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Finding the dead on TV: Rupert cadaver dog part of show's cold case investigation

RUPERT — The moment Cayvun jumps from her kennel in the back of dog handler Lynn Porter’s pickup, she understands her mission.

“Find the dead guy,” Porter tells her. The directive is cushioned in the Gaelic language for the benefit of family members who have lost a loved one.

Cayvun in a cadaver dog and her reaction is swift.

The three-year-old sable German shepherd with soft brown eyes focuses on the training task Nov. 12 and begins wide sweeps at the Minidoka County Fairground, her nose millimeters from the grass and crunchy golden leaves.

Time spent training is vital to a search dog’s success, but nothing prepares the handler — or the dog — for performing a search in real time with cameras rolling.

Porter and Cayvun will be featured on the cable channel Investigation Discovery at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 in a two-part special called “Cold Valley.”

Laurie Welch Times-News / LAURIE WELCH, TIMES-NEWS  

Cadaver search dog Cayvun, owned by Lynn Porter of Rupert, finds a piece of human bone that was planted at the Minidoka County Fairgrounds on Nov. 12.

The documentary follows an Asotin, Wash., sheriff’s detective and a relative of a missing woman as they try to solve the disappearances of five people between 1979 and 1982 in Lewis Clark Valley along the Washington and Idaho border. They may have been victims of a suspected serial killer.

“This investigation is incredibly unique because it is so close to being finally solved,” Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America, said in a statement. “Part of our mission at ID is to show real people with real stories and, here the two women we feature are pursuing a story so chilling and compelling it’s hard to believe it’s actually true.”

Officials previously found the bodies of three women who had disappeared, but the bodies of a 12-year-old girl and a 35-year-old man have never been found.

The search for the girl and man — recorded for the television show — took place a year ago at a parcel of Washington property tied to a “person of interest” in the case.

“There were cameramen and producers and everyone was in front of me and I couldn’t see my dog half the time,” Porter said about the experience.

Generally, if someone accompanies her on a search, they stay behind her or to the side, she said.

Cayvun didn’t mind replaying one scene for the cameras when they asked that the dog come out of a barn a second time and head straight toward the camera, Porter said.

“My dog is a bit of a clown,” she said. “The cameraman was kneeling and she headed straight towards him. At the last minute, she diverted a bit to the side of him and licked his ear.”

Although no remains were discovered and no arrests have been made in the case, it certainly was an interesting experience, she said.

Laurie Welch Times-News / LAURIE WELCH, TIMES-NEWS  

Cadaver search dog Cayvun waits for handler Lynn Porter on  Nov. 12 after finding a piece of human bone during a training session.

Porter, who never owned a dog growing up, said she first became interested in search and rescue in 1988 and has done cadaver searches with dogs since 2000.

She owns Semper Vigilans, which provides cold case-, forensic archaeology-, missing persons- and historic grave-location assistance at no cost. But, if the search is state-sponsored, Cayvun is reimbursed at $25 per hour.

Porter has owned several search dogs, including Beretta, who found the remains of missing Rupert mother Norine Boyd in 2012 at the City of Rocks National Reserve after Boyd had been missing for 24 years.

Beretta has since retired.

Owning and training search dogs is expensive. Over and above the dog training, the handlers have to undergo training in vehicle and building searches along with crime scene and evidence protection in order to be used by law enforcement.

The fairgrounds is the perfect place to hold training exercises because it is infused with the smell of thousands of people and other animals.

Cadaver dogs, however, hone in on only one thing: the smell of human remains.

The dogs are trained by hiding pieces of human bone, which, Porter said, can be purchased on the internet.

Once the remains are found, Cayvun has been taught to lie down beside it. Afterward, her reward is a short playtime with a favorite ball.

A successful search when remains are found can bring a rush of emotions, Porter said. You’ve accomplished your mission, but, on the other hand, there is a sense of sadness.

“You just proved someone’s loved one is dead.”

Searchers in California wildfire step up efforts before rain

CHICO, Calif. — Volunteers in white coveralls, hard hats and masks poked through ash-covered debris Sunday, searching for the remains of victims of the devastating Northern California wildfire before rains that are forecast for this week complicate their efforts.

While the rain could help tamp down the blazes that have killed 77 people so far, it also could wash away telltale fragments of bone or turn loose, dry ash into a thick paste that would frustrate the search.

A team of 10 volunteers went from burned house to burned house Sunday in the devastated town of Paradise, accompanied by a cadaver dog with a bell on its collar that jingled in the grim landscape.

The members of the team — one of several involved in the search — scrutinized the rubble in five-minute sweeps, using sticks to move aside debris and focused on vehicles, bathtubs and what was left of mattresses. When no remains were found, they spray-painted a large, orange "0" near the house.

Robert Panak, a volunteer on a different search and recovery team from Napa County, spent the morning searching homes, but didn't find any remains.

Asked whether the job was tough, the 50-year-old volunteer said, "I just think about the positives, bringing relief to the families, closure."

He said his approach was to try to picture the house before it burned and think about where people might have hidden.

Almost 1,000 names are on a list of people who are unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began in Butte County, authorities said late Saturday. They stressed that the long roster does not mean they believe all those on the list are missing.

Sheriff Kory Honea pleaded with evacuees to review the list of those reported as unreachable by family and friends and to call the department if those people are known to be safe.

Deputies have located hundreds of people to date, but the overall number keeps growing because they are adding more names, including those from the chaotic early hours of the disaster, Honea said.

"As much as I wish that we could get through all of this before the rains come, I don't know if that's possible," he said.

Honea said it was within the "realm of possibility" that officials would never know the exact death toll from the blaze.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 50 people gathered at a memorial for the victims at First Christian Church in Chico, where a banner on the altar read, "We will rise from the ashes."

People hugged and shed tears as Pastor Jesse Kearns recited a prayer for first responders: "We ask for continued strength as they are growing weary right now."

Hundreds of search and recovery personnel are involved in the effort, going to homes when they receive tips that someone might have died there.

But they are also doing a more comprehensive, "door-to-door" and "car-to-car" search of areas, said Joe Moses, a commander with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, who is helping oversee the search and rescue effort.

The search area is huge, Moses said, with many structures that need to be checked.

The fire also burned many places to the ground, creating a landscape unique to many search-and- rescue personnel, he said.

"Here we're looking for very small parts and pieces, and so we have to be very diligent and systematic in how we do your searches," he said Friday.

The remains of five more people were found Saturday, including four in Paradise and one in nearby Concow, bringing the number of dead to 77.

Among them was Lolene Rios, 56, whose son, Jed, tearfully told KXTV in Sacramento that his mother had an "endless amount of love" for him.

President Donald Trump toured the area Saturday, joined by California's outgoing and incoming governors, both Democrats who have traded sharp barbs with the Republican administration. Trump also visited Southern California, where firefighters were making progress on a wildfire that tore through communities west of Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks to Malibu, killing three people.

"We've never seen anything like this in California; we've never seen anything like this yet. It's like total devastation," Trump said as he stood amid the ruins of Paradise and pledged the full support of the federal government.

Soon after the fire began, Trump blamed state officials for poor forest management and threatened to cut off federal funding.

"He's got our back," outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"There have been some back and forth between California leaders and the president," Brown said. "But in the face of tragedy, people tend to rise above some of their lesser propensities. So I think we're on a good path."

He also suggested California's severe wildfires will make believers of even the most ardent climate change skeptics "in less than five years," and that those living near forests might need to build underground shelters to protect them from fires.

Rain was forecast for midweek in the Paradise area. The National Weather Service said the area could get 20 mph sustained winds and 40 mph gusts, which could make it hard for crews to keep making progress against the blaze.

Northern California's Camp Fire has destroyed more than 10,000 homes and torched 233 square miles. It was 55 percent contained.

Honea expressed hope that Trump's visit would help with recovery, saying the tour by the Republican president and California's Democratic leaders "signals a spirit of cooperation here that ultimately benefits this community and gets us on a path toward recovery."

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Toddler Time activities begin at 10:30 a.m. and a children’s singalong will be at 4 p.m. at Twin Falls Public Library, 201 Fourth Ave. E. Free.

Group proposes smoke-free ordinance for Twin Falls

TWIN FALLS — A campaign to ban smoking from all workplaces and public places has made its way to Twin Falls.

The City Council on Monday will hear a presentation on Smoke Free Twin Falls, a campaign of Smoke Free Idaho, which aims to address some of the “loopholes” in Idaho law regarding smoking in public places.

Luke Cavener, director of government affairs for the American Cancer Society — Cancer Action Network, will present a model ordinance for Council members to use if they consider voting on a city ordinance later on.

“Monday’s meeting is an opportunity for us to share with the Council about why smoke-free policies are important for the community,” Cavener told the Times-News in a phone interview Friday. “We’ve always looked at smoke-free laws as a workers health issue, first.”

Idaho law already prohibits smoking in all indoor public places with two exceptions, he said: bars and some small businesses with five or fewer employees. Cavener said his group’s goal is to close “two loopholes created by the state” and to see what the City Council might be willing to change regarding parks. Residents have expressed confusion about the “inconsistent approach to smoking in parks,” he said.

The city of Twin Falls prohibits smoking only at certain parks where signage is posted, city spokesman Joshua Palmer said. Those include the First Federal Park and Dierkes Lake. Twin Falls occasionally bans smoking at the city park during public events, Palmer said.

The City Council meets at 5 p.m. Monday. The smoke-free Twin Falls item is for possible action. Cavener does not expect a decision to be made on Monday, but said the city may draft an ordinance with specific language to be brought forth to a public hearing later on.

The American Cancer Society — Cancer Action Network is a member of Smoke Free Idaho. Smoke Free Twin Falls has been a campaign in the making for about 18 months after a resident reached out to ask what it would take to get bars and other businesses in town to be smoke-free, Cavener said. Petitions have been circling around town since a kick-off at the Relay for Life event this summer. Hundreds of signatures have been gathered, he said.

“We have been at various community events talking to the public,” Cavener said. “We have a whole host of businesses that are in the Magic Valley area … that have endorsed our efforts.”

The South-Central Public Health District is supporting and providing assistance with the Smoke Free Twin Falls campaign, spokeswoman Brianna Bodily said.

The 14-page model ordinance was drafted by the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. It prohibits smoking in all enclosed or outdoor public spaces — including bars and hotel and motel rooms. The model ordinance includes hookahs and electronic cigarettes in its definition of “smoking.”

Cavener believes a city ordinance would also provide businesses with a greater ability to prohibit smoking in front of their doorways.

According to, 16 percent of Twin Falls County adults were smokers in 2016. The data was collected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The City Council meets on Mondays at City Hall, 203 Main Ave. E. Also on the agenda:

  • A proclamation naming Nov. 24, 2018, as Small Business Saturday in Twin Falls.
  • A request to approve an agreement between the city of Twin Falls and Breckenridge Homeowners Association, Randy Grant and Angela Grant, and Gerald L. Martens for improvements associated with the Canyon Rim Stabilization Project.

Chobani Foundation partnership will help feed 150 Twin Falls families for six months

TWIN FALLS — A new partnership between the Chobani Foundation and Wholesome Wave means 150 Twin Falls families will receive free fresh fruits, vegetables and yogurt for six months.

Wholesome Wave is a national nonprofit that aims to make fruits and vegetables accessible to people who are insecure and have a diet-related disease; or are at risk for getting a diet-related disease. This is the first program it’s had in Idaho, said Kelley Ferguson, partnership manager at Wholesome Wave.

The Chobani Foundation says it’s providing a $200,000 grant and up to $50,0000 in donated product to families in Twin Falls and in Chenango County, New York. Each area will have 150 families selected for the program.

“We have been working on enrolling people since the beginning of September,” Ferguson said.

Enrollment of the 150 families in Twin Falls should be complete next month.

With the program, the recipient families receive a reloadable Wholesome Wave rewards card with $60 per month to be used for fresh fruits and vegetables. Participating retailers includes Smith’s, Walmart and Fred Meyer. Chobani says it is also providing six months of free yogurt with cartons and coupons.

“Obviously, having some dairy to go along with your fruit and vegetables is very complimentary,” Ferguson said.

The families were recommended through Family Health Services as those having children ages 2 to 18 who were food insecure and had — or were at risk for — diet-related diseases such as obesity, she said.

In addition to the $60 per month card, the families will be eligible to earn up to another $60 monthly for fruits and vegetables as long as they are spending it on only fresh produce. Wholesome Wave is also providing families with recipe cards and cooking classes.

“It’s a different way to shop,” Ferguson said.

Award-winning chef Michel Nischan founded Wholesome Wave in 2007.

According to Feeding America, roughly 12.5 percent of Twin Falls County residents in 2016 were considered “food insecure.”

“We strongly believe that naturally delicious and nutritious food should be accessible to everyone,” the Chobani Foundation said in a statement.