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Bill Macfadyen: More Questions Than Answers about Death at UCSB Lagoon | Local News

Noozhawk has been covering our community for 15 years, and I’m enormously proud of how dedicated and true our staff is to our mission.

But it’s the innovation from our employees that makes me marvel. Throughout the two-year COVID-19 crisis our sales team has continuously come up with creative ways to support our advertisers and sponsors, and a webinar they hosted this week is the latest example.

The brainchild of sales manager Sheridan Taphorn, our inaugural Nonprofit Partners Webinar was designed to help our nonprofit clients learn more about Noozhawk’s advertising, marketing and promotional opportunities and resources.

Nearly 40 nonprofit representatives participated in the roughly half-hour Zoom session led by Sheridan and featuring managing editor Giana Magnoli and business development vice president Kim Clark.

We’re planning to do this quarterly and, if I know Sheridan, it will be even better next time. If you can’t wait, email her to hear how we can help you now.

According to our Google Analytics, Noozhawk drew an audience of 99,563 readers this past week. What follows is my take on the Top 5 stories you were reading during the period.

As you should know, this is my opinion column. It is not a news story.

Authorities investigating the death of a woman found in a car on the edge of the UC Santa Barbara lagoon have identified her as 33-year-old Ericka Andrews of San Leandro.

Our Giana Magnoli reported Feb. 14 that Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Raquel Zick said the Coroner’s Bureau is still investigating the cause of death and the circumstances of the case.

As our Janene Scully had first reported Feb. 12, UCSB police, sheriff’s deputies and county firefighters were dispatched around 4 a.m. that day to the lagoon, where a car had been found crashed off the road near the jetty, down the hill just to the east of the Faculty Club & Guest House.

Andrews, the car’s only occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene.

No other details were available.

A 43-year-old Goleta man died of his wounds after being shot at a local hotel last week, and two Santa Barbara men have been arrested as suspects in the case.

Our Giana Magnoli wrote three stories about the mystery-shrouded shooting, and all three were among our most-read stories this past week, with two of them in the Top 5.

According to sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick, gunshots were reported about 8 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Pacifica Suites Hotel at 5490 Hollister Ave. Deputies who responded to the scene found evidence of a shooting but no victims or suspects.

About an hour later, however, Richard Andrew Cardona showed up at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital — less than a mile away — with gunshot wounds. Zick said doctors were unable to save him, and he was pronounced dead not long after his arrival.

She said the preliminary investigation indicated that Cardona and whoever shot him knew each other, and that the attack was not random.

On Feb. 16, Zick announced that the suspected gunman — identified as 34-year-old Isaiah Ramirez Alexander — had been arrested the afternoon of Feb. 14 in the 1600 block of State Street.

According to the criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney’s Office, Alexander is being charged with five felonies: first-degree murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, shooting at an inhabited vehicle, residential burglary and commercial burglary.

He’s also charged with special allegations for previously having been convicted of two prior violent strikes under California’s three-strikes law, personal use of a firearm in commission of a crime, and being out on bail on two separate cases during the commission of the charged offenses.

It may surprise you that Alexander is no stranger to the criminal justice system. Superior Court records show that just last month he was arrested on felony charges of identity theft, forgery and second-degree burglary, as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

At his latest arraignment, on Feb. 16, Superior Court Judge Raimundo Montest de Oca ordered Alexander to return on Feb. 23 for a preliminary hearing.

In the meantime, he’s in County Jail with bail set at $2 million.

Zick said a second man — identified as 36-year-old Anthony Torres Lopez Jr. — also was arrested on suspicion of robbery and attempted extortion in connection with the case. As of Feb. 18, he remains jailed on $50,000 bail.

I want to thank all the Super Bowl celebrities who so openly affirmed my point for me. When it comes to the coronavirus crisis, POLITICAL SCIENCE trumps SCIENCE.

Jeff Sczechowski
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Jeff Sczechowski on the top of the world at Point Mugu State Park, hours before a hit-and-run driver took it all away from him. (Sczechowski family photo)

A Santa Barbara mountain biker was severely injured Feb. 12 when he was struck by a vehicle on Pacific Coast Highway near Point Mugu in Ventura County. The driver fled the scene and remained at large as of Feb. 18.

As our Tom Bolton was first to report, Jeff Sczechowski had been riding with a friend near Sycamore Canyon Campground at Point Mugu State Park, about 4½ miles south of the Las Posas Road intersection at Naval Air Station Point Mugu.

Sczechowski, a 58-year-old UC Santa Barbara physics researcher, was riding back to his car along the shoulder of the road just after 11 a.m. when he was struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver.

The impact catapulted him into a parked car, where a passing motorist found him and called 9-1-1.

On Feb. 14, Sczechowski’s wife, Namino Glantz, told Tom that he was immobilized at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura with multiple fractured vertebrae in his back, a broken left leg, damaged arms and wrists, and several fractured ribs.

“They still have him flat on his back, looking up at the ceiling, in a brace that goes all the way up to his neck because of his back,” she said. “He can’t move or do anything. He’s in a lot of pain.”

The California Highway Patrol in Ventura hasn’t been terribly helpful to either Glantz or Noozhawk. The lack of communication has given me a new appreciation for the prompt responsiveness of the CHP offices in Goleta and Buellton.

Sczechowski’s family is asking for the public’s help to identify the hit-and-run driver or provide information about the collision. That stretch of PCH is heavily traveled, with campers and cars often parked along the roadway, so I’m surprised at the evident absence of eyewitnesses.

The CHP’s Ventura office can be reached at 805.662.2640 if you know anything.

Sczechowski, a chemical engineering Ph.D., is program manager for the Quantum Brain Initiative in UCSB’s Department of Physics. Along with his passion for cycling, he’s a talented bonsai tree artist and president of the Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara.

Shannon and Albert DiPadova
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Shannon and Albert DiPadova, co-owners of Riviera Towel Company in Santa Barbara, have thrown in with their towels at a new showroom at 614 Santa Barbara St. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Its business is drying up, and that’s exactly where the Riviera Towel Company wants to be. I’ll let our Josh Molina explain:

Founded by owners Shannon and Albert DiPadova in 2015, the Santa Barbara company has been steadily absorbing more and more of the market share for Turkish towels and bath products. You might say it’s plush with success, but the DiPadovas aren’t standing pat.

Starting from a small shop near De la Guerra Plaza, Riviera Towel expanded to a larger retail store at 17 W. Gutierrez St. next to D’Angelo Bakery, and recently to a much larger showroom at 614 Santa Barbara St., a few doors down from Jill’s Place Restaurant.

“We’re so excited to have this space,” Shannon DiPadova told Josh. “Now people can come and see us in a proper showroom. We can really show all of our products.”

Among those products, which also are available through an e-commerce site, are promotional towels, robes and blankets customized for local companies like The Ritz-Carlton Bacara and Sonos, as well as other corporate clients you may have heard of: Apple, Google, Instagram, Netflix and TikTok.

The couple also is committed to supporting nonprofit organizations working to “help keep our oceans clean,” according to Albert DiPadova. Each year, 5% of the company’s net profit is donated to marine organizations, including Heal the Ocean and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Woman, 18, Arrested for Allegedly Trying to Kill Acquaintance at Santa Barbara Residence.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Stylistically, no other writer had more of an influence on me and the dreck I write than political satirist P.J. O’Rourke, who noticed the smallest of details and could brilliantly use them to make the largest of points. I don’t know how he did it, but he had an uncanny ability to find the humor — and mockery — in absolutely every situation. In person, he was charming, gracious, genuine and present, and was one of the most wickedly funny people I’ve ever met. In writing his obituary, Joseph Bottum managed to honor O’Rourke by mimicking his style — no easy feat: P.J. O’Rourke (1947–2022).

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

My Instagram feed was all over the place this past week, but it ended up in the money. To quote my friend, Paul Yarbrough: “Bingo!”

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Americans Held Hostage: Day 172

It’s been 172 days since the United States abandoned thousands of U.S. citizens and green-card holders to the Taliban in Afghanistan. At least we’re not currently lying about the next time: U.S. Warns Americans Abroad Not to Count on a Rescue.

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Watch It

When you just want to be cool and chillax, but you also want your belly rubbed. HT to Best of Bill reader Prim Yeager.

(Whimsical video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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