SCHOOL EMPLOYEE ARRESTED FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

A custodian with the Morongo Unified School district was arraigned last week by a federal grand jury with production of child pornography. According to an FBI press release, Matthew Frazer, 42, of Yucca Valley, was arrested January 31 at his place of employment. He was indicted by the grand jury February 12, and arraigned February 19 and pleaded not guilty.

Matt Frazer CDL photo

Mattt Frazer booking photo

The indictment states that Frazer enticed a minor to engage in sexually explicit acts, which he then shared online. In 2013, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children gave the FBI a series of photos of a girl, aged 4 to 6 years old, being sexually abused by a white male. Over a period of several months the FBI developed leads before finally identifying Matthew Frazer as a suspect. The FBI believes other minors may have been victimized who have not yet been identified. Anyone who believes they may have information about this investigation or additional victims is urged to contact the FBI.

TOWN CONSIDERING CONVERTING BLACK ROCK CANYON ROAD INTO A DIRT ROAD

The Town of Yucca Valley is considering removing the failed asphalt and turning the troubled Black Rock Canyon Road into a graded dirt road. According to a release from the Town, a grant application to repair the road submitted by the town and Joshua Tree National Park in April 2013 was not successful. Black Rock Canyon Road provides access to a residential neighborhood, Joshua Tree National Park’s Black Rock Campground and the Town’s South Park. The Road was not maintained by the County prior to the Town’s incorporation, and has not been accepted into the Town’s Maintained Road System. Estimates for the reconstruction of the road and drainage improvements are $696,000.  While the Town and National Park seek resources to address Black Rock Canyon Road, one interim solution discussed is “grinding or pulverizing” the existing cold mix asphalt and to then maintain Black Rock Canyon Road as a graded dirt road until such time as resources can be obtained to construct paved access. In addition to construction costs, the street and utility easements have not been granted by property owners over a portion of the existing road and the east side of the Black Rock Canyon Road. The Town Council will be discussing Black Rock Canyon Road as well as other potential road improvement projects during its budget workshops beginning in March 2014. Federal budget restrictions limit the National Park Service from spending funds on improvements outside of park boundaries.

PALM SPRINGS TO ALLOW FOURTH MARIJUANA DISPENSARY

While Yucca Valley prohibits Marijuana Dispensaries, Palm Springs will get another dispensary after a 4-1 vote Wednesday night by the City Council that paves the way for a fourth dispensary within city limits. Besides approving a comprehensive regulatory program that adds a fourth dispensary, the council also approved measures that require quality testing of the marijuana and allows the shops to take cash and operate on Sunday.

MORONGO VALLEY COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT HIRES GENERAL MANAGER, APPOINTS VOLUNTEERS

The Morongo Valley CSD officially hired a new general manager last might as well as made volunteer appointments. Reporter Mike Lipsitz was at last night’s meeting and files this report…

At last night’s regular meeting of the Morongo Valley Community Services District, The board approved an employment contract with Donna Munoz to serve as general manager, as expected. In a statement to the board, Munoz said, “I have the experience, the knowledge, the energy and the heart to do this job,” and concluded, “I assure you that I’m ready to dig in.” She begins “digging in” this morning. Also last night, the following nominees were approved to serve voluntary two-year terms on the Facilities, Apparatus & Equipment Committee: Terry Hone, Donald Krouse, Wendy Ross, Glen Shepherd and Bill Swarat.

JOSHUA TREE MAN HIT BY VEHICLE EARLY THIS MORNING

Area law enforcement agencies are investigating a pedestrian who was hit by a vehicle early this morning in Joshua Tree. According to Fire Captain Steve Lasiter, about 2 a.m., a 19-year-old Joshua Tree man was walking with his family and friends northbound on Sunburst Circle when he was hit by a vehicle. The man suffered significant head injuries, lacerations and abrasions consistent with being hit by a vehicle. The incident is under investigation.

VEGETATION FIRES ON YUCCA GRADE LAST NIGHT

Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree firefighters were called to several vegetation fires on the Yucca Grade about 11 p.m. last night. Fire Captain Steve Lasiter said that four small vegetation fires were burning on the south shoulder of eastbound Highway 62. The fires started about 50 feet from the bottom of the Yucca Grade and were several hundred yards apart to the top of the grade. Lasiter said because of the extremely dry conditions, the vegetation is ripe for a fire, needing just a spark, such as from a passing car that might have been dragging something, and the winds last night helped fan the flames. Firefighters were able to put out the blazes in about 15 minutes.

MAN CAUGHT ON SECURITY CAMERA DISABLING A SECURITY CAMERA

Smile. You are on … surveillance camera. A Yucca Valley man apparently thought if he ripped a camera off the outside wall of a pawn shop in the 56400 block of 29 Palms Highway, and then threw the camera away, that he would escape detection if he broke into the pawn shop about 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. However, William Moore, 33, didn’t realize that a computer inside the store was recording footage from the camera, and therefore recorded his actions of vandalizing the surveillance camera. The deputy investigating the attempted break-in saw and recognized Moore about 2 p.m. in the 7000 block of Palo Alto in Yucca Valley and arrested him on suspicion of felony vandalism and on a probation violation. William Moore was booked at the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $25,000 for the vandalism, but is being held without bail for the probation violation.

AN ARREST FOR FIREWORKS AND DRUGS IN YUCCA VALLEY

Two people were arrested Tuesday afternoon after fireworks and drugs were found in their vehicle. According to a Sheriff’s report, about 12:20 Tuesday, a deputy stopped a vehicle at Airway Avenue and Highway 62 for having expired registration tabs. The driver, Michael Mack, 47, of Landers, was driving on a license that had been suspended since 2006. Also in the car was Christy Bigornia, 21, of Yucca Valley, who had a warrant for her arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia. The deputy also discovered an illegal firework with a fuse, labeled “explosive,” and about an ounce of marijuana. Michael Mack was arrested for investigation of possession of a dangerous firework. He was booked at the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $25,000. Christy Bigornia was arrested for her $25,000 warrant and booked at the Morongo Basin Jail.

CAST ANNOUNCED FOR THEATRE 29 COMEDY MURDER MYSTERY

Casting is complete for the second production at Theatre 29, the Morongo Basin’s premiere playhouse. “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery: Murder at Checkmate Manor,” directed by theater veteran Marty Neider, is a comedy by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr. about a drama group that experiences the horrors of what can go wrong on opening night. Managing editor Tami Roleff starts naming names…

Donette Swain has been cast as Phoebe Reece, who herself plays five different roles. Char Childs plays Thelma Greenwood, who has two roles in the play. Mandi Pushkar is cast as Audrey Forbes-Farguahar, who has four roles in the play within a play; Amanda Winters will portray Felicity Crabtree, who is cast as two actors. Also cast in the play are Curtis Mohn and Brianna Sears as stagehands, and Leonard Weber as the Inspector. The Farndale Murder Mystery opens February 28 and runs for five weekends, with Sunday matinees March 9 and 23.

TWO MORE HUGE SOLAR PROJECTS PLANNED NEARBY

The area around nearby Primm, Nevada, is about to become even more of a hotspot for solar energy. The Obama administration endorsed two big projects yesterday near the existing Ivanpah solar plant that went online in January. One of the new developments would be in San Bernardino County; the other would be east of Interstate 15 in Nevada. The approvals renewed concerns among environmentalists about the potential loss of desert tortoises and concern about bird deaths at solar plants. The Stateline and Silverstate South projects are proposed by Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar Inc. If both are built, solar energy plants would cover about 13 square miles of public land in the Ivanpah Valley. The Stateline project will cover 2.6 square miles on the California side of the border, near to the existing Ivanpah plant, which uses mirrors to focus energy onto boilers mounted on three, 460-foot towers to make electricity. Silverstate South will use 3.8 square miles just east of Primm, on the Nevada side of the border and next to the existing Silverstate North, which occupies 600 acres. The two new projects are expected to supply 550 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power about 170,000 homes, using photovoltaic panel technology.

JOSHUA TREE E-ZINE “ARTHUR” ENDING OPERATIONS

“Arthur,” the counterculture/psychedelic-music online magazine run out of Joshua Tree, is ceasing operations. According to “stranger” online, “Arthur” had made a strong three-issue comeback in 2013 after a long hiatus, but publisher Jay Babcock is retiring the title, for the foreseeable future, anyway. “For many reasons, it’s now time for ‘Arthur’ to go dormant,” Babcock wrote.

LEARN ABOUT PHYSICS SATURDAY AT HI-DESERT NATURE MUSEUM

The Science Saturday Series continues at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley. Reporter Taylor Thacker invites you learn about physics this Saturday…

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum continues their popular education program, Science Saturdays, with exciting topics for the month of February. On Saturday, February 22, from 11:00 to 11:30 a.m., the topic will be physics. Everything in the world can be organized around two concepts, matter and energy. The study of physics focuses on matter and energy and the relationships between them. This means that physics is an incredibly important part of our daily lives since these concepts are always surrounding us. An excellent example of physics at work would be the exciting construction of roller coasters. They twist, turn, and spin upside down, but people never fall out of their seats, thanks to the laws of physics. Children will learn how physics is responsible for this and much more about the laws of motion during this fascinating Science Saturday. This program is free and no preregistration is required. It is recommended that children be school age for this program. For more information call 760-369-7212. Come out and learn something new this Saturday.

YUCCA VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER LOSES CIF 1ST ROUND

The Yucca Valley High School girls’ soccer team traveled to Baldwin Park to take on the Braves in CIF Playoff action. Coach Scott Phillips said the Lady Trojans fought hard, but had their season ended by a 4-0 score. Highlights for the year included senior Teresa Nava having a De Anza League-leading 20 goals with 10 assists;  freshman Alexia Missett having a De Anza League-leading 13 assists and 17 goals; and sophomore Nikole Cody tying the single season record of five shutouts. Phillips said the coaching staff is very proud of the entire team for their outstanding play and strong character shown throughout the season.

JOSHUA SPRINGS GIRLS’ BASKEBALL CIF PLAYOFF AT HOME TONIGHT

Joshua Springs girls’ basketball hosts Coastal Christian from Arroyo Grande in the first round of CIF Division 6 Playoffs tonight at 7:00 p.m. Led by Courteney Roberts, who averaged 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals per game, the  number 6 Lightning look to advance past the first round for the second consecutive year. The Lightning placed third in the Victory League with an 8-4 record. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $5 for students.