Courtesy of The Madera County Historical Society
Madera High students Todd Lile, left, and Carmen Stretch, center, received Bronze Medal Congressional Awards from Congressman Gary Condit, right, for their community activities 25 years ago.
25 Years Ago
Week of April 16, 1992
POLICE ARREST MAN FOR DRAWING NUDE TEEN-AGER — A Madera man was booked into jail Tuesday on $5,000 bail after being arrested for sketching a nude, teenage girl. According to Police Chief William Colston, Christopher Small had placed a help-wanted ad in a newspaper on April 6 asking for youthful models. A 15-year-old girl and her mother answered the ad and arrived at Small’s apartment on April 8. The girl allegedly agreed to pose in the nude while he sketched her. The mother became suspicious; however, when she saw another young girl entering Small’s apartment. She contacted police who arrested Small on the felony warrant.
LILE, STRETCH RECEIVE CONGRESSIONAL AWARD — Two Madera High School students received Bronze Medal Congressional Awards from Congressman Gary Condit at Castle Airforce base April 22. Todd Lile and Carmen Stretch received the medals for donating at least 100 hours of community service, 50 hours of personal development, and 50 hours of physical fitness. Lile, a Madera High School senior, achieved his public service by creating a campus beautification plan and organizing the community to carry it out. Stretch, an MHS junior, has traveled to Mexico with the Madera Interact group to help set up and repair playgrounds for the underprivileged in Ensenada.
HARRIS EXECUTED AT DAWN — Double killer Robert Alton Harris was executed at dawn today a few hours after a dramatic stay let him cheat death by seconds. Harris was already strapped in the San Quentin gas chamber when the stay from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals came. The United States Supreme Court overturned the stay, and Alton was put to death for the murder of two San Diego teenagers. Warden Daniel Vasquez said, “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper. The execution was the first in California in 25 years.
MADERANS BELIEVE HARRIS DESERVED EXECUTION — Not only did convicted double murderer Robert Alton Harris deserve to die, but the execution should have been performed long ago. Such was the verdict of Madera County’s District Attorney Ernie LiCalsi and Public Defender John Barker. “I’m glad to see the death penalty reinstated,” said LiCalsi. “We have to put an end to the writ and appeals process.” Barker said, “I support the death penalty; I always have.” “Now that we’ve cleared the first hurdle, you are going to see many more executions,” Barker predicted.
TRUSTEES DISCUSS NEW JUNIOR HIGH — The issue of operating the new junior high on Lilly as a multi-track, year-round facility was discussed last night by the Madera Unified board of trustees. If the future junior high, or any other future project, is submitted to the state as a traditional schedule school, it stands very little chance of securing funding from Sacramento. Year-round projects from other districts will exhaust any available funds. So either local funds will be the only source available for construction, or the board must declare its intent to operate the school as a year-round facility. The board is scheduled to put the issue to a vote.
50 Years Ago
Week of April 16, 1967
COP KILLER EXECUTED IN Q’S GAS CHAMBER — Aaron Mitchell, convicted slayer of a Sacramento policeman died today in San Quentin Prison’s apple-green gas chamber. Limp and shaking, the 37-year-old man was assisted into the gas chamber by three guards. His last words, shouted loudly, were “I am Jesus Christ.” As the fumes reached Mitchell, his head jerked up and his chest heaved for about 30 seconds before he slumped forward, held in his chair only by the canvas bindings around his chest, arms, and legs. At 10:20 a.m., Associate Warden Raymond L. Wham told the 59 witnesses outside the chamber that the execution had been completed.
COUNCIL REJECTS CHURCH ANNEXATION — Madera’s Mennonite Brethren Church wants to annex a portion of its property to the city. The city, however, requires that all canals on property within the city be covered. As a result, the church would be required to put up $7,000 to cover a canal that runs through a portion of its property. A delegation from the church asked the Madera City Council to waive this requirement, but the city decided that if the church wanted to annex the land, it would have to conform to existing requirements. Councilman John Wells was the only member who voted to grant the church’s request.
VOTERS ELECT TWO NEW MUSD TRUSTEES; KEEP ONE VETERAN — In the race for three seats on the Madera Unified School Board, voters elected only one incumbent and chose two newcomers for the two remaining positions. Incumbent Paul Martin was returned to office, but the other two incumbents ran fourth and fifth in the field of seven. The two new faces are Dr. A.C. Asbury, a veterinarian, and Dr. T.R. Gustaveson, a dentist. Dr. Gustaveson drew the most votes with a total of 1,525 tallies. Martin came in second with 1,271 votes. Dr. Asbury was the third place winner with 1,180 votes.
DOWNTOWN ‘SHOPPING CENTER’ OUTLINED — The biggest problem downtown merchants have right now is how to fill the available parking spaces, but Councilman Bruno Lattanzio is looking into the matter. He is suggesting a shopping center in the downtown area. Lattanzio told the Retail Merchants Association that Madera has competed with Fresno and soon will have additional competition from Bethard Square Shopping Center. He warned that without some action, downtown Madera will become a “ghost town” and offered the City of Hanford as an example of how to combat shopping centers on the outskirts of town.
PRE-SCHOOLERS LEARN ABOUT POLICE — When students in Madera Unified’s Head Start program at James Monroe School were asked, “What do policemen do,” and they answered, “They will kill people and put them in jail,” program supervisor Mrs. Marilyn Waldhart decided, “Something has to be done about this. That is when she contacted Police Chief Horace Dowell. They decided to bring in a police officer who knows how to handle children. As a result, patrol sergeant Gordon Skeels, father of six daughters, has been assigned to spend at least one hour in each pre-school class. First reports are that the welcome Sgt. Skeels received was bigger than that given to Santa Claus.