Probe: Jan. 22, 2002

January 22, 2002

QUESTION: My name is Vicki. I live in Connecticut and my nephew Chris Ritondale, 28, was found dead in Winterhaven on Dec. 28. Is this something your newspaper would have covered? I can't find anything on Winterhaven. It doesn't sound like much. I would appreciate anything you can tell me. — Aunt, Connecticut

Deputy County Coroner Rick Williams said we had a story in the paper, although we don't think it was big. We couldn't find it. The reporter who wrote the story was not available.

Williams said there was no evidence of foul play in the death. A cause of death has not been established. The Coroner's Office is waiting for a toxicological report to be completed.

Winterhaven is not "much," just a little town where a man whose occupation seemed to be "transient" could live inexpensively. At the time of death, he was camping out in a tent but it was a large tent, said Williams.


"I've seen worse (homes)," Williams said.

The tent was not in a remote area. There were other camp sites nearby. If you have to camp out, there are worse places than Winterhaven.

It's a little town, about 5,000 people, give or take a couple thousand depending on the season. It's a nice place to visit, not a bad place to live, and if you have to die some place, it would be hard to find a better place than Winterhaven.

It's an area that attracts thousands of winter visitors from chillier climes such as Alaska, Canada, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota and Nebraska, even Connecticut and West Virginia. It's six miles west of Yuma, 15 miles north of Algodones, Mexico, and about 170 miles east of San Diego.

Most winter visitors spend a ton of money to bask in our January sunshine. The desert around Winterhaven is alive with the rigs and camping gear of defrosting northerners.

Williams said he spent almost two weeks tracking down your nephew's family, although Williams had a rough idea of where the deceased was born.

"He didn't seem like a man who kept in close contact with his family," he said.

Finally, Ritondale's "next of kin" was tracked with the aid of the Internet. His body was shipped home to his father in West Virginia a week ago, according to Williams.

In Imperial County, we don't take the death of a human lightly.

RIGHT ON BONNIE — Hear! Hear! Bonnie Edgar for your eloquent retort to Benjamin Reyes, who accused your newspaper of kissing up to the District Attorney Gilbert Otero when it reported the accomplishments of Jennifer Otero…. — Proud, Brawley

Reyes claims to be a reporter for the New York Times. We happily report we are not covering New York City, where it's unlikely you'll get your name in the paper even if you get murdered. Big city newspapers omit garden variety murders. Down here, we report graduations.

QUESTION: At the Farmers Market in El Centro Saturday, most of the food vendors ran out of food by 1 p.m. The Police Athletic League raised prices on the carne asada. What gives? Price gouging? — Unfed, El Centro

Look at it this way; it was for a good cause. We suspect the food vendors were caught short by the more than expected visitors. It was a great day to browse through a farmers market.

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