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Wise Canal drowning victim sober but high on meth

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Tests show Nov. 23 Wise Canal drowning victim Richard Hill was alcohol-free but high on methamphetamine when he lost his life. Toxicology tests taken for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office showed an extremely large amount of methamphetamine in the body of the 50-year-old homeless man, Lt. Mark Reed said Monday. Hill was three days out of Placer County Jail when he died in the canal, which flows through Auburn and North Auburn for about three miles. He was the most recent of six deaths in the canal since Jan. 14, 2009. The Sheriff’s Office has concluded that while foul play can’t be completely ruled out, there have been no signs of a struggle or attack on any of the bodies. The most recent Journal article on Hill’s death elicited a variety of observations on the newspaper’s website as well as a report from one reader that her son, the late Kenny Minero, 50, had been pushed into the Wise Canal in the darkness in November 2008 but survived. Reacting to several negative comments about her son, Richard Hill, his mother, Lillian Hill submitted photos to the paper of a younger man – before a downward spiral that occurred during his final years. The collection shows a boy posing for a class photo in 1967 with a cowlick and a smile, Richard Hill as a young man in a baseball uniform coaching a youth team in Bellingham, Wash., and the now middle-aged Hill kneeling in 2001 with a child and a skateboard. The Journal published a recent booking photo provided by the Sheriff ‘s Office as it attempted to determine Hill’s whereabouts the night of his death. “I read some of the comments that people made,” Hill’s mother said. “Some were nice but some were downright nasty.” Hollister resident Lillian Hill said she hopes the people making negative comments on the Journal website will always have good luck with children and grandchildren. “Something went wrong in my son’s life in the last 10 years – what I don’t know,” Hill said. “As you can see from the pictures, he loved kids and sports that they played.” Like the other five canal victims, Hill went in with no witnesses to see how entered the water. The canal runs from North Auburn to a reservoir near Auburn’s Palm Avenue and rarely had reported drownings before the cluster of six deaths in less than two years. The Sheriff’s Office has also drawn another parallel among the six – all showed signs of substance abuse. Unlike the others, Hill had a witness talking to him while he was in the water. A resident heard his calls for help and tried to throw a rope to him. But Hill was unable to hang on and drifted off in the current and the darkness, deputies reported. Emergency workers managed to recover the body, floating facedown near Edgewood Road but efforts to revive him were in vain. Reed said the mobilehome park resident who tried to save Hill told investigators that the canal victim yelled out nothing about being pushed in or attacked. Attempts to reach the park resident have been unsuccessful and the person hasn’t come forward to tell his version of the rescue attempt.