Chico murder suspect bagged in Vegas
Las Vegas police arrested Chad Justin Smith on May 24, two days after he fled Chico after allegedly killing an acquaintance here.

Smith, who is suspected of killing 35-year-old Shawn Kittleson with a single gunshot to the face, didn’t go down quietly, though. Las Vegas police reported that when they pulled over the 1982 Datsun Smith was riding in, he fired a handgun at them and then fled on foot.

He was captured almost immediately. The driver of the car, Chico resident Velvet Bennett, described as Smith’s girlfriend, was arrested on two charges of assaulting a police officer, said Chico police Sgt. Dave Barrow. When police approached her car to arrest Smith, she kicked and spat at the officers, Barrow said.

Court records show that both Smith and Kittleson have criminal histories that stretch back several years. Smith has spent time in prison on charges of domestic violence and possession of drugs for sale, along with several weapons violations. And Kittleson’s court record reveals that he’d been convicted of battery, possession of drugs for sale and possessing stolen property.

Waldorf critics lose court battle
A lawsuit that played into the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees’ decision to deny a Waldorf-method charter school has been thrown out of court.

On May 23, U.S. District Court Judge Frank Damrell dismissed the case, ruling that People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) had no standing to bring the claims against the two schools it said wrongly brought religion into the classroom.

Maria Lopez, communications director for the Sacramento Unified School District, which had been sued along with the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, said, “We felt very heartened by the judge’s decision and we hope this is the end of it. We were using an instructional method that did not threaten and violate any First Amendment claims.”

But in an e-mailed statement, members of PLANS said they plan to appeal. “The dismissal is only technical; it doesn’t touch the merits of the case at all,” stated PLANS Secretary Dan Dugan.

It was PLANS representatives who traveled to Chico in January, telling trustees tales of cult-like rituals in private Waldorf schools and the theology of Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner. Ultimately, the trustees voted 4-1 to deny the school, proclaiming it “sectarian.”

Aneurysm kills former sheriff
Former Butte County Sheriff Walter Leroy Wood died of an apparent aortic aneurysm on May 27. He was 64 years old.

Wood, who was commonly known as “Woody,” was first hired as a deputy sheriff in 1959. He progressed through the Sheriff’s Department ranks over the years, serving as chief investigator and captain prior to his election as sheriff in 1986.

Mick Grey, who was elected sheriff after Wood retired in 1990, endorsed him. When elected, Wood inherited a department weakened by years of budget instability and cutbacks, but he was credited with managing to put additional deputies on the street by re-aligning the department’s upper management.

Funeral services for Wood will be held June 5 at 11 a.m. at the Oroville Church of the Nazarene.