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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rosé Today — The 2017 Competition seeking entries

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A wine competition is seeking the best rosés around the world, and organizers are hoping Lodi wineries will enter the competition.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lodi’s new leadership class ready for work

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Tuesday, Feb. 14 marked the first meeting for Leadership Lodi’s Class of 2017 and it was nothing less than a spectacular day for us.

Ken Levy: An estate planning fiasco avoided

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A few months back, a friend approached me about writing an article describing an estate planning fiasco that his family narrowly avoided.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Dale Immekus: Financial advisors and the fiduciary rule

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President Trump has issued a directive to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that has the practical effect of delaying implementation of the f…

Monday, January 16, 2017

Realtor Reno Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year

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Local Realtor Johanne Reno has been the recipient the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador of the Year award. Reno will be honored a…

Bryan Hickingbottom: In right situation, reverse mortgage worth consideration

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On occasion I am questioned as to my personal opinion of reverse mortgages. As with most financial products, my opinion depends to a very larg…

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lodi salon celebrates five years of a childhood dream come true

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Salon W on Elm Street in Lodi is celebrating five years of a childhood dream come true. Every since she was a little girl, Salon W owner Wendy…

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dale Immekus: Some tips for giving this Christmas season

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The Christmas holiday is a time of year that many people think of giving. The phrase “Charity begins at home” could not be more truthful than …

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ace Hardware opens store on Ham Lane

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Ace Hardware Store located in the Lakewood Mall plaza on Ham Lane is bringing back that small town feeling to Lodi. The hardware store opened …

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bryan Hickingbottom: The challenges of a special needs trust

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What is a special needs trust?

Thursday, November 17, 2016
Lodi’s Ginger Bugs offers fun, safety

Lodi’s Ginger Bugs offers fun, safety

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In a white, green and orange-colored room, a little girl’s nanny repeatedly raised a girl in the air, then gently released her into a pit full…

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dale Immekus: Consider options before leaving state to retire

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My wife and I are considering moving to another state to retire. What issues should we take into consideration?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ken Levy: Avoid family fights over inheritance

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In my 30-plus years of providing financial advice, more often than not, I have found family relationships are greatly strained when inheritanc…

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dale Immekus: Know your health care options as a retiree

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What will health insurance cost me when I am eligible for Medicare?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Transitioning the family-owned business to successive generations

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What steps can I take to successfully pass along the family business?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cheese Central celebrates 5 years

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For five years, Cheese Central has stayed in business in Downtown Lodi while several surrounding businesses have come and gone.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bryan Hickingbottom: Taking steps to protect against identity theft

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What can I do to protect myself from identity theft?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pet Supplies Plus to hold grand opening this weekend

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A Lodi staple has a new look and name after Pet Supplies Plus acquired the Pet Extreme chain, which owned the former Discount Pet Foods.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dale Immekus: You should have a financial plan — election year or not

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Should I change my investments because of the presidential election?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

4 Financial Skills That Millennials Must Learn

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As a generation, millennials are struggling. Many of us feel overwhelmed by student loans and some are having to put off major life events bec…

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  • Katie’s Story

    Katie’s Story

    On a recent fall morning, in a booth at a Lodi coffee shop, Katie Romanek sips from a bottle of water and talks about her life.It is a life that’s had travails and trauma, but one that now holds great promise.Katie, 33, wears a striking autumnal print of orange, gold and black, along with a quick and radiant smile.“I feel like my life was in a rut for a time,” she says. “But I feel strong now. I want to speak up about what I’ve gone through. I want to help others.”More than 20 years ago, when she was a 12-year-old student at Vinewood School, Katie was kidnapped from her home in Lodi’s Sunwest neighborhood.Her abductor, an ex-felon high on meth, drove her into the rolling hills southeast of Lodi. After a massive search that drew national media attention, the ex-con, Steven Reece Cochran, was arrested, and Katie was rescued.Her story is part of an upcoming series titled, “They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back.” The series premieres Oct. 7 on the Lifetime Movie Network Channel. Katie’s case will be featured on Oct. 28.Katie, her sister, Elizabeth Christian, her father, Bob Romanek, and former Lodi police chief and mayor Larry Hansen are among those interviewed for the segment.Katie says she hesitated to be part of the show. Her ordeal was many years ago, after all, and it left painful scarring. Somehow, the distant nightmare seemed quite personal.“At first, I thought by speaking out, I would somehow be selling my soul,” she says. “But I am coming to see myself as a survivor, not a victim.”Crime of the decadeFor Lodi, it was the crime of the decade.On July 2, 1994, Cochran, 25 at the time and fresh out of prison, was roaming through Lodi, fueled by meth. He tricked Katie into letting him into the home near Lower Sacramento Road, where she was spending the afternoon with her sister, Elizabeth, 16 at the time, and a friend, then 13. (The friend has chosen not to speak publicly about the incident.)Cochran terrorized the girls, grabbed Katie at knifepoint, and fled with her in the family’s Pontiac Fiero. He rushed east into the brown hills southeast of Lodi, but the Fiero got stuck in a field, igniting a grass fire.With Hansen at the helm, the Lodi police reacted swiftly. Every available officer was called in and an all-points bulletin was issued. Supervisors were instructed to follow up the bulletin with calls to every law enforcement agency within 100 miles with an urgent message: Be on the lookout for the Fiero.Hansen had attended a seminar only weeks before on lessons learned from the case of Polly Klaas, the 12-year-old Petaluma girl who was taken from her home and killed in 1993, less than a year earlier.He knew time was of the essence.Smoke from the grass fire off Highway 26 drew the response of firefighters, who ran the Fiero’s license plate.What followed was the biggest search in the history of the Lodi Police Department.As day turned to night, police, sheriff’s deputies and FBI officers converged on the field. More than 100 officers were involved in the operation.In Lodi, meanwhile, fliers by the hundreds with Katie’s image were printed and distributed. Dozens of volunteers stepped forward to help. Local churches set up special prayer lines.The next morning, officers found Cochran wandering through the grass and oak-studded hills and seized him.Twenty-five minutes later, Katie was found.When word reached the Lodi Police Department that Katie was alive and safe, there was an immediate ovation.Inspired by atiny creatureKatie was alive and physically intact, but she had been abused by Cochran, as had Elizabeth. For Katie, the abuse continued, off-and-on, through much of the time she was held in the grassy hills, ending only a few hours before she was recovered.The night of the abduction, Cochran kept her partially submerged in a pond, trying to avoid heat-seeking technology being used by search helicopters.Desperate, she prayed, reciting the Lord’s Prayer to herself. Then, just a few feet away in the pond, she noticed a frog.“It was a living thing. For some reason, it reminded me of my pet chinchilla back at home,” she said. “With the frog close by, somehow I knew I was going to make it.”Repeatedly during the nightmare, Cochran said he was going to rape her, though his abuse did not escalate to that level.“I would phrase it as terror; he terrorized me, sexually terrorized me,” she said.When sunlight brushed across the hills in the morning, she asked Cochran if he still intended to rape her.“He said no. He said he’d been high on meth the previous day and night, but he wasn’t high anymore, and he was letting me go,” she said.Ultimately, Cochran was sentenced to 106 years in prison. He is 46 now, held at Salinas Valley State Prison, according to state corrections records.Cochran told probation officers he was abused as a child and was locked up at age 12 after burning down a house.Katie said she never felt Cochran was going to kill her.In fact, by the time he left her next to the pond in the morning, she felt an attachment to him.“I said, ‘You aren’t going to leave me here?’ It was a total Stockholm syndrome thing. Plus, there were cows around. It sounds weird now, but I was afraid the cows were going to trample me,” she said.If she were to send Cochran a message today, Katie said, “I would tell him I forgive him, and I hope he can forgive himself. I’m alive. I’m OK. He is not in a good place.”Her sister, Elizabeth, is married with a family and living in Elk Grove. She is also forgiving — to a point. Her college studies and career have exposed her to people who have struggled with varied forms of abuse.“You know, it is sad he was abused. But I’ve worked with people with horrible home lives, and many choose to rise above, to do better,” she said.A strong survivorAfter the kidnapping, Katie and Elizabeth both went through counseling. Both agree now it was not of much value. The Romanek family moved to Galt, and Katie attended Galt High. But she had difficulty focusing and following through. She attended Columbia College near Sonora but dropped out. She was using drugs and alcohol and had a series of relationships with men.She wound up as a server at the Jackson Rancheria, a job she held for six years.Last year, she went through a divorce. She has been working as a caregiver in San Andreas, where she currently lives.Through those difficult times, she stayed close to her dad and step-mom and sister Elizabeth. She maintained her buoyant personality and built strong friendships. Several of her friends urged her to speak out about being a survivor, and to get help.“I carried a lot of guilt. I felt it was my fault. After all, I was the one who opened the door (for Cochran to enter the house),” Katie said.Elizabeth said the ordeal shifted her life, as well. The kidnapping came just two years after the death of their mother, Beverly, from bone cancer. (Their dad later married his current wife, Elsa.)“When the kidnapping happened, Katie was still dealing with the death of our mom, and so was I,” Elizabeth said. “But Katie was younger. It was especially hard for her.”Katie went into therapy after her divorce last year and finally began to realize that she was still strong, still had many gifts. Still had a future.When the call came from Lifetime representatives earlier this year, she debated whether to participate.Eventually, she decided it was the right thing to do.“The therapy gave me the confidence to move ahead with the Lifetime program,” she said. “And doing the program has opened new doors for me.”‘Oh, my God — youare so beautiful!’Some of those doors have been opened by Hansen, the former police chief who commanded the rescue operation.In May, Katie and Hansen, who had not seen each other for 15 years, were reunited on camera in Los Angeles.“I looked at her and said, ‘Oh, my God — you are so beautiful!’” Hansen said.The two hugged and then talked for well over an hour.“We both bawling. I told him I was so grateful to him for finding me,” Katie said.Over two days and multiple interviews on camera, Katie spoke about her background, her life, and the kidnapping. Elizabeth was interviewed in detail, as was Bob Romanek.“I know Katie did it because she was ready, but also because she felt strongly that speaking out would help other people,” Bob Romanek said. “It was a brave thing for her to do.”Since the interviews, with Hansen’s encouragement, Katie has spoken out at several classes and seminars. She has become a strong supporter of the Family Justice Center in San Joaquin County, where victims can access a prosecutor, counselor, social worker and related services in one location. Plans call for the center to open next year.Suzanne Schultz, family crimes coordinator with the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, heard Katie speak at a seminar and was immediately impressed.“Katie is the face of what so many abuse victims go through: The drugs and alcohol, the difficult relationships. She is typical in that way. But she is unique in that she has come out the other side with such insight, and with such an eloquent and hopeful voice.” Schultz said.Katie has enrolled at Humphreys College in Stockton, where Hansen is on the adjunct faculty. She has plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in community studies.Hansen believes Katie is on a fresh course.“Katie survived a lot. She is amazingly resilient. She is still standing. She is still strong. And if she can survive what she went through, she can survive anything.”A radiant smileAt the coffee shop, Katie takes another sip of water and talks about what’s next. She wants to continue speaking out and helping others, and would like to make that part of her career.“For women and girls, it is so important for them to know they are not alone,” she says. “You don’t have to hold it in. Talk about it. Own it. Own it.”She’s not sure if the future includes another marriage or children. But she is confident the future will be good.“I am honest. I value my friends. I am becoming the person I want to be, not a victim, but a survivor,” she says.Earlier that morning, she received her grades from Humphreys for the most recent semester: Straight As.Her smartphone vibrates and she reaches for it.After a moment, she looks up, eyes gleaming.“It’s Elizabeth,” Katie says, smiling her radiant smile. “She wants to get together and celebrate my4-point-O!”

  • Victim in Parkwest Casino death identified

    LODI — The San Joaquin County Coroner has identified the man who died at Parkwest Casino during what may have been an attempted robbery on Friday, Feb. 17.

  • Two men arrested in Galt homicide

    GALT — Jose Luis Arriaga, 22, and Gonzalo Rodriguez, 28, both of Galt, were arrested Wednesday and booked into the Sacramento County Jail on suspicion of murdering a Galt man late Tuesday.

  • Camanche Dam is safe but may spill over

    Camanche Dam is safe but may spill over

    Storms and floods have inundated the news, with the recent crisis at the Oroville Dam spillway and rural flooding of homes and vineyards through the last few storm systems.

  • Fritz Grupe balances family, business, farming

    Fritz Grupe balances family, business, farming

    Perched eight feet off the ground in the driver’s seat of a hunter-green carriage, Greenlaw “Fritz” Grupe makes quite an impression. Here, Grupe is in control and can meet the world on his own terms and at a speed of his choosing.

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