Sunday, March 29, 2015

Motive for murder-suicide remains a mystery

Grief, shock and confusion continued to plague two families on Saturday as they struggled to understand what caused a West Davis man to fatally shoot his friend and roommate, then turn the gun on himself.

“I don’t know what happened between them, but there wasn’t any animosity,” Lois Hall, the mother of 23-year-old Joseph Andrew Hein, said in an interview at her Dixon home Saturday, a day after police found the bodies of Hein and UC Davis veterinary medicine student Whitney Joypauline Engler, 27, in the Glacier Drive home they shared.

“He liked and respected Whitney,” Hall said. The pair had …

Two found dead of apparent shooting in West Davis home

A seven-hour police standoff in West Davis ended tragically early Friday morning with the discovery of two bodies inside a Glacier Drive home.

Davis Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel confirmed this morning that both bodies — one male, one female — had gunshot wounds when officers found them on the second floor of the house at about 2 a.m.

Yolo County coroner’s officials have identified the pair as Whitney Joypauline Engler, 27; and 23-year-old Joseph Andrew Hein, both of Davis. Autopsies are planned for Monday to determine their cause and manner of death.

However, Davis police issued a news release late Friday afternoon saying “preliminary evidence suggests this was a murder-suicide. Therefore, investigators do not believe there is anyone else involved, and are not actively seeking any suspects at this time.”

Summit searches for agricultural solutions

California farmers have a lot on their plate.

Juggling soil depletions, wildlife endangerment, water crises and ever-changing government regulations, more than 300 farmers, conservationists and scientists met for the CalCAN Climate and Agriculture Summit on Wednesday to tackle the dilemmas that face California farmers.

CalCAN, or the California Climate and Agriculture Network, is an organization dedicated to supporting farmers who strive to fight climate change with sustainable practices.

A bicycle evangelist for Yolo County

When Maria Contreras was growing up in East Davis, she realized about age 12 that her bicycle was her ticket to independence. The first time she headed north on Pole Line Road/County Road 102 to Woodland and bought an ice cream without a parent within miles, she felt a new-found freedom she has never forgotten.

These days, Maria Contreras Tebbutt sometimes takes that same route to Woodland on Wednesdays and Saturdays to work with a group of volunteers on what is known as The Bike Campaign. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m., you can go to …

Volunteer extraordinaire loves spreading his wings

Entomologist Jeff Smith knows how to spread his wings — and that of butterflies and moths, too.

Usually “spreading one’s wings” means leaving, but for Smith — a retired businessman, a 27-year volunteer at UC Davis’ Bohart Museum of Entomology and a U.S. Air Force veteran — “spreading wings” means staying and doing what he loves.

Smith curates the 400,000-specimen Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart Museum, a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection …

50 years after that long bus ride to Alabama …

On March 7, 1965, a group of marchers in Selma, Ala. — seeking to draw attention to the cause of voting rights for black Americans — tried to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The unarmed marchers were beaten back by Alabama state troopers and county law-enforcement officers, using billy clubs and tear gas. Reports of the brutal confrontation were carried prominently in newspapers and on television, and the event got the nickname “Bloody Sunday.”

In the aftermath of that terrible day, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called on pastors from communities around the nation, as well as others who …

New ag-tech startup helps farmers analyze water use

Water use may be California’s No. 1 topic in 2015 — and last year and the one before that. As the state enters its fourth year of drought, everyone is seeking new options for monitoring and use of this precious resource.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed groundwater legislation, paving the way for new regulations on pumping in California and allowing local agencies to oversee extraction. The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion, resulting in the loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs, according to an impact report from UC Davis scientists.

Enter Tule, a new business formed with the strength of UCD research behind it. With a sensor and monitoring system installed above the crop canopy (and tapped into the irrigation line), the company can accurately tell growers how much water their plants are using and even when and how much to apply. The San Francisco-based startup was one of 14 launched last year with UCD support.

Brown, Napolitano give few details on budget talks

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown and University of California President Janet Napolitano said Wednesday they are pleased with the progress they have made since they agreed to form an unusual “committee of two” to work out their differences over the university’s finances, but they provided no specifics about what their talks will mean for student admissions and tuition.

The two leaders briefly updated the rest of UC’s governing board about their work as the sole members of the Select Advisory Committee on the Cost Structure of the University.

See the creative process at work on Art Studio Tour

The artistic process can be a mystery to those who lack creative flair. But a tour of 30 local artists’ studios next month will give visitors a close look at how the best and brightest in our community create their magic.

The Davis Art Studio Tour, a self-guided tour sponsored by The Artery, will showcase the artists’ work in their studios on Saturday and Sunday, April 11-12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A preview exhibit, which features one piece of art from each participant, will be on view April 1-13 at The Artery, 207 G St. in downtown Davis. A gala reception is planned from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 10, as part of the Second Friday ArtAbout.

Sierra Energy refines garbage-to-fuel system

Davis-based Sierra Energy is looking toward waste management solutions for the future as it fine-tunes its FastOx gasifier. The gasification system acts as a virtual garbage eater, processing metric tons of industrial, construction, medical and electronic wastes and transforming them into renewable fuels.

“Anything with carbon can be processed by the FastOx,” explained Mike Hart, CEO of Sierra Energy.

The first FastOx gasifier debuted in 2009 and could process up to two tons of waste per day. Since then, Sierra Energy’s researchers pushed the system to process up to 10 metric tons of waste per day.

Overseas overture: Davis rhythm, Havana nights

John Horn had more than 1,600 photos on his phone after his trip to Cuba last month, many depicting the iconic automobiles that have come to be associated with the country’s frozen-in-time image. His wife, Katie, joked that their travel companions — the band California Repercussions — couldn’t get very far without some of the guys needing to stop to snap more car pictures.

Horn, president of the Davis High School Band Boosters, Katie, and their daughters Becky (Davis High School Class of 2010) and Jenny (DHS Class of 2012), along with about 48 other musicians traveled to Cuba as a cultural exchange. Including family members, the group numbered about 80 people.

Davis soccer gear gets second life in Myanmar

Clothes make the man, so the saying goes. A local nonprofit organization, Second Touch Soccer, is making lots of young men — really, children — happy around the world, most recently in rural Myanmar, through its donation of clean, used soccer uniforms and gear.

Another local nonprofit, the Myanmar Children’s Foundation, sought out Second Touch Soccer after reading about them in The Davis Enterprise. Three directors of Second Touch Soccer — two at Davis High School and one at Tulane University — delivered two clean sets of used soccer uniforms, referee and goalie uniforms and soccer balls to Susan Steinbach, president of the foundation, in December.

Wildflower and water-critter walks this weekend

Wildflower season is here, and docents at the Solano Land Trust’s Jepson Prairie Preserve south of Dixon are ready to welcome visitors to see the first wave of vernal pool flowers.

Weekend tours begin Saturday, March 14. Weather permitting, there will be two-hour guided walks starting at 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10.

“A vernal pool is a world of exceptional diversity and an ecological system of great complexity, and Jepson Prairie Preserve is one of the best remaining examples of vernal pools in all of California,” a news release said.

UC Davis veterinary school ranks No. 1

U.S. News & World Report has recognized the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis as the nation’s best veterinary school.

The 2016 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings also recognized many of UCD’s professional schools and graduate programs as among the nation’s best, reflecting the campus’ excellence across a broad range of fields.

“Our ultimate measures of success are the quality of the students we graduate and the lives improved by our research, but it is always encouraging to see a broad range of our graduate programs recognized as among the best in the nation,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said.