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Looking back at 2007

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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The year 2007 brought Auburn a change in Placer High head football coaches, a King in trouble and a congressman under fire. Placer Vineyards, a new dog park and Best Buy were approved as well. JANUARY: Alfred “Bud” Nobili, Placer County superintendent of schools, announced his retirement from the county’s education system after 42 years of service. Convicted killer Mario F. Garcia was sentenced to a 59-year prison term Jan. 11 for the first-degree murder of Christie Wilson. Garcia was the last person seen with Wilson in the early morning hours of Oct. 5, 2005 leaving Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln. FEBRUARY: Mike Sabins announced Feb. 4 that he would no longer be coaching Placer High varsity football. Officials decide not to press charges against Douglas Scott Jones, an Auburn man who ran his SUV into two pedestrians, killing 6-month old Paige Luthi in her stroller. Jones, 43, lost control of his Toyota 4Runner Aug 24, 2006, plowing into Stephan Fennelly, 36, his daughter Nicole Fennelly, 9, and crushing Paige Luthi’s stroller beneath the SUV in front of the Longs Drugs on Bell Road in Auburn. MARCH: Sacramento Kings Forward Ron Artest was arrested March 5 following an alleged domestic disturbance at his Loomis home. Artest was booked at the Placer County Jail and released after posting $50,000 bail. A jury found Eric Dungan guilty of murder for the 2005 death of Rocklin Police Officer Matthew Redding. Paul R. Kovacich Jr., suspected of murdering his wife decades ago, was arrested again on March 22. The 58-year-old former Placer County Sheriff’s deputy was held on a single count of murder on a no-bail bench warrant. APRIL: An embezzlement case against Ernest Shih, 42, an Auburn city employee was dismissed in an Auburn courtroom. Placer administrators announced April 11 that Joey Montoya, a 1997 Placer High graduate, had been hired as the new head coach for varsity football. Placer County Sheriff’s Department personnel move into a state-of-the-art $30 million Auburn Justice Center, a 98,750-square-foot headquarters on Richardson Drive. FBI agents searched the home U.S. Rep. John Doolittle April 13 as the investigation continued into his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. MAY: Juan Ledesma, also known as the pillowcase burglar, pleaded no contest to 18 counts of burglary May 1 in an Auburn courtroom. A single drop of blood left on a pillowcase at a burglarized Newcastle home led to his Feb. 16, 2006 arrest. According to documents filed May 15 in Placer County Superior Court, a partial skull found in Rollins Lake Oct. 22, 1995 was determined through DNA testing to belong to Janet Kovacich, the skull had a bullet hole on the right side of the cranial vault, according to court documents. Placer County hired a special counsel to investigate reports that county planning commissioner Michelle Ollar-Burris engaged in illegal land deals that wound up quartering various land parcels. JUNE: The Army Corps of Engineers agreed with a new contractor to complete Phase III of the Auburn School Park Preserve project. The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 12 to remove Auburn real estate broker Michelle Ollar-Burris from her position as District 5 planning commissioner. The United Auburn Indian Community announced plans June 15 to expand Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln, adding a five-star, 23-story hotel, performing arts center and more gaming space. JULY: During a three-hour hearing July 12, the Placer County Planning Commission upheld Planning Director Michael Johnson’s finding in favor of an asphalt plant at Meadow Vista’s Chevreaux Aggregates plant. The Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Placer Vineyards development project July 16, that was set to include more than 14,000 homes in west Placer County. Lake of the Pines Marine Cpl. Sean A. Stokes, 24, died July 30 from wounds he suffered while conducting combat operations in Al-Anbar province of Iraq. AUGUST: The Auburn Chamber of Commerce celebrates 100 years of achievement Aug. 4. Homeowners and DarkHorse officials try to stay positive despite a planned foreclosure on the 1,046-acre luxury development in Nevada County. Auburn City Councilman and former mayor Mike Holmes announced Aug. 14 that he would challenge nine-term U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, for the Fourth District GOP nomination in the June 2008 primary. Placer High School was placed on lockdown for more than an hour Aug. 27 after a student reported to school officials that there was a person in a blue pickup on campus with a gun. Police officers and detectives combed the campus, searching each building and classroom. SEPTEMBER: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation returned water in the American River to its natural streambed Sept. 4 at the long-delayed Auburn dam site. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown flew into Auburn Municipal Airport to officially kick off his campaign to defeat U.S. Rep. John Doolittle in 2008. U.S. Rep. John Doolittle and five members of his staff are subpoenaed by the Department of Justice, providing evidence that interest in a corruption probe had not ebbed. OCTOBER: Steven Thomas Stefani, a Maidu High School alumnus and former Meadow Vista resident, died Oct. 4 in an explosion that impacted his convoy near Ghazi, Afghanistan. Placer County Planning Commission approved plans for North Auburn’s Rock Creek Plaza that would clear the way for a Best Buy home electronics store in the former Ralph’s Supermarket location. Francisco Evangelista, the Auburn man accused of bringing a firearm onto the Placer High campus, was charged with an additional felony — possessing a BB gun. A mistrial was declared Oct. 31 in a criminal trial against Veronica Martinez Salcedo, who was accused of shaking to death 15-month-old Hannah Rose Juceam. The Placer County District Attorney’s Office decided in November to retry Salcedo. NOVEMBER: Placer County files a civil lawsuit against former planning commissioner Michelle Ollar-Burris, claiming fraud and misrepresentation in a series of land deals. Auburn Union trustees vote unanimously on Nov. 28 to close a school for the 2008-2009 school year. Auburn Recreation District board of directors unanimously approved the Ashley Memorial Dog Park’s final site plan at Ashford Park and adopted an environmental review for the project. DECEMBER: A Placer County Superior Court Judge determined Dec. 5 that there was insufficient evidence to hold accused gunman Francisco Evangelista on firearm and terrorism counts. The remaining charge was possession of a BB gun on school grounds. A federal hold was placed on Evangelista from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Auburn Mayor Bob Snyder handed over his gavel to Keith Nesbitt Dec. 13. Auburn Union trustees vote 3-2 to close Alta Vista School at the end of the 2007-2008 school year.