Suspects Arrested in Connection to 2021 Homewood Homicide; Fatal Collision on I-80; Prescribed Fire Continues; Tahoe Film Fest to Return; More

Briefs: Oct. 13-19, 2023


News Briefs

Suspects Arrested in Connection to 2020 North Lake Tahoe Homicide


After a lengthy two-year investigation involving Placer County Sheriff Office detectives and the District Attorney’s Office, 49-year-old Danny Serafini and 33-year-old Samantha Scott were arrested on Oct. 20 in Nevada for the 2021 Homewood murder of 70-year-old Robert Gary Spohr and the attempted murder of 68-year-old Wendy Wood. PCSO detectives assisted in the apprehension of Serafini in Winnemucca, Nevada, and also assisted in the apprehension of Scott in Las Vegas. 

ARRESTS MADE in connection to the 2021 Homewood murder of 70-year-old Robert Gary Spohr and the attempted murder of 68-year-old Wendy Wood. Courtesy graphic

PCSO thanked the U.S. Marshal Service Reno Office, U.S. Marshal’s Nevada Violent Offender Task Force (Las Vegas), Winnemucca Police Department, and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for collaboartion on the arrests.


On June 5, 2021, deputies received a 911 call from a residence in Homewood, a neighborhood in North Lake Tahoe. Deputies arrived at the home and found Robert Gary Spohr deceased as a result of a single gunshot wound. Robert’s wife, Wendy, had also been shot but was taken to a nearby hospital where she recovered from her injuries. Unfortunately, Wendy passed away a year later. During the early stages of the investigation, video surveillance was obtained from the home and along West Lake Boulevard, revealing a hooded male wearing a face-covering and a backpack walking to the residence several hours before the homicide occurred. Since then, PCSO has devoted countless hours of follow-up by detectives, along with the DA’s office. The information and evidence detectives gathered led them to identify Serafini and Scott as the suspects; both suspects are known to each other and to the victims.

After the arrests, Placer County Sheriff Wayne Woo praised the hard work and dedication put forth by detectives and the DA’s office, saying, “Today, justice was served. The apprehension of those responsible for the tragic events that unfolded in Homewood, North Lake Tahoe in 2021 stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication of our detectives, law enforcement partners, and the persistence of our pursuit of truth. Understand that my team’s commitment to unraveling the most complex of cases prevails, and those who inflict harm upon our community will be held accountable every time.”

The sheriff’s office is now awaiting Serafini’s and Scott’s extradition from Nevada into Placer County.

~ Placer County press release

Solo Fatal Collision on I-80, East of Donner Rest Area


On Oct. 18, at 4:22 a.m., an 85-year-old female was driving a 2003 GMC pickup eastbound on Interstate 80, east of the Donner Summit rest area. For reasons not yet determined, the truck left the highway on the north side of the freeway. After leaving the roadway, the pickup overturned and the unrestrained occupant was ejected. As a result of the crash, the driver sustained fatal injuries. The identity of the driver is currently being withheld until next of kin is notified. It has been determined at this time that neither alcohol nor drugs were a contributing factor to the crash.

The incident is still under investigation. Anyone with information regarding the crash is encouraged to contact the Truckee California Highway Patrol area office during regular business hours at (530) 563-9200.

~ Truckee CHP press release

Thirteen Investment Projects Worth $14 Million Directed to Move Forward


A total of 13 investment projects in Eastern Placer County amounting to more than $14 million were directed to move forward Oct. 16 by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. The projects are meant to advance regional goals, including workforce housing and improved transportation.

Revenue from Tahoe’s Transient Occupancy Tax is being used to fund the projects, which were solicited, vetted, and recommended through the North Tahoe Community Alliance Board of Directors, the TOT committee, and the Capital Projects Advisory committee. 

The board advised staff to move forward with funding agreements and allocate approximately $12.4 million in TOT funds to the following projects over the next three years:

  1. Dollar Creek Crossing affordable housing project in Dollar Point ($2.5 million)
  2. Sierra Community House — Workforce Housing Advocacy and Direct Assistance Program ($900,000 total, $450,000 in TOT)
  3. Chalet Blanc mixed-use achievable housing project in Tahoe City ($1.5 million)
  4. Workforce Housing Preservation Program ($3 million)
  5. Tahoe City Downtown Access Improvements: Expansion of Grove Street Parking Lot ($759,000)
  6. Resort Triangle Transportation Plan – SR 89 & SR 267 Adaptive Corridor Management/Transit Priority ($875,000)
  7. Resort Triangle Transportation Plan — Parking Management (Phase 1, Kings Beach) ($1,012,000 total, $297,000 in TOT)
  8. North Lake Tahoe Workforce Van Pool Program ($602,754)
  9. Resort Triangle Transportation Plan — TART Connect expanded service hours ($1.4 million)
  10. Kings Beach Western Approach Project ($1 million)

The board of supervisors also advised staff to work with project applicants on three trail projects to allocate an additional $1.9 million for the first year of funding:

  1. Placer County North Tahoe Trail Segment ($200,000)
  2. Tahoe City Public Utility District Multi-Use Trail Reconstruction ($1.6 million)
  3. North Tahoe Public Utility District Pam Emmerich Memorial Pinedrop trail Reconstruction and Extension ($100,000)

On top of the TOT funds directed to move forward by the board of supervisors, the NTCA board of directors vetted and approved seven investment projects using $2.5 million in TBID funding. 

Learn more about TOT funding and projects in the North Tahoe Basin by clicking here

~ Placer County press release

FALL FLAMES: Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team is scheduled to continue fall prescribed fire operations over the next several weeks around Lake Tahoe, indicated by the flame illustrations in this map. Courtesy map

Basin Prescribed Fire Operations to Continue


If conditions and weather are favorable for burning, the Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team (TFFT) is scheduled to continue fall prescribed fire operations over the next several weeks at Lake Tahoe. California State Parks is scheduled to continue understory burning through the week at Burton Creek State Park, which began Oct. 17, and Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 at Sugar Pine Point State Park. North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District is scheduled to begin understory burning on Oct. 23, through Oct. 30. 

The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is scheduled to continue burning piles near Fallen Leaf Lake Road, Tahoe Mountain Road, Meyers, and Camp Richardson through Oct. 20. Smoke will be present. For the current air quality index, visit AirNow and view the prescribed fire map with project details at Tahoe Living With Fire.

Prescribed fires may take place any time of year when conditions are favorable. Fall and winter typically bring cooler temperatures and precipitation, which are ideal for conducting prescribed fire operations. Each operation follows a specialized burn plan, which considers smoke dispersal conditions, temperature, humidity, wind, and vegetation moisture. All this information is used to decide when and where to burn.

Smoke from prescribed fires is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size, conditions, and weather. Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by unwanted wildfires. View smoke management tips.

Prior to prescribed fire ignitions, agencies coordinate closely with local and state air quality agencies to monitor weather for favorable conditions that can disperse smoke, conduct test burns before igniting larger areas to verify how well vegetation is consumed and how smoke rises and disperses before proceeding, post signs on roadways in areas affected by prescribed fire operations, email notifications to the prescribed fire notification list, and update the local fire information line at (530) 543-2816. The TFFT gives as much advance notice as possible before burning, but some operations may be conducted on short notice due to the small window of opportunity for implementing these projects.

To be added to the prescribed fire notification list, send us an email. Learn more about living in fire-adapted ecosystems at Tahoe Living With Fire and get prepared, get informed, and get involved.

~ TFFT press release

$1 Million for Reimagine Bridge Street


Thanks to the efforts of California State Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil, the Town of Truckee will be receiving $1 million in funding for the Reimagine Bridge Street Project. The project will replace two existing four-way unsignalized intersections located on either side of the Bridge Street at-grade railroad crossing, with new sidewalk and pedestrian and bicycle facilities, coordinated traffic signals, railroad safety improvements, lighting, stormwater improvements, and underground utilities. The tentative start date for construction is 2025. 

Learn more about the project here.

~ Town of Truckee newsletter

TTAD Agency Partnership Program Results Released


The Truckee Tahoe Airport District (TTAD), with administration support from Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF), is pleased to share the funding decision results from its 2023 Agency Partnership Program. 

Established in 2021, the Agency Partnership Program supports larger regional projects and programs — with awards of $5,000 or more — that align with TTAD’s mission statement: To connect people and opportunities, generating resources to build a more caring, creative and effective community.

In 2023, eight local agencies and qualifying nonprofits received awards totaling $434,893. This year’s recipients include:

  • Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue: NCSSAR Truckee Rapid Response Mobile Command Vehicle
  • Friends of the Truckee Library: The Truckee Regional Library Project
  • Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships: Tahoe Truckee Emission Reduction Partnership, Phase 3
  • North Tahoe Fire Protection District: Wildland Web Gear
  • Biking for a Better World: Opening Rebuild Project and associated equipment purchases
  • Aim High: 2024 Summer Magic: Joyful, Enriching Learning in Tahoe Truckee
  • Gateway Mountain Center: Gateway Workforce Housing to Retain Critical Behavioral Health Professionals
  • Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy: County-wide Critical Incident Chaplain Services

~ TTAD press release

Ambassador Program ’23 Cohort Wraps With Success


Sierra Nevada Alliance, a region-wide nonprofit dedicated to uniting people and organizations to protect Sierra Nevada ecosystems and communities, is celebrating the successful completion of the Summer 2023 Lake Tahoe Ambassador Program. 

The ambassador program’s goal is to address the impacts of increasing tourism and promote sustainable recreation in the Tahoe Basin by employing local youth (high school through early college age) to act as stewards and guides promoting responsible behavior to locals and visitors alike. 

This year the program expanded its host site partners and placed student stewards at a total of 18 sites across the Tahoe Basin. They performed critical outreach to site goers and collected 1,138 surveys reporting on their interactions with locals and visitors alike. The types of interactions were classified as: delivering stewardship messages, concierge-type interactions, wayfinding assistance, and ordinance/enforcement. By the end of the summer, the ambassadors had put over 3,000 hours into protecting the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Through these interactions the ambassadors made a powerful on-the-ground conservation impact by educating the public about proper waste disposal, trail guidelines, sustainable recreation practices, and more. This program also represents a beginning pathway to development of our region’s future conservation leaders. 

The alliance would like to thank the Tahoe Fund, Nevada Division of State Lands-Nevada License Plate Grant, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), North Tahoe Community Alliance, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association for helping fund this program. In addition, we are grateful to our supporting partners at Tahoe Environmental Research Center and Great Basin Institute.

~ Sierra Nevada Alliance press release

InnerRhythms Offers African Drum, Dance Workshops

Truckee/Tahoe City

InnerRhythms presents two opportunities to experience Guinea-Style African drum and dance classes with an energetic group of teaching artists from Nevada City. This weekend, everyone is welcome to join Nuria Armenta and the Nevada County Drumming Troupe for music and movement that creates joy.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, Truckee Veterans Hall will host the first session of classes from 5 to 8 p.m. Drum class runs from 5 to 6 p.m. followed by the dance portion from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. The second round of classes will take place on Sunday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fairway Community Center in Tahoe City. The drum class runs from 10 to 11 a.m. with the dance class to follow from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Register online at Fee for the drum class is $20 and the dance class is $40. There is also a combo ticket available, which includes both classes for $50. For questions call (619) 962-9058.

MAESTRO is the opening film for this year’s Tahoe Film Fest. It is directed by Bradley Cooper, and scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 30. Courtesy photo

Tahoe Film Fest Returns to North Lake Tahoe Nov. 30 to Dec. 3


Tahoe Film Fest opens its ninth year with a biopic about the late great Leonard Bernstein directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. Maestro has only been screened in a select group of important film festivals. Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore star in the new romantic drama May December. Other feature films include Perfect Days directed by Wim Wenders, Eileen starring Anne Hathaway, and more. 

In the film fest’s documentary section are two environmental films: Common Ground and Deep Rising.

Rather takes an intimate look at the astonishing career and brilliance of Dan Rather. The Space Race from National Geographic is an educational exploration of the experiences of the first Black astronauts. The Mission is about John Chau, the young American missionary who went missing while attempting to contact one of the world’s most isolated indigenous peoples on the remote North Sentinel Island. Lakota Nation vs. United States is a lyrical and provocative testament to a land and a people who have survived removal, exploitation, and genocide. The Great Divide is perhaps the most polarizing subject in American politics on how to resolve issues of gun violence and gun control throughout the country.

In the selection of music documentary films shown at Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room, the Tahoe Film Fest is pleased to screen Let the Canary Sing, a powerful new film about the life and career of Cyndi Lauper. Carlos explores Carlos Santana, a music industry legend for 50 years and a 10-time Grammy-winning global sensation as well as a recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor. Joan Baez I Am Noise gives an account of not just her singular life of art and activism but also spins a complicated family story. San Francisco Sounds: A Place In Time features several artists of the time and tells the story of the scene between 1966 and 1976.

Films will be screened at Incline Village Cinema and the Crystal Bay Club Crown Room. The final schedule, movie trailers, full descriptions, and tickets will be available on Nov. 1. Stay tuned and updated on the official website at

All ticket sale proceeds support science education at Lake Tahoe through the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

~ Tahoe Film Fest press release

Moving In, Moving On, Moving Up

Truckee-Area Planning Commission Opening


Nevada County is looking for one dedicated individual from District 5, the Truckee area, to join the county planning commission and help shape the future.

The planning commission is responsible for reviewing and making decisions on a variety of important land use and development projects, including:

  • General plan amendments and revisions
  • Specific plans
  • Capital improvement program review
  • Zoning and rezoning applications
  • Subdivisions (excluding parcel maps creating 4 or fewer lots)
  • Major use permits

The planning commission serves as the design review body for all projects proposed on property zoned pursuant to Ordinance 1341 and the commission is designated as the advisory agency for reviewing violations of the Subdivision Map Act and County Subdivision Ordinance.

Applications can be completed online.

To learn more, please visit the Planning Department website or contact (530) 265-1222.

~ Nevada County press release

Local Alumnus Delivers Convocation Speech at Stanford University


Johan Sotelo, an alumnus of Sierra Expeditionary Learning School and Tahoe Expedition Academy, addressed thousands of new undergraduate students, their families, friends, and members of the campus community at Stanford University’s 133rd Opening Convocation Ceremony held on Sept. 19. 

In his speech, Sotelo, who is a junior at Stanford, empathized with the new students starting university life. “It’s perfectly normal to arrive here with mixed emotions and a head full of plans,” he said, later adding, “Embrace uncertainty and discover your path here at Stanford.”

Drawing from his own experiences, Sotelo encouraged the value of seeking help and resources, including connecting with professors who can guide and mentor students. He also shared his insights from studying abroad in Madrid, emphasizing the importance of flexibility and open-mindedness.

Sotelo concluded by urging the new students to “lean into the unfamiliar, welcome the challenge, embrace the uncertainty, and know that in doing so, you’re not only crafting your own unique Stanford narrative, but also embarking on a journey of personal growth.”

~ TC


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