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What the County's Talking About This Week 

Wife arrested in 2004 Goleta killing

Santa Barbara County law enforcement officials are saying that Kelee Davidson concocted a chilling scheme with her parents to kill her husband as a way to get custody of their then-3-year-old child.

Last week police arrested the Oceano woman and charged her as being part of a murder-conspiracy plot that left Jarrod Davidson dead on the front porch of his Goleta home on July 9, 2004.

Kelee's parents, Philip and Malinda Jones, were arrested in January 2005 for their supposed role in the killing.

At the time of his death, Jarrod, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student, and Kelee were involved in an ugly custody dispute over their daughter. According to allegations made by prosecutors in court documents, on July 9, Kelee kept Jarrod from taking their daughter "in order to ensure the [the child] would not be with her father when he was murdered." She then allegedly spent that day and evening with a friend so that she would have an alibi for the time of the murder.

Santa Barbara County prosecutors say that at about 11 p.m., Malinda Jones knocked on the door of Jarrod's Goleta home and left a potted Persian violet and a gift card. When Jarrod opened the door, Philip allegedly shot him once in the chest with a high-powered rifle.

Video surveillance from a convenience store showed a woman who matched Malinda's description buying a violet early that day; she has also been linked to DNA found on the plant.

At one point in the investigation, the deputy district attorney called the killing a "cold-blooded execution."

 

SLO's SWAT Team nabs gang suspect

After two Lompoc gangs exchanged gunfire last weekend, Lompoc Police traced one man they say was involved in the shooting to San Luis Obispo.

Last Friday, Lompoc officers joined up with members of SLO Police Department's SWAT Team and raided the Palm View Apartments on Los Osos Valley Road at about 10:30 p.m.

Officers arrested 20-year-old San Luis resident Fabian Castillo for attempted homicide and booked him into the Santa Barbara County jail on $270,000 bail.

SLOPD officers also arrested another San Luis resident, Robert De La Cruz, for being under the influence of narcotics, local warrants for failure to appear on charges of DUI and driving on a suspended license, and driving on a suspended license. He was booked at county jail.

 

Cal Poly to allow beer at baseball games

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," said Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, though, was sadly never able to sip on a frigid brew and root for the home team. Why? Baseball was not yet born.

Fortunately, Cal Poly students of age will not suffer the same fate as Franklin. They will be able to enjoy cold suds while rooting for their very own Mustangs in the last nine home games of the season.

Cal Poly President Warren Baker agreed to allow vending beer at baseball games after a request from student body president Blake Bolton. Bolton argued that there's a changing climate on campus and this is a way for the students and university to slowly adapt.

Cal Poly students have voted (the results were unknown as of press time) to increase fees for a new student center, which could include a restaurant that serves beer. There's also the plans for a new residence hall, which could possibly include a bar/restaurant.

Bolton said he understands both sides of the argument, though.

"Alcohol use and abuse is a problem in college and at Cal Poly," he said." There's a real hesitancy; that is, if we allow alcohol on campus, what kind of message are we sending?"

But, Bolton adds, the of-age students feel that they should be treated like legal adults and allowed to have a beer.

"Realistically if there's ever going to be a big change on campus, it needs to be student-driven," said Bolton. "Baseball games are the perfect environment because there's a passive element and they're controlled."

This marks the first time alcohol will be served at Cal Poly athletic events, said Sandra Ogren, vice president of university advancement. Beer will be served at the last nine home games of the season starting April 29.

"It's kind of a trial period. At the end of the nine games there will be a group that gets together [to review]," said Ogren. Among the issues the review group will address are whether it worked financially and if there were there problems with underage consumption and/or overconsumption of alcohol.

Ogren added that more than half of Cal Poly students are over 21 and beer and wine is available at the PAC. Ogren could not say what kind of beer will be for sale at the Mustang baseball games. The 'Stangs are currently 24-14.

-John Peabody

 

Mission News closes early

Mission News has officially closed its doors six days earlier than was planned, said Debbie Kennemann, who is a part owner of Tri County News Agency, the company that owned Mission News.

According to Kennemann, the coverage that Tri-County News received from the New Times article "Mission Impossible" (April 14-21) forced the company to close the newsstand even sooner then it had planned.

Kennemann said that one of the employees interviewed in the story inferred that Tri-County News was responsible for the closure, which Kennemann says is not true.

"If somebody was interested in Mission News, we would be their supplier," she said. "It's a great loss for us, we were so excited."

Tri County News also owns magazine stores in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. It took over Mission News about a year ago.

Esquire News in Pismo Beach is now the closest store to SLO that carries an equivalent selection of magazines, said Kennemann.

-John Peabody

 

ZymaX blames layoffs on affordable-housing crisis

Sandra Nielsen, owner and president of ZymaX Envirotechnology Inc., based in San Luis Obispo, closed the environmental division of her chemical laboratories as of April 18, citing a combination of factors, including a continuing decline in prices and ever-increasing operating expenses associated with environmental analytic testing. But more than anything else, Nielsen blamed the Central Coast's shortage of affordable and workforce housing.

ZymaX opened in 1991 with just three employees, and as of January, Nielsen had 70 lab technicians and personnel working for her.

"I laid off 40 people yesterday," Nielsen reported on Wednesday, and she expects to phase out another 20 more in the next week or two.

"It's been an ongoing struggle to recruit and retain people."

It's all about affordable housing, Nielsen said, a problem she's all too familiar with. In addition to running her own chemical laboratory company, Nielsen used to work for the Pismo Beach Planning Commission, and up until January she worked for the SLO County Planning Commission.

According Nielsen, there's simply no political will to address the need for workforce housing in this area, and until there is, it will be exceedingly difficult for companies to persuade skilled employees to relocate here.

Nielsen told the story of a highly skilled lab technician from Texas whom she recently offered a job. He loved the area and the climate and the company, but there was no way he was going to sell his beautiful $200,000 house in Texas to buy a mobile home in San Luis Obispo.

Over the years, Zymax hired a number of Cal Poly graduates and made significant investments in their training, only to see them leave because of the lack of opportunity and affordable housing.

The company's other division, ZymaX Forensics, which specializes in environmental forensics, geochemistry consulting, litigation support, and expert witness testimony, will remain active. This very specialized component of the business employs just five or six Ph.D.s and will likely be sold off and relocated.

As for Nielsen, she plans to wrap things up with ZymaX and then go on to start another business, possibly in Las Vegas, where housing is cheaper, taxes are lower, and employees are more energetic. ³

 

This weeks' news was compiled and reported on by staff writers Abraham Hyatt, John Peabody, and Jeff Hornaday.

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