Sonoma Valley Darwin Awards 2013

First of two parts

Most people are at least loosely familiar with the name Charles Darwin, the naturalist who formulated the theory (or if you’re a member of some fundamentalist churches, the lie) of evolution.

Evolution holds that all life evolves from simpler and more primitive life forms, to more complex and sophisticated life forms, and that this process gives rise to a phenomenon called “the survival of the fittest.”

At one point on the evolutionary scale, the fittest were almost always those with the greatest physical strength or the best physical defenses. But over time the primacy of the brain overtook body strength and now humans are at the top of the evolutionary ladder (although there is some evidence that we may soon burn that ladder and all perish in the ashes).

Within the human species there are branches of evolution, DNA trails if you will, that lead to dead ends, or over a cliff. And within the annals of the Sonoma Valley police reports there are incidents of human misbehavior that suggest those who performed them are, indeed, headed down an evolutionary dead end, or over a cliff.

These then are the 2013 Sonoma Valley Darwin Award Winners.

A really, really bad check

On Friday, Jan. 11, at 3 p.m., a Los Angeles man was arrested on numerous charges after he tried to cash a faux check at a business in the 17000 block of Highway 12. The man tried to cash a $472 check from an out-of-the-area business on an account that had been closed, and the name on the check didn’t match the suspect’s name. The Los Angeles resident was arrested on charges of felony burglary, felony forgery, giving false identification to a police officer and knowingly trying to pass a check with insufficient funds, also a felony.


Quick turn around

On Wednesday, Jan. 19. At 10:15 a.m., a resident in the 19000 block of Linden Street, who had just been placed on probation the day before, apparently did not expect visitors when there was a knock on his door at mid-morning. When he opened it, he was greeted by Sheriff’s deputies, there to conduct a probation search.

The 29-year-old resident was soon out of luck and on his way back to jail. During the search, the deputies found methamphetamine, marijuana and syringes – and the resident apparently under the influence.

He was arrested on charges of felony possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, being under the influence of a controlled substance and a felony probation violation. A 36-year-old female was arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Houdini could have done it

At 3:30 p.m. on the same day, Sonoma Sheriff’s deputies went to a residence in the 18000 block of Railroad Avenue to make a felony warrant arrest on a suspect charged with possession of stolen property. After arresting the 29-year-old man, the deputies put him in the squad car and began the transport to county jail in Santa Rosa. Before they got there, however, the deputies saw strange movements in the back seat and pulled the car over. They then discovered the suspect, who was cuffed with his hands behind his back, had removed his shoes and, with his toes, was trying to hide the methamphetamine and pipe that was in his sock. He was arrested on additional charges of felony possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Old habits die hard

During a 2:20 p.m. probation search on Jan. 26, at a residence in the 900 block of Walnut Avenue, Sheriff’s deputies found their 26-year-old suspect had locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out. Instead, he tried to launch himself to freedom out the bathroom window, but he leaped into the arms of a waiting deputy. During the following probation search, deputies located 6 grams of methamphetamine, a .38 caliber handgun and various drug paraphernalia. The suspect was arrested and charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, felony possession of methamphetamine for sale, being armed with a firearm in commission of a felony, obstructing a peace officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and a probation violation.

The man was jailed, then bailed out of jail, and on Friday, Feb. 1, while he was making a court appearance for this arrest, deputies returned to his residence on a probation search and located more drug paraphernalia. The man was re-arrested on possession of paraphernalia charges and went promptly back to jail.

The gang who couldn’t counterfeit straight

They could have been called the gang who couldn’t counterfeit straight. In a convoluted plot of inept bad-check passing, three Sonoma Valley residents attempted to pass a bad check just after noon on July 18, at a Highway 12 market in the Springs, at which a similar fraudulent check had been cashed a day earlier. When a suspicious employee saw a second check drawn on an account with the same name as the previous bad check, she called Sonoma Sheriff’s deputies, who arrived in time to confront the check-cashing suspect, who said he had no idea the check was bad and that he was only cashing it for his friends in the car out back because they didn’t happen to have any ID with them, despite the fact the check was made out to him.

When deputies checked on the car out back, its three occupants included a well-known local with a lengthy criminal record and three blank stolen checks in his pocket.

In a backpack belonging to the same man, deputies found hypodermic needles containing a brown liquid identified as heroin, along with some narcotic pills lacking a prescription.

The next day, deputies paid a visit to a home on Wegele Drive where the woman suspected of cashing the previous bad check was living. When deputies interviewed her, she told them that a man named “Miguel” had given her the check in payment for some housework. She was unable, however, to remember “Miguel’s” last name or where he lived.

Eventually she admitted that the $422 check had been given to her to cash by a 27-year-old man who said he would give her $40 if she cashed it at the market, where she shopped and was well known.

But, she told deputies, after successfully cashing the check, the man refused to give her the $40. When she protested, she said, he pulled out a knife and told her, “You got 10 seconds to run before I make you look like Scarface.”

Deputies then went to the man’s home, where he denied knowing the woman who cashed the check or taking the money.

He was, however, wearing a GPS-equipped ankle bracelet, giving deputies the means to track his recent travels.

All told, deputies arrested a 33-year-old man for possession of a narcotic controlled substance and felony burglary; a 21-year-old woman for passing a fictitious check and felony burglary; a 29-year-old man, for felony burglary, receiving stolen property, forgery, conspiracy, probation violation, possessing controlled substance paraphernalia, possession of controlled substance and an outside felony warrant.

The author of the Scarface threat was charged with passing a stolen check, forgery, conspiracy, possession of stolen property, a probation violation and brandishing a weapon.

All were booked into the Sonoma County jail.