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Local News

San Joaquin Veterans Court to hold graduation

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The San Joaquin Superior Court will hold a graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. Oct. 2 for veterans graduating the Veterans Court program. The cerem…

Lunch menus: Week of Sept. 25

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The following is a list of next week’s lunch menus for area schools and LOEL Center. Choice of 1 percent milk or nonfat chocolate milk is serv…

Public meetings: Week of Sept. 25

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Tuesday

Best-selling author and former Woodbridge resident published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Best-selling author and former Woodbridge resident published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

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Even after her death, New York Times best-selling author Irene Spencer’s words still inspire others.

Grief workshops to be held at Lodi Memorial Hospital

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The Lodi Funeral Home’s Community Outreach Program will begin their newest Healing Path Workshops series at 3 p.m. on Wednesday at Adventist H…

Fish and Wildlife seeks artists for stamp contest

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting an art contest to select the design for the state’s 2017-18 upland game bird stamp.

Galt seeks applicants for vacant council seat

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Registered voters interested in serving on the Galt City Council without being elected have until Oct. 5 to apply. The appointment will replac…

Lodi Chamber of Commerce to host sidewalk job fair

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The Lodi Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a sidewalk job fair next Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the chamber office located …

Cosumnes Fire Department receives $1.94 million grant

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The Cosumnes Fire Department will receive a multi-million dollar Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant for the Cosumnes Fi…

San Joaquin Public Works to hold Lower Sacramento Road ribbon-cutting ceremony

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When the San Joaquin County Public Works Department completed improvements to 21⁄2 miles of Lower Sacramento Road between Eight Mile Road and …

Local Sports

Sports shorts: Fast races at Jorgensen Memorial at Lodi Cycle Bowl

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Tony Meiring of Tracy won the 45cc Open A at Saturday’s Toby Jorgensen Memorial at the Lodi Cycle Bowl, as well as the Dash for the Cash.

Sports shorts: Edison slips past Lodi JV

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The Lodi frosh-soph football team fell 20-14 to Edison on Friday, with the Flames’points coming from a Myles Lazono 2-yard run and an Andres p…

High school football, Week 4: Tigers caged by Eagles

High school football, Week 4: Tigers caged by Eagles

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Toward the end of the second quarter, momentum seemed to be on the Tokay High football team’s side on Friday night.

Athlete of the week: Lodi’s Hernandez gaining speed

Athlete of the week: Lodi’s Hernandez gaining speed

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Accomplishments: As workouts continue, Ruth Hernandez’s confidence continues to build within her.

Sports shorts: Flames fend off rally in the pool

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The Lodi boys water polo team survived a late rally to defeat Oakdale 7-6 on Tuesday.

Local residents mingle with ‘Concussion’ doctor Bennet Omalu

Local residents mingle with ‘Concussion’ doctor Bennet Omalu

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Underneath a huge canopy on the east side of Wine and Roses in Lodi on Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of people visited a former Lodi resid…

High school volleyball: Hawks soar past Tigers

High school volleyball: Hawks soar past Tigers

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A lesson learned toward the end of last week paid off for Liberty Ranch.

Sports shorts: Lodi boys water polo takes third at weekend shootout

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The Lodi High boys water polo team had solid performances at the Roddy Svendsen Shooutout at Merced College last weekend.

High school football — Week 3: Escalon grounds Hawks for lopsided victory

High school football — Week 3: Escalon grounds Hawks for lopsided victory

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GALT — On its first offensive possession, the Liberty Ranch High football team showed a spread option formation.

Sports shorts: Flames go 3-0 on first day of tourney

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The Lodi High boys water polo team went 3-0 on Friday in the first day of the Toddy Scendsen Shootout in Merced, beating Nevada Union 10-3, Me…

Most Popular

  • Lunch menus: Week of March 21

    The following is a list of this week’s lunch menus for area schools and LOEL Center. Choice of 1-percent milk or non-fat chocolate milk is served with each school meal.

  • FAA won’t punish Lodi Parachute Center

    FAA won’t punish Lodi Parachute Center

    A year after skydiving Instructor Yong Kwon and Tyler Nicholas Turner fell to their deaths during a tandem jump at the Lodi Parachute Center, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it will not take action against the Acampo business.

  • Convicted murderer Sarah Dutra released from prison

    Convicted murderer Sarah Dutra released from prison

    The woman accused of poisoning her Woodbridge boss a decade ago was released early Friday morning from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.

  • 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!”

  • Apartments coming to Reynolds Ranch; residents move into Rose Gate

    Apartments coming to Reynolds Ranch; residents move into Rose Gate

    Plans for a $20–$21 million multi-family apartment complex in southeast Lodi were released on Thursday, a development that would add to the ongoing housing boom in Lodi.

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play Flag Ceremony

Flag Ceremony

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play Randy's Wacky Turkey Races

Randy's Wacky Turkey Races

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Randy's Wacky Turkey Races at the Lodi Grape Festival

play Worms!

Worms!

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