Sunday, May 10, 2009

What happened to Somerville?

Former The Union editor (~2002-2004) Rich Somerville, who left Nevada County for the Eureka Times-Standard in fall 2006, started a blog there in late 2007. All went well for about six months; then in early June 2008, he expounded, unfavorably, on the, ah, "rough-and-tumble", fistfighting political landscape of Nevada County, relative to his new home turf:
...considering the sometimes polarized politics of Humboldt County, decorum reigned.

It was a different story in Nevada County, where I did a stint as an editor a few years back. Once, a last-minute whispering campaign said a candidate had rats in his restaurant. (An inspector had found mouse droppings some years before.) Not only did the candidate lose, but his restaurant soon went out of business.

In a particularly nasty supervisor race, one candidate had nails strewn on his driveway, while another was the subject of postcards titled “Supervisor for Sale?,” accusing her of dispensing governmental favors for campaign donations. Included was an invoice with county letterhead, later proven to be faked.

Once, at a meeting of the county Republican Central Committee, anger bubbled up over an old slight about the lack of an endorsement, leading to a fistfight in the street in front of the meeting hall.

Humboldt County seems polite by comparison — knock on wood!

- Posted by Rich Somerville at 06:39 PM
A week and a half later, he was dead.
Their coroner's office ascribed it to a heart attack, but didn't do an autopsy, or else did an autopsy and then the paperwork misplaced itself...when I asked, the story was a bit hazy.

I'm writing about this only now, almost a year later, because a) I may have been irking the unstable, recently, and b) I didn't stumble across Rich's blog & that post until just a couple days ago. Before that I hadn't pursued it, since I'd just assumed that "heart attack" was a euphemism for suicide.
(Confidential to my recent caller: it's poor form not to say anything, when you phone. Confidential to my readers: I am *not* suicidal, I look both ways when crossing the street, my housemate's nonvolatile, and my ticker's just fine.)

For those of you pointing out that it could have been coincidence: yes, it could have been. But remember Weismann.


Anna Haynes said...

Sometimes it seems like Nevada County is just someone's giant Petri dish.
(Confidential to researchers: don't forget the consent forms!)

Anna Haynes said...

...but, if this were true (since "it is the mark of an educated woman to entertain an idea without accepting it", I'm taking this one out to dinner) - how would you be able to tell what are the intended factors, vs. what's a contaminant?

Anna Haynes said...

Since the above comments likely seem like they're coming out of the blue, a clarification - I was trying to think what could possibly be a motive, if it was deliberate (& related to his Nevada County allusions), and this came to mind.

And if you have trouble conceiving of his death as having been engineered - so do I.

Anna Haynes said...

And if it was engineered, what's on his blog is most likely only indirect evidence - e.g., the trigger for behind-the-scenes communications that we're not privy to.

susan said...

Somehow this story calls up echoes. I too prefer not to see conspiracies behind every bush (it can be a great waste of time and energy), but it doesn't do to ignore malfeasance when it is staring one in the face.

Anna said...

Just for the record, I've since thought of a couple of scenarios that account for all the data and don't involve foul play - and so are presumably more likely.