The Madera County Historical Society
Twenty-five years ago, Adeliada Avila, holding a photo of her 16-month-old daughter, Rachel, held a press conference with Sheriff Glenn Seymour to make a plea for the return of her kidnapped child.
25 Years Ago
Week of July 2, 1992
SUSPECT DEAD; 1 DEPUTY SHOT — One man was killed and a sheriff’s deputy injured in a shootout that came as the result of the kidnapping of a 16-month-old child. Three suspects forced their way into the home of Ramon and Adeliada Avila at gunpoint Tuesday and kidnapped their daughter, Rachel Avila. The kidnappers demanded $150,000 in cash for the safe return of the child. The money was to be placed at Avenue 12 and Road 26. Three deputies attempted to capture the suspects at the site, and a shootout ensued. One of the suspects was killed, and Deputy Aaron Fondren was shot in the thigh. The other two suspects escaped, and the child has not been recovered.
JOHN SORDI NAMED SENIOR FARMER OF THE YEAR — The 1992 recipient of the Senior Farmer of the Year award is John Sordi, an 80-year resident of Madera County and area farmer for the past 55 years, although he started his professional life in banking, not farming. Sordi has fond memories of the massive changes he has seen in farming. “I have had experiences that I wouldn’t give up for anything.” Sherman Thomas, the Madera District Chamber of Commerce’s first Senior Farmer, will present this year’s award to Sordi at a celebration on July 16 at the Madera District Fairgrounds. Roy Isom will be the Master of Ceremonies.
FIREWORKS SALES OFF FOR PORTER — Jack Porter, manager of the Red Devil stand at Fourth and I Streets, says his fireworks sales have been off for the past three years, compared with the other 12 years the stand has sat across from St. Joachim’s Catholic Church. He said his stand has in the past opened shop as much as eight days early; a practice he abandoned due to low sales. “We’ve opened on the 27, 28, and 29 and stayed all day, only to make $100,” Porter said. He added that the large fireworks displays generally help rather than hurt business.
MISSING OAKHURST BOY FOUND DEAD — The body of 12-year-old Kenny Miller of Oakhurst was found by a group of hikers on a ridge near Stevens Peak, about two miles from where he was last seen 11 days ago. Alpine County Sheriff Skip Veatch said he thinks the boy may have died of exposure after only one or two days alone in the mountains. His body was found in rocky terrain at about 9,800 feet elevation. Veatch said it will remain a mystery why the developmentally disabled youth walked away from his parents June 23 and ended up on the ridge. An autopsy has been scheduled to pinpoint the exact cause of death.
BOARD GIVES COURTHOUSE PARK CEDARS THE AX — The Board of Supervisors cried “Timber” Tuesday as they gave County Engineer Dowe Stinson the okay to fell two Deodora Cedar trees that have shaded the Courthouse Museum for more than 50 years. The death penalty was issued in response to pleas from Madera County Historical Society members who argued that the tilting cedars would eventually topple on the courthouse. Supervisor Harry Baker said, “I was successful in getting one of my divorces from Judge Murray in that courthouse. If we take the trees out now, they’ll be forgotten in five years.” Supervisor Gail Hanhart McIntyre said, “I’d rather see a hole in the ground than one in the building.
50 Years Ago
Week of July 2, 1967
RIPPERDAN RAVAGED BY FIRE; DAMAGE SET AT $200,000 — Ripperdan residents mopped up today in the wake of a fire which virtually destroyed half of the small agricultural community south of Madera. Firemen said the fire apparently started when someone lighted a match to check leaking butane in the barbershop. All of the buildings destroyed in the fire belonged to Mits Aoki who said they were “partially” insured. Firefighters were hampered by the lack of available water. The closest water supply was one-half mile away, and firemen had to make repeated trips with tank trucks to keep firefighters supplied with water.
CHP OFFICER ROD IDZINGA HAS RETIRED — Rodney Idzinga, a veteran of 20 years service with the California Highway Patrol, has hung up his uniform for some of the more important things in life — bowling, golfing, and fishing. Idzinga took his test for the CHP academy in 1940 and then went in the U.S. Navy. He was accepted for the academy in 1947, graduated in August and was assigned to Madera. He has been here ever since. Capt. A.S. Cooper, commander of the unit here, said Idzinga is a “fine officer” and that he hates to lose him. However, the captain concedes that Idzinga’s plans for the future beat working for a living.
RONALD J. WOOD RECEIVES VIET CITATION — Spec. 4 Ronald J. Wood has been cited for bravery in combat in Vietnam and awarded the Air Medal with V device. The award is the third the young soldier has received since being returned to the combat zone in January. The citation reads, “When intense ground fire was directed toward his helicopter, Specialist Wood continued to man his machine gun and bring effective fire on the enemy positions neutralizing them.” The soldier is a native of Madera and attended local schools. He enlisted 2 1/2 years ago when he was 17 years old.
REJECTED BEAU SETS FIRE TO GIRL’S AUTO — All’s fair in love and war, or so thought John Joseph Clinton, 20, when he set fire to the car owned by Peggy Madaus of Oakhurst after they had a falling out. To give further vent to his feeling, he ignited the storage room of George’s Shack in North Fork where he was rooming. Miss Madaus’ car was parked behind the John Hartman service station in North Fork when it was set ablaze. Clinton signed a statement admitting guilt and has also confessed to starting a grain fire earlier in Chowchilla. The arrest was made by Tiny Baxter, to whom the confession was made.
D.W. HOLMES NAMED TO ‘LITTLE HOOVER COMMISSION’ — D.W. (Bill) Holmes has been named to the Commission on California State Governmental Organization and Economy, better known as the “Little Hoover Commission.” Holmes expressed surprise that someone from a small county was chosen. State Senator Howard Way, also a member of the Commission, said this morning, “The governor’s appointment of Bill Holmes to the Little Hoover Commission is a real break for the people of California and especially for those of us in rural areas.” Holmes, 42, is a graduate of the University of San Francisco with a political science degree. He has been a resident of Madera for 18 years.