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What the County's talking about this week

Sunny Acres residents ordered to leave

It’s almost over for Sunny Acres. Residents of the clean-and-sober living facility on Dan DeVaul’s Los Osos Valley Road ranch must leave by March 31. That’s the county’s plan, at least, that all of the residents will be gone and DeVaul’s property will begin to resemble a ranch and not a junkyard.

But the Board at Sunny Acres is refusing to give
up. Laura Knox, Sunny Acres manager, said that the residents have been busy cleaning up the ranch and removing the busted mobile home park that formerly housed some 70 recovering addicts and alcoholics.

Knox said unsafe electrical wiring is being upgraded and a local company has been hired to inspect and fix the septic system. She also said that Sunny Acres has applied for certification through the California Association of Addiction Recovery Resources.

In order to comply with agricultural laws, Dan DeVaul said he has planted three acres of roses and strawberries and hired engineers to manage his soil-enhancement project. According to DeVaul and Knox, this action legitimizes the grading practices on the ranch. DeVaul said he is now complying with soil-enhancement regulations.

Art Trinidade of the SLO County Planning and Building Department confirmed that DeVaul has made significant progress and is very close to being into compliance, if he isn’t already.

Knox optimistically hopes that with the help of a lawyer, the SLO County Board of Supervisors might grant an extension to the clean-and-sober living facility, allowing the last 20 residents to stay on DeVaul’s ranch. But the Board of Supervisors isn’t likely to budge.

Supervisor Shirley Bianchi, who called DeVaul a “slumlord� and a “master of manipulating the truth,� said, “It’s over; he lost his ability to work with the county and now he has to start from square one.�

Knox said the Sunny Acres Board of Directors recently appealed to the Board of Supervisors during a public comment period. According to Knox, the Board of Supervisors thanked the Sunny Acres Board for appearing, but refused to put the Sunny Acres request on the agenda.

“Sometime people have to understand that our land-use ordinances are the law,� said Bianchi.

Knox said she’s receiving calls every day from former residents who want to move back to Sunny Acres. She’s allowed some to come back.

“There’s just nowhere else for them to go,� she said. “These are the people that are going to be sleeping in the creeks and the parks.�

At least six former residents have already been back to jail, she said. And when asked if she was nervous about what was going to happen to the remaining residents, she said, “We’re scared shitless. Nervous is about three exits back.�



One dead in drunken-driving accident

A drunken-driving accident the morning of March 19 near Paso Robles killed one passenger and injured two others. The driver, 21-year-old Randal Wicks, was arrested on charges of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter.

Wicks was driving a 2001 Ford pickup on South River Road when he lost control, veering off of the road into the trees and rolling numerous times. In the truck with Wicks were James Gearing, 26, Christopher Chandler, 25, and Michael Geffeller, 28. Gearing died at the scene and Chandler and Geffeller were hospitalized.



Man in custody after trying to run over officer

Steven Messina, 29, is in jail after allegedly attempting to run over a Paso Robles Police officer. Police started looking for Messina after his father called the Paso Robles Police Department on March 19. He warned law enforcement that his son was drunk, suicidal, and possibly a hazard to others. After the call, Paso Police attempted to pull Messina over.

Messina evaded police and eventually tried to run one officer over. The officer was able to stop Messina after firing on him. Messina is charged with attempted murder, driving under the influence, and assault with a deadly weapon.



13-year-old murder suspect will stay in custody

A local judge has ruled that the young teen accused of bludgeoning an elderly man to death will remain at the county’s Juvenile Services Center.

Citing public safety and concern about the boy’s potential flight risk, Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney denied attorney Rod Williams’ request that his young client be released to his mother.

According to the Tribune, the boy’s mother wept at the news and then hugged and kissed her son on the cheek as he was lead away.

The teen will remain in custody throughout his trial.

Police found Gerald “Jerry� O’Malley on the floor of his mobile home across from the Greyhound bus depot in San Luis Obispo on Feb. 28 — just a few days shy of the war veteran’s 88th birthday. Police say he had been hit an unconfirmed number of times on the head.

Earlier that day witnesses say they saw several boys driving around in O’Malley’s green Ford Explorer, and two people alerted police that they had seen the vehicle being driven erratically on Highway 101 near Arroyo Grande.

Police found the Explorer near Bridge Street and went and knocked on O’Malley’s door at 8:53 p.m. At about 1 a.m., two boys — who had allegedly told people in O’Malley’s trailer park about the crime — were arrested.

The district attorney’s office has charged the 13-year-old boy with four felonies — murder, elder abuse, residential burglary, and auto theft — and the 12-year-old boy with felony auto theft. San Luis Police Department investigators have sent the skateboard they believe is the murder weapon to a state crime lab, where it is being tested for DNA, hair follicles, and human tissue.

The results of those tests are not expected for several weeks.



Business once owned by Scott and Laci Peterson for sale

The owners of San Luis Obispo’s The Shack are advertising the sports bar and restaurant on eBay, among other web sites, citing the former owners as a morbid selling point. The Foothill Boulevard business, formerly owned by Scott and Laci Peterson, comes with TVs, XM radio, Direct TV satellite receivers, furniture, and much more.

Fabrizio Palozzi, one of the owners, said there hasn’t been any interest based solely on the restaurant’s connection to the convicted murderer.

“It’s just a business, we’ve done well with it,� he said. “It’s a good sports bar and grill.�

The Shack is not actually up for auction on eBay; it’s just listed as being for sale. Palozzi dispelled any ideas that The Shack is for sale because of the infamous Peterson trial; saying simply the other owners are relocating to San Francisco.

According to a brief about the listing in Newsweek, the restaurant is not recommended if “you’re married and pregnant.�


SLO’s new rack

SLO is adding bike racks! Mayor Romero unveiled the new racks and the accompanying program “Racks with Plaques� during a recent dedication ceremony. According to a press release, the racks won’t cost the city a dime. Private donors will fund the racks much like the memorial park-bench program.

City Councilman Allen Settle and local radio personality Bill Benica were among the first to donate racks in SLO.

The racks, brainchild of local designer and Cal Poly engineering instructor Rod Hoadley, are manufactured in San Luis Obispo. Sponsors can pay $700 to $1,500 for a rack with a plaque, depending on the location in SLO. Other cities, including Morro Bay and Atascadero, are also in on the rack action. For more info, visit or contact Rod Hoadley at 235-8812. ³



This week’s news was compiled and reported on by staff writers John Peabody and Abraham Hyatt.

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