Newsletter: The dark side of Orange County

November 20, 2019 0 By JohnValbyNation

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 20, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.


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My colleague Christopher Goffard has spent years finding the darkest corners of a place where the sun shines approximately 278 days a year. Goffard is the reporter bard of Orange County crime, crafting explosive narratives that unfold like fiction.

In 2016, his six-part series “Framed” unpacked what happened after drugs were planted in an innocent PTA mom’s car, amid cutthroat suburban power dynamics in master-planned Irvine.

The next year, he brought us “Dirty John” — a narrative series, podcast and pop culture sensation of a story about a lonely woman, a con man’s web of deceit and a possible murder in Newport Beach. (If you saw the Bravo show starring Connie Britton, that was based on Goffard’s story.)

Now, Goffard is back with “Detective Trapp” a podcast and series that takes us to a part of Anaheim where the Happiest Place on Earth gives way to shadow economies fueled by drugs and sex, and the wide boulevards are lined with pay-in-cash motels with cages on the night windows. These streets are where Det. Julissa Trapp, the only woman on the Anaheim homicide squad, cut her teeth.

When a young woman’s body was found at a trash-sorting plant, the scene was so brutal that it gave even veteran detectives pause. The case went to Trapp, who promised the victim’s mother she would find the killer.

“As I got to know Trapp over the course of many interviews over the next three years, I came to realize the terrible burden she would have carried if she hadn’t been able to make good on the promise,” Goffard writes in an essay about the series. “She knew too, but she’d done it anyway.”

A few months earlier, three women had gone missing in nearby Santa Ana. Trapp did not know if, or how, the cases were related. She didn’t know how large the investigation would become, or how it would consume her for years.

These killings and Trapp’s quest to solve them are the subject of “Detective Trapp.”

[Read “Detective Trapp: A cop’s quest for the mothers who lost their daughters” in the Los Angeles Times]

[Listen to “Detective Trapp,” a podcast from the Los Angeles Times and Wondery]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


More than two years after a gunman opened fire at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, a California woman who was paralyzed in the attack has died, raising the death toll of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history to 59. Kimberly Gervais, 57, died Friday evening at Redlands Community Hospital, according to San Bernardino County coroner’s officials. Los Angeles Times

In a victory for critics of California’s oil drilling industry, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday stopped the approval of new hydraulic fracturing in the state until the permits for those projects can be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists. Newsom also imposed a moratorium on new permits for steam-injected oil drilling in California, another extraction method opposed by environmentalists that was linked to a massive petroleum spill in Kern County over the summer. Los Angeles Times

PG&E has reduced the scope of Wednesday’s potential power outage. Improved weather conditions now mean much of the Bay Area will be spared, although the North Bay counties of Sonoma, Solano and Napa could experience planned outages. The shut-offs are still likely to affect 181,000 customers in 16 counties — or roughly 543,000 people without power. San Francisco Chronicle


How long will it rain? Here’s what to expect from Southern California’s first storm of the season. (Spoiler: It should clear up by the weekend.) Los Angeles Times

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There has been an uptick in school threats in Southern California reported since the Saugus High School shooting in Santa Clarita. Los Angeles Daily News

The best Armenian restaurant in L.A. is this tiny family-run kebab joint in Glendale, at least according to Lucas Peterson in this week’s episode of “Off Menu.” Los Angeles Times

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After child deaths, doctors are pressuring the Border Patrol to let them administer flu vaccines. The agency has yet to respond to an offer this week to vaccinate 100 migrant parents and children in detention in San Ysidro. Los Angeles Times


Here’s what to expect from tonight’s Democratic presidential debate. At two hours, Wednesday’s event will be mercifully shorter than previous marathon debates. Los Angeles Times

These are the organizers and officials behind San Francisco’s push for a public bank. A landmark bill passed earlier this year in the state Legislature created a legal pathway for the formation of public banks owned by city and county governments. Next City

Riding an e-scooter on the sidewalk in Sacramento could now cost you $207. The city will begin ticketing users of shared rideables for the first time, after months of public outreach and education. Sacramento Bee


Bottom-trawling fishing will soon be severely restricted off the West Coast. The new regulations will take effect Jan. 1. San Francisco Chronicle


Fodor’s has put Big Sur on its “do not travel” list for 2020. Locals have been complaining about the effects of “overtourism” on the coastal town. SF Gate

[See also: Our earlier newsletter coverage of overtourism in Big Sur]

SAT prep for the children of the ruling class: In the two-Tesla homes of the L.A. suburbs, Mighty Prep offers tutoring, pep talks and a special peppermint tea that the tutor refers to as “nature’s Adderall.” New Yorker

Electric bus workers in L.A. have unionized — with the support of their Silicon Valley CEO. Los Angeles Times

Two homeless mothers in Oakland have taken over a vacant house. They hope the move will be part of a larger movement to take back vacant, investor-owned homes in neighborhoods that working mothers like themselves grew up in but can no longer afford. Mercury News


Los Angeles: rain, 62. San Diego: thunderstorms, 63. San Francisco: sunny, 67. San Jose: sunny, 67. Sacramento: windy, 70. More weather is here.


— Ronan Farrow

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.