedly tortured, kidnapped and stole marijuana and other miscellaneous items from six victims in June of 2018 was scheduled to take place at Calaveras Superior Court on Oct. 9.
After multiple bail review hearings and a fifth defendant being taken into custody on an arrest warrant, the Federal Bureau of Investigation stepped in and the case was taken over to be prosecuted federally. The last suspect at large, Jimmy Khio, was apprehended by Probation and a representative from the FBI outside of Courtroom 1 at Calaveras Superior Court.
5. San Andreas business owner arrested, charged with child molestation
Oct. 5, 2018
Brian Paul Ames, of Brian Ames Construction, was arrested and booked on five felony counts relating to the molestation of a minor on Oct. 1. According to Calaveras County Sheriff booking logs, Ames, 49, of San Andreas, was booked on suspicion of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation with a person under 16 years of age, rape by force, and unlawful sexual intercourse with minor.
6. Death signals realities of domestic abuse
The death of Desiree Licon, 27, opened up a conversation about domestic abuse. There were no previous signs of domestic violence in their relationship. On July 15, Licon succumbed to her injuries as a result of alleged battery from her partner of 10 years and father of her three children, Jesse Almer.
7. Forest Meadows Golf Course closes
Forest Meadows Golf Course officials announced its closure toward the end of 2017, making it the second Calaveras County golf course to shutter in almost a two-week span. Sierra Golf Management, the management group that owns the golf course east of Murphys, issued a letter on Dec. 28 announcing that it would close the golf operations on the course after its Dec. 1 seasonal closure, citing losses in revenue as the main reason behind the move.
8. DUI injures six people, one dog
Six individuals ranging from 10 to 65 years old and one dog sustained injuries in an alcohol-related head-on collision in Vallecito. According to the California Highway Patrol, Jose Aranabarajas, 48, of Ceres, was driving eastbound on Highway 4, west of Batten Road, with four other passengers, as Daniel Marzi, 65, of Vallecito, approached in the opposite direction in a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Aranabarajas drifted into the westbound lane, and the two vehicles collided head-on. Aranabarajas’ vehichle overturned and landed on its wheels at the bottom of a dirt embankment, and the Chevrolet Silverado went off the south side of the road and came to rest in an embankment.
Aranabarajas was arrested at the scene for driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injuries.
9. San Andreas man charged with second degree murder
Jesse Almer, 26, of San Andreas, was charged with second-degree murder after alleggedly inflicting fatal injuries upon his girlfriend, Desiree Licon, 27, during an altercation on July 11. A press release issued by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office stated that deputies responded to a report of an altercation on Bargers Court in San Andreas at approximately 2:40 a.m. on July 11. Upon arrival, deputies found Licon unconscious and arrested Almer at the scene for inflicting corporal injury on spouse/cohabitant and battery with great bodily injury. Licon later died as a result of her injuries.
10. Authorities encounter “chemical spillage” during marijuana bust
Local law enforcement raided two illegal marijuana grows in two days. Authorities say one of the sites showed signs of chemical runoff. The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team served a search warrant Sept. 12 at an undeveloped private property located off of South Gulch near Milton Road in Valley Springs.