Tragic events/1990-1999

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November 11, 1999: Oliver Gee

Oliver Harry Gee (November 11, 1969 – November 11, 1999) was an agricultural postdoc working with Kent Bradford at UC Davis. He died in an unspecified accident near Davis while celebrating his 30th birthday. (Davis Enterprise, November 19, 1999)


September 11, 1999: James Miller

James Miller, age 38 and a Davis resident, died while jumping from a rock-climbing wall at a gym in South Lake Tahoe. He landed mid-waist at the edge of the safety mat and hit his head on the concrete floor. (Sacramento Bee, September 13, 1999)


July 8, 1999: Charles August

Charles D. August (January 2, 1963 – July 8, 1999) of Reno was killed before dawn on I-80 near Mace Boulevard when the car in which he was riding rolled over. The driver was tired and lost control of his car to avoid a collision while trying to pull over to rest. August wasn't wearing a seatbelt and he was thrown from the car. (Sacramento Bee, July 9, 1999)


July 29, 1999: Ann Christine Birrell

Ann Christine Birrell (May 2, 1930 – July 29, 1999) of Davis walked past the lowered crossing arms at the Eighth Street train crossing and was hit by a train. She had a history of mental illness, including previous suicide attempts. (Davis Enterprise, August 1, 1999, and August 11, 1999)


June 19, 1999: Daniel Dougherty, Lynn Wiley

Lynn Wiley, age 52, and Daniel H. Dougherty (July 2, 1951 – June 19, 1999) were residents of Davis who died along with two other people in the crash of a small skydiving plane that was piloted by Wiley, at Paso Robles Municipal Airport. One of the four skydivers survived with serious injuries. The NTSB reported that the pilot did not properly set the trim stabilizer and that the plane stalled during takeoff. Wiley was an anatomy professor at UC Davis as well as a licensed pilot, while Dougherty was her friend and the owner of the plane. (Sacramento Bee, June 21, 1999; NTSB report LAX99FA220)


April 21, 1999: Paul J. Sykes

Paul J. Sykes (January 28, 1969 – April 21, 1999) was a talented performance artist and musician who worked at the Varsity Theater. He was found hanged at his home by wife. The Yolo County coroner ruled that his death was a suicide. This ruling was disputed by his family, who maintained that his death was a rehearsal accident. (Davis Enterprise, July 26, 1999)


March 19, 1999: Sean Krueger

Sean T. Krueger (October 16, 1973 – March 19, 1999) was a resident of Davis. He was killed by a train between Old Davis and Fremont roads while walking his dog. He was trying to save his dog from the train, but they were both killed. (Sacramento Bee, March 22, 1999)


December 3, 1998: Nanda Butler

Nityananda Bhaktirasa Nanda Butler (November 23, 1979 – December 3, 1998) was a resident of Davis since his youth. He died at 8:15 p.m at the age of 19 on December 3rd 1998. 1 He was killed by a freight train near the intersection of L and 2nd streets and died of multiple traumatic injuries, the Yolo County coroner's office ruled. A friend who had safely passed over the tracks immediately before Nanda died, believes he was going to wait for the train to pass, but misjudged how close he was. There is a [WWW]myspace page dedicated to Nanda.


August 13, 1998: Jose Reyes

The body Jose Reyes (March 7, 1941 – August 13, 1998), a farm worker from Dixon, was discovered on the northern bank of Putah Creek. A Solano County employee tending some tree seedlings discovered Reyes' body near a bridge on Old Davis Road, about one mile south of Interstate 80. In that area, the center of the creek serves as the boundary between UC Davis and Solano County. Two adult nephews of Reyes identified the body and said their uncle is an unemployed farm worker whose permanent residence is in Mexico.

Reyes was believed by police to have been beaten and thrown from the 40-foot bridge in a robbery attempt. Police arrested Ruben Campos and Juan Palomino, both 21, as well as Guadalupe Franklin, 41, in connection with the death. Two men with no connection to UC Davis were later tried for the murder. ([WWW]source)

Investigators have traced the crime back to the afternoon of August 12, when Reyes and the three suspects met up in Dixon and began drinking. About 2am, police believe the four acquaintances went for a ride and ended up at Putah Creek and Old Davis roads, where they pulled over to the shoulder of the two-lane roadway and stayed for about ten minutes. At some point, police believe the three demanded Reyes hand over his money, he refused, and they began kicking and punching him before casting his body over the bridge. Police allege he lay there for several hours before being discovered about 10 to 15 feet from the water's edge. An autopsy report indicated Jose Reyes died of internal bleeding, and confirmed investigators' belief that a beating took place. ([WWW]source)


June 7, 1998: Ali Shahcheraghian

Ali Shahcheraghian, age 32 and a resident of Davis, was killed in a private plane crash on Mount Baldy in which two other passengers and the pilot also died. The four people were returning to Pomona after a trip to Las Vegas. According to the NTSB, the pilot made a risky descent into cloud-covered, mountainous terrain in his approach to Pomona. (Long Beach Press Telegram, June 12, 1998; NTSB report LAX98FA189)


May 23, 1998: Skye Bell, Rebekah Rosenthal

Rebekah B. Rosenthal (August 16, 1978 – May 23, 1998) and Skye L. Bell (March 1, 1979 – May 23, 1998) were both residents of Malcolm Hall at UC Davis. They died in a crash on I-5 south of Kettleman City and a third resident of Malcolm Hall was badly injured. (Sacramento Bee, May 27, 1998)


April 18, 1998: Seth Blake, Stephanie Cotter

On April 18, 1998, Seth Blake (September 12, 1969 – April 18, 1998), a resident of Sacramento, and his student Stephanie Cotter (September 15, 1971 – April 18, 1998), also of Sacramento, both died in a tandem jump at SkyDance. According to FAA records, Blake accidentally deployed the reserve chute first and it became entangled with the main chute. Blake's blood alcohol level was 0.04, which was half of the legal limit for driving; and he also had trace amounts of marijuana. (Sacramento Bee, April 19, 1998, and August 30, 1998)


February 7, 1998: Jessica Carney

Jessica J. Carney (September 22, 1979 – February 8, 1998), a first-year student at UC Davis, was killed in a four-car traffic accident in the rain on Highway 12 near Napa Valley. (California Aggie, February 12, 1998)


February 28, 1998: Kevin Ruska

The body of Kevin Ruska, a 23-year-old resident of Washington State, was found in the Motel 6 on Chiles Road. Ruska was shot by his ex-girlfriend Terebea Williams in Tacoma, Washington. Williams then drove south for 12 hours and left Ruska in the Motel 6, where he died of an infection from the shooting. (Davis Enterprise, March 3, 1998)


December 25, 1998: Hai Ho

Hai Ho (June 1, 1970 – December 25, 1998), a resident of UC Davis campus housing, committed suicide. His wife was a UC Davis student. (Sacramento Bee, Wednesday, January 17, 2001)


December 7, 1997: Lirio Rosagaran Murphy

Lirio Rosagaran Murphy (October 17, 1964 – December 7, 1997) of Sacramento died when she lost control of her car in the rain on I-80 in Davis. She ran off the road and hit a tree just east of Pole Line Road. (Sacramento Bee, December 9, 1997)


December 17, 1997: Qasim Shah

Qasim A. Shah (August 13, 1980 – December 17, 1997) was a young Davis resident whose death was investigated as a possible suicide. (Davis Enterprise, December 30, 1997)


December 15, 1997: Robert Schulze III

Robert Currey Schulze III (January 24, 1973 – December 15, 1997) was a Davis resident whose death was ruled a suicide. (Davis Enterprise, December 30, 1997)


November 28, 1997: Evan Rippee

Evan Michael Rippee (October 30, 1982 – November 28, 1997) was a young resident of Davis who died at home and whose death was investigated as a possible suicide. (Davis Enterprise, December 30, 1997)


September 1, 1997: Carole Litowsky

Carole Anne Litowsky (August 16, 1946 – September 1, 1997) of Mendocino died on I-80 east of Mace Boulevard in Davis when she lost control of her car. She skidded to the other side of the freeway and broadsided an oncoming car. (Sacramento bee, September 3, 1997)


July 16, 1997: Ellie Gerhardy

ellie.jpgEllie's Memorial Ellison Clagett "Ellie" Gerhardy (April 14, 1976 – July 16, 1997) was killed while riding her bicycle south on Pole Line Road in East Davis, crossing Covell Boulevard at a green light. She was a 21 year-old UC Davis senior, studying Nutritional Science, and was to be the co-captain of the UC Davis swimming team for the 1997-98 season.

She was bicycling at about 6:00pm to her residence at the Kappa Alpha Theta house from her summer jobs as a swimming teacher for the Davis Recreation Department and assistant coach for the Davis Athletic Club Swimming Team.

Javier Pimentel of Woodland, driving only the front cab of his tomato truck, was turning right from Pole Line Road onto westbound Covell on the same green light. He did not see Ellie crossing Covell to the right of his truck. The two collided, and Ellie was crushed beneath the truck's tires. After stopping briefly, Pimentel continued to his destination at the now-defunct Hunt Wesson Plant, where he was found by police hosing off his truck.

Pimentel was sentenced on April 14, 1998 (Ellie's 22nd birthday) to 185 days in Yolo County Jail and five years of probation. He pleaded no contest to one count of felony hit and run. Additional misdemeanor charges of vehicular manslaughter, providing false information to a police officer and destruction of evidence were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

A wooden-cross memorial to Ellie has been present at the northwest corner of Covell and Pole Line since 1998.


May 30, 1997: Billy Bostock

Billy Thomas Bostock (February 10, 1978 – May 30, 1997) of Davis died in Fresno, California when the car he was in was hit from the side and rolled upside down into a water-filled ditch. His pregnant girlfriend and her father also died in the accident. Billy had grown up in Davis and was close to graduating from King High School at the time.


May 17, 1997: Jason Edwards

Jason Allen Edwards (March 31, 1974 – May 17, 1997), a student at UC Davis, died when he fell off of High Street Bridge in Oakland. He had climbed onto the bridge and threatened to jump. (Contra Costa Times, May 19, 1997)


May 3, 1997: Richard Sinopoli

Richard Sinopoli (August 26, 1956 – May 3, 1997), a professor of political science at UC Davis, drowned at a beach on Kauai Island in Hawaii. He had been appointed as the new department chair for the next academic year. (Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1997)


March 9, 1997: Emily Schwalen

Emily T. Schwalen (November 28, 1955 – March 9, 1997) of Davis drowned when she was pulled into the Glory Hole spillway at the Monticello Dam at Lake Berryessa. She held onto the edge of the hole for 20 minutes, but could not be safely approached by witnesses. (San Francisco Chronicle, March 12, 1997)


July 23, 1996: Ajit Singh

Ajit Singh was a 22 year old UC Davis math major. She was involved in a breakup with her boyfriend, John Vokes, a 28 year old Air Force sergeant, when she shot him in her car multiple times. Singh then exited the car, and then shot herself in the chest. The murder-suicide took place in Winters. A note found in the car indicated that the murder may have been premeditated. (Sacramento Bee, July 25, 1996)


May 4, 1996: Renata Reich

Renata Reich (June 14, 1947 – May 4, 1996), a resident of Larkspur, died in a performance at Woodland airport as part of a Skydance Skydivers team. She made a turn too close to the ground. (Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1996)


February 16, 1996: Ryan Umezaki

Ryan Scott Umezaki, age 19 and a Davis resident, was killed while riding as a passenger in a car on I-680. The driver, Diane Nguyen of San Jose, lost control of the car while swerving to avoid a cardboard box. and the car rolled over several times. The driver and two other passengers were injured, including Liem Troung of Davis. (San Jose Mercury News, February 18, 1996; San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1996)


February 13, 1996: Chan Chiem Saephan

Chan Chiem Saephan (May 15, 1973 – February 13, 1996), a student at UC Davis, died in a traffic collision in foggy conditions around 9pm. She was a passenger in a Toyota Corolla going south on County Road 98 toward Davis. The driver lost her bearings in the night fog and attempted a U-turn. The Corolla was then hit from the side by another vehicle going south. Police said that both the U-turn and the speed of the other vehicle were illegal because of the thick fog. (West Count Times, February 16, 1996)


November 8, 1995: Schuyler Steadman

Schuyler "Sky" Steadman, age 53 and a Davis resident, apparently drowned while kayaking near the Farallon Islands. His body was found the next day by fishermen. He was an experienced kayaker with safety equipment. His wife suggested that thick fog or a strong current may have made his kayaking trip dangerous. (Sacramento Bee, November 12, 1995)


September 17, 1995: Gabriel Smilkstein

Gabriel Smilkstein (June 11, 1924 – September 17, 1995), a Davis resident and UC Davis professor, died in an automobile accident outside of Davis. (Sacramento Bee, September 30, 1995)


July 12, 1995: Erica Kelly

Erica Kelly (June 28, 1970 – July 13, 1995), a graduate student at Davis, drowned in Conundrum Creek near Aspen, Colorado. She fell off a log while trying to cross the raging creek. She was hiking with a friend who witnessed the incident. (Sacramento Bee, July 15, 1995)


July 3, 1995: Caroline Kinnear

Caroline Kinnear (October 6, 1967 – July 3, 1995), a resident of Dallas, died in a balloon flight that started a Yolo County Airport and went over Davis. She was thrown out of the balloon when it hit hard in its planned landing at CR-35 and CR-106. Two other passengers had minor injuries. (Contra Costa Times, July 4, 1995)


July 22, 1995: Heather Glodek

Heather Noel Glodek (December 14, 1978 – July 22, 1995) of Davis was hit from behind and killed by a pickup truck while walking with her boyfriend near their disabled car on a Highway 99 exit ramp to Elkhorn Boulevard in Sacramento. The pickup also drove away after initially pulling off the road. The driver was later caught, pleaded no contest, and was sentenced to four years in prison. (Sacramento Bee, July 24, 1995 and November 7, 1995)


April 1, 1995: Dorothy Doerr

Dorothy Elizabeth (Farley) Doerr (May 21, 1912 – April 1, 1995) of Davis was killed when she crossed over the center line while driving on Mace Boulevard and had a head-on collision with another car. (Sacramento Bee, April 2, 1995)


January 29, 1995: Brendan Patrick Berger

Brendan Berger (November 20, 1992 – January 29, 1995) was the son of Yery (Ruiz) Berger of Davis and Daniel Patrick Berger (November 24, 1961 – January 29, 1995) of Sacramento; his parents were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. Daniel killed himself and Brendan by asphyxiation from automobile exhaust during a custody visitation in Sacramento. (Sacramento Bee, November 20, 1995)


December 14, 1994: Cora Andriessen

Cora Andriessen (March 3, 1915 – December 15, 1994) died in a fire at her condominium on Bermuda Avenue in Davis. She was also reported to be terminally ill. (Sacramento Bee, December 22, 1994)


November 17, 1994: Oscar Gomez

Oscar Gomez (January 9, 1973 – November 17, 1994), a student at UC Davis, fell off a cliff at the Pacific coast in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara some time between 10am on November 16 and the next morning. The coroner ruled that it was an alcohol-related accidental death. At the time, Gomez was taking the quarter off from school at Davis. (Sacramento Bee, December 4, 1994)


February 6, 1994: Sean McGinity

Sean Thomas McGinity (October 23, 1968 – February 6, 1994) was a UC Davis student who died in an accident shortly after midnight. He was in the back seat of a car that was heading west on Russell Boulevard and slammed into a pole at A Street. The driver and front passenger were also injured. (Sacramento Bee, February 7, 1994)


January 6, 1994: Emanuel Bermudez

Emanuel Bermudez (October 18, 1992 – January 6, 1994), age 14 months, died after being beaten for six to eight weeks by his father at their Cranbook Court apartment, according to court records. His father was convicted of murder and child abuse (and was denied parole in November, 2008), while his mother was convicted of child endangerment. The Bermudez family also had two other children, who were not physically harmed to the same degree. (Sacramento Bee, January 7, 1994; Davis Enterprise, November 19, 2008)


November 10, 1993: Bill Kerth

William J. "Bill" Kerth (August 6, 1922 – November 10, 1993) of North Sacramento had coordinated skating events for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. He died when his car struck a traffic signal pole in daytime at the intersection of Covell Boulevard and Alhambra Drive. (Sacramento Bee, November 11, 1993)


August 2, 1993: Christine Wills

Christine M. Wills (June 25, 1970 – August 2, 1993), a resident of Davis, drowned in the Trinity River while on duty as a counselor at Camp Trinity near Hyampom. She was trying to rescue a camp youth from the river and they both became trapped under a large boulder; the youth managed to escape the river. (Redding Record Searchlight, August 4, 1993)


July 8, 1993: John O'Friel

John O'Friel (May 5, 1947 – July 9, 1993), a resident of San Bruno, was a computer instructor in Davis. He was beaten to death in Sycamore Park by a 17-year-old Davis resident and a 21-year-old accomplice from San Francisco. Davis police thought that O'Friel had met these two people deliberately. They said that while the primary motive was to steal O'Friel's car, the homicide was also a hate crime motivated by O'Friel's bisexuality. (Sacramento Bee, September 2, 1993)


March 13, 1993: Toan Bui, Hung Ngo

Toan Bui, age 22, and Hung Ngo, age 20, fell from a concrete wall and drowned in Putah Creek at about 9:30pm. They were both undergraduates at UC Davis. They had gone to Putah Creek at Lake Solano Diversion Dam to catch minnows. Water released from the dam, together with the fact that it was at night, made conditions dangerous. A third classmate who went with them said that it was for a class project, but the biology dean doubted that there was any real sanction for their activity from university instructors. (San Francisco Chronicle, March 15, 1993)


January 16, 1993: Christina Hayes

Christina Lee Hayes (November 20, 1974 – January 16, 1993) of Davis died while she was nine months pregnant (11 days before her due date) in a car accident on F Street near Jalisco Place. The driver lost control of the car and she was thrown out of the vehicle. (Sacramento Bee, January 21, 1993)


August 21, 1992: Mike Wise

Michael Allen "Mike" Wise (June 5, 1964 – August 21, 1992) was a former football player for UC Davis, the Los Angeles Raiders, and the Cleveland Browns. He committed suicide with a gun at his home in the neighborhood around the Davis Golf Course. (Sacramento Bee, August 29, 1992)


June 14, 1992: Lyda Williams

Lyda Williams, age 88 and a resident of Davis, was struck crossing F Street at the intersection with 7th Street, and died the next day. (Sacramento Bee, June 29, 1991)

May 9, 1992: Lane Bridger

Lane Bridger, age 21 and a student at UC Davis, fell of a motorized boat and was presumed drowned in Lake Shasta. The boat's pilot, who was another Davis student, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and drunken boating. (Redding Record Searchlight, May 11, 1992)


May 17, 1992: Parvinder Gill

Parvinder Singh Gill (April 12, 1967 – May 17, 1992) of Davis was killed in a one-car accident on Highway 50 near Cameron Park. The driver and two other passengers survived the accident. (Sacramento Bee, May 18, 1992)


April 24, 1992: Andrew Mockus

Holmes Junior High School student Andrew Mockus (August 31, 1977 – April 24, 1992) got into a fight at the railroad tracks near the east end of the Arboretum. He was severely beaten, robbed of two dollars, and fatally pushed into a moving train by 17-year-old Michael Johnson, 16-year-old Andrew Childs, and 14-year-old Joshua Bettencourt. The suspects were Davis residents and students at King High School. ([WWW]UC Davis article)


March 20, 1992: Karen Newell

Karen Mae Newell (August 23, 1988 – March 20, 1992), a small child living in Davis, was hit by a car and killed in an accident in Davis. (Winters Express, March 26, 1992)


1992: Cesar Rodriguez

Cesar Rodriguez, age 24 and a deliveryman for UC Davis, was found shot to death in a shallow grave in El Dorado National Forest. A bulldozer unearthed his grave by chance in December, 1992. (Sacramento Bee, November 21, 1993)


February 18, 1991: Chad Youngs

Chad Youngs (June 21, 1973 – February 18, 1991), a resident of Davis, died when he fell from a cliff in Yosemite National Park. He was scrambling (climbing on rocks without ropes) near the Sunnyside campground. (Fresno Bee, February 20, 1991)


December 14, 1990: Robert Mattows

Robert Mattows, age 37 and a Davis resident, was killed on Yolo County Road 32 near I-505. He was hit by a pickup truck while riding his motorcycle. (Sacramento Bee, December 15, 1990)


April 10, 1990: George Smith

George A. Smith (October 15, 1969 – April 10, 1990), a Davis resident, died when he lost control of his vehicle on Racetrack Road in Walnut Creek. (Sacramento Bee, April 11, 1990)


Early 1990s: Greg Campbell

There is a rumor that Greg Campbell, of Baby on a Spike Bike fame, died while bungee jumping. However, no public evidence of this event has yet been found.

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