Country chronicles

Strange stories from Glenn County

WHO STARTED IT?<br>Willows Fire Lt. LeRoy Johnson hits a hot spot in the arson fire that caused the death of a member of the Glenn County district attorney’s family July 22.

Willows Fire Lt. LeRoy Johnson hits a hot spot in the arson fire that caused the death of a member of the Glenn County district attorney’s family July 22.

Photo By Tim Crews

“It’s the Wild West here,” Tim Crews often says of Glenn County, and he’s not kidding. One week it’s Deadwood, the next it’s Dallas.

Two weeks ago, for example, Crews, the editor/publisher of the Willows-based Sacramento Valley Mirror, reported that “a pair of Ninja wannabes” wearing ski masks and wielding baseball bats had attempted to “whack” a local assistant district attorney by breaking into his house in the middle of the night. Only they got the neighbor’s house by mistake, almost killing him with a swing of the bat before realizing their mistake—"Oh shit! It’s not the D.A.!” one of them yelled—and fleeing.

So far nobody has been caught. Local officials are mystified about the motive.

More recently, Crews reported in his Aug. 18 issue that the county’s district attorney, Bob Holzapfel, seems to think some women deserve to be beaten and isn’t afraid to say so. “Lying bitch deserved to have her ass beat,” he proclaimed on July 1,—at a meeting of the Glenn County Domestic Violence Council, no less! (Several witnesses, including the Willows police chief, confirmed the remark. As one local attorney put it, “Oh, that’s just Bob’s redneck thing.")

But the story that brings the Deadwood-meets-Dallas theme all the way home involves a mysterious death by fire and a long-standing family feud in a prominent local family—the very same Holzapfel family, in fact, of which the district attorney is a leading member.

The dead man is Ivan Foglesong, who was 59 years old when he was terribly burned in a fire at a small farmhouse-turned-hunting-cabin on property about three miles southeast of Willows owned by Roy Holzapfel, 35, the district attorney’s son. Foglesong was the husband of Jan Foglesong, the district attorney’s sister. Her other brother, Herb Holzapfel, is a prominent Glenn County rice farmer.

During winters the unoccupied farmhouse was used by members of a duck hunting club of which Foglesong was a member, but most of the year it was used only for its restroom. On the afternoon of July 22, a Saturday, Foglesong was apparently inside the structure when the fire broke out. How it happened is still unclear, but fire officials have determined that it was started by an ignitable fluid and have deemed it arson.

Foglesong, with second- and third-degree burns on much of his body, managed to drive to his home about a mile away. His son, Kurt, then drove him to Glenn Medical Center. From there he was immediately airlifted to the UC Davis Burn Center, in Sacramento. He died there at 1:45 Sunday morning.

Officials had no opportunity to interview Foglesong, so they don’t know whether he was burned trying to put out the fire or had anything to do with starting it.

At least three callers to 9-1-1 that day said the house had been “blown up,” Crews reported. In his story, he described the structure as “evenly burned throughout except the front appeared to be blown out.”

Cal-Fire Butte County Capt. George Morris III said, however, there had been no explosion. “There were no indicators of an explosion in the building, no evidence of that,” he told Chico Enterprise-Record reporter Barbara Arrigoni.

Lt. Rich Warren, of the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office, told the CN&R that his office is waiting for the results of lab tests and a forensic autopsy before making a final determination of how Foglesong died. The case is being investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise.

Both the Valley Mirror and the Enterprise-Record have called attention to the fact that Foglesong had been engaged in a running dispute with Roy Holzapfel, his nephew by marriage. The two men filed assault charges against each other following a fight that broke out in November 2006, and in January 2007 Foglesong alleged that Holzapfel had rammed his vehicle. Sheriff’s officers determined there was insufficient evidence to file charges, Crews reported.

Because the assault charges involved members of the district attorney’s family, they were referred to the state Attorney General’s Office, which is now also looking into Foglesong’s mysterious death.

Warren was understandably reluctant to speculate on what happened. He acknowledged that there was “a fairly well-known feud in the family,” but the most he would say was, “Obviously there’s a lot more to it that we’re just standing on.”

For his part, Crews is disinclined to believe that Foglesong caused his own death by spilling some kind of fluid on himself. “I’m not buying it at all. … There was at least some kind of rapid-ignition event.”

Deadwood? Or Dallas? Take your pick.