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Criminal Justice
Adrian Madrigal sentenced in 2013 death of Don Buffington in Napa burglary

Adrian Madrigal faces more than three decades in state prison following his sentencing for a 2013 home break-in that left a 62-year-old Napa man dead.

Monday morning in Napa County Superior Court, Judge Mark Boessenecker sentenced Madrigal to 33 years and four months for voluntary manslaughter, robbery and burglary in the stabbing death of Don Buffington. Madrigal, 30, had pleaded guilty to the charges Feb. 7 in a deal that included the dismissal of a first-degree murder allegation.

Madrigal also was ordered to pay $6,626 in restitution to the family of Buffington, a Vietnam War veteran and retired union laborer.

Dressed in a dark blue suit, a calm and composed Madrigal said little during the 20-minute hearing, other than to answer “yes” when Boessenecker asked him whether he understood he would not receive any credit for his time already served behind bars.

After hearing the sentence while standing in a glass-walled chamber on the right side of the courtroom, Madrigal stuck his right hand through a vertical slot to shake hands with his two attorneys.

Later Monday, Assistant District Attorney Paul Gero said the plea agreement that dropped the murder charge was based on Madrigal’s history of mental illness and the desire to secure a lengthy prison term. Court records indicate Madrigal was treated at Napa State and Atascadero State hospitals before being declared competent to stand trial.

“Our office and the victim’s family wanted to ensure he did not escape justice and possibly be committed to a state hospital to be released in the near future,” Gero said. “The finality of him serving a lengthy sentence in state prison was our preference.”

Police said Madrigal’s arrest stemmed from an attempted burglary at Buffington’s bungalow in the 1100 block of Hayes Street.

Sometime before 4 a.m., on June 21, 2013, Madrigal, then 24, entered through an unlocked back window of the stucco-sided house before getting into an altercation with Buffington, authorities said at the time. Buffington suffered several stab wounds and died of his injuries.

Afterward, Madrigal took jewelry from the home and fled in the victim’s Chevrolet TrailBlazer, according to police. The next day, California Highway Patrol officers who stopped the SUV for a traffic violation near Lake Berryessa discovered it did not belong to Madrigal, and Napa Police officers were sent to Buffington’s house where his body was found.

Madrigal was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of Buffington, as well as robbery, burglary and vehicle theft. He pleaded not guilty in August 2013.

The case followed a period filled with mental illness and run-ins with police, according to defense counsel and law enforcement.

At the time of the slaying, Madrigal was on probation for a November 2011 incident in which he scaled the 140-foot-tall Coombs Street water tower at the former Sawyer Tanning Mill, stayed six hours and dropped various items from the tower, according to police. He was convicted the following year and served jail time for assault with a deadly weapon in connection with that incident.

Madrigal was arrested again in April 2013 on suspicion of stealing clothes from the Kohl’s store in downtown Napa, according to court documents. He was released from the Napa County jail and ordered to receive a mental health assessment, going free on June 5 – less than 2 ½ weeks before Buffington was killed.

The Happy Grandparents: American Canyon woman creates nonprofit for needy seniors in Mexico

It all started with one cane and one wheelchair.

That’s how Rosalba Valencia de Correa described the beginning of her nonprofit, Los Abuelos de Arteaga Michoacán.

Also known as The Happy Grandparents, Valencia de Correa created the nonprofit to benefit needy seniors in her hometown. Called Arteaga, the small town is in Michoacán, Mexico.

Valencia de Correa, who lives in American Canyon and is a senior caregiver by trade, said she felt compelled to help the elders in the town who live alone. Some had no food. Others could not walk or get out of bed.

“I feel for seniors. When I see seniors that need help, I need to help them.”

Gathering that first cane and wheelchair, which she bought at a garage sale, Valencia de Correa sent the items with some of her family members who were traveling to Arteaga in 2010.

The idea clicked and Valencia de Correa began to collect more durable medical equipment.

By March 2015, she’d gathered up 26 items including wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and transport chairs. After a trucking company offered to subsidize the shipping, the items were wrapped on four pallets and driven to Arteaga.

Some two dozen people in Arteaga, including two disabled children, were the grateful recipients, she said.

Valencia de Correa then started the “long and complicated” process of registering as a legal nonprofit in both the U.S. and Mexico.

“This is more than a hobby,” she said. “I wanted to do it right.”

Los Abuelos de Arteaga Michoacán and the Happy Grandparents have since earned official nonprofit status.

By July 2017, Valencia de Correa and volunteers had assembled their biggest donation haul yet: 1,200 items including hospital beds, canes, crutches, walkers, bath chairs, wheelchairs and more.

“We never realized how complicated” such a large delivery would become, she admitted. The shipping container became stuck at a port in Mexico and it took four months of pleas and negotiations to release the delivery.

“It was a big achievement,” she recalled.

Since then, Valencia de Correa has gathered up more than 2,300 items, all currently stored in a rental unit in American Canyon.

She and her nonprofit board are trying to raise some $4,800 to pay for the shipping of those items to Michoacán.

At the same time, the nonprofit has also begun to fund a meal delivery service in her hometown. Similar to Meals on Wheels in the U.S., it provides one meal a day to some 70 seniors who are homebound.

For just $150 a week, the group can rent a kitchen area and buy and prepare hot meals including soup, tortillas, rice and beans and vegetables.

About 15 volunteers in Arteaga help cook and deliver the food. Photos in a scrapbook she has created show the seniors receiving their meals. On Mother’s Day, special baskets were distributed to those seniors.

She hopes to create a senior center including a farm and nursery where the elders can be involved. A benefactor has already donated 5 acres for the land.

“It’s my dream” to build such a home, she said.

She’d also like to expand the service to other smaller towns similar to Arteaga.

“I feel blessed,” Valencia de Correa said. “It’s a great privilege” to help these seniors.

Napa County chips away at bridges rated as being 'structurally deficient'

Napa County’s Bay Area-worst rating for bridge conditions should inch upwards with the Conn Creek bridge replacement scheduled to start this spring on busy Silverado Trail.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Vital Signs report says 13.9 percent of the bridge-and-overpass deck area in Napa County is “structurally deficient.” That is the worst rate among nine Bay Area counties and above the region’s 6.7 percent.

While “structurally deficient” can sound ominous, the classification doesn’t necessarily mean a bridge has a crippling defect. A Caltrans report said deficiencies noted during bridge inspections can be maintenance needs such as painting or filling in cracks.

“In the meantime, the bridge can be safely used by the motoring public,” the report said.

Conn Creek bridge along Silverado Trail east of Rutherford will be Napa County’s next bridge fix-it project. In this case, the remedy goes far beyond a patch job.

“The existing bridge has been affected by scouring of the creek bed, causing settlement and damage to its structure,” Caltrans spokesperson Janis Mara said in an email. “It is not possible to repair the damaged components.”

Rather, Caltrans will tear down the early 1970s bridge and build a new one at a cost of $8.3 million. Construction is to begin this spring and last into 2020. Caltrans plans to demolish and reconstruct the bridge in two sections, so one side is available to carry traffic while work goes on.

One lane will be open in each direction during most of the construction period, except during temporary closures, Mara said. There will be no shoulders.

A left-turn lane will be provided on southbound Silverado Trail for traffic turning east onto Sage Canyon Road, she said. However, traffic traveling north on Silverado Trail and traffic turning west onto Conn Creek Road will share a lane.

Caltrans and not the county is in charge of the work because the Conn Creek bridge is along a brief Highway 128 section of Silverado Trail.

The city of Napa will have an easier time fixing the five structurally deficient bridges within its limits. One of them is the Third Street bridge that was rebuilt over the Napa River for the flood control project only 17 years ago.

Caltrans inspects bridges every two years from top to bottom, city of Napa Deputy Public Works Director Eric Whan said. Sometimes, the deficiency is tiny cracks in the bridge deck that pose no safety threat.

“Concrete flexes, contracts, moves,” Whan said. “As vehicles drive across it, it flexes and moves. You will get little microscopic cracks that form. They are so small you’re not going to notice them.”

The Third Street bridge has these microscopic cracks in its pavement. Erasing them is not an elaborate process.

“We just have to do a deck treatment and it will be back to 100 percent,” Whan said.

Perhaps the county bridge in the worst shape is the Garnett Creek bridge on Greenwood Avenue near Calistoga. Cracked by the 2014 South Napa earthquake, this 1904 stone arch bridge is listed in the Vital Signs report as having a superstructure in imminent failure condition.

Napa County closed the bridge after the earthquake and is still evaluating whether it will be repaired or replaced, county Public Works Director Steven Lederer said. Work is to begin in 2022.

The county has other bridge repair projects in the works – Dry Creek Road over Dry Creek to begin construction in 2021 and Chiles-Pope Valley Road over Chiles Creek to begin construction in 2021. Plus, it is working to obtain Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to replace the bridge over a creek on Partrick Road that was damaged in the South Napa earthquake.

Further out are plans to work on Soda Canyon Road bridge over Soda Creek, Loma Vista Drive bridge over Soda Creek, Hardin Road bridge over Maxwell Creek, Conn Valley Road over Conn Creek and Berryessa-Knoxville Road bridge over Eticuera Creek.

Vital Signs didn’t count individual bridges to come up with Napa County’s 13.9-percent bridge deficiency rate. Rather, it looked at the county having 12,436 square meters of deck space on structurally deficient bridges out of 89,714 square meters of deck space overall.

There’s another way to look at the issue. Federal Highway Administration data for 2016 shows 12 of 150 Napa County bridges are structurally deficient. That’s 8 percent.

Napa County has company when it comes to bridge needs. The federal report stated that 1,388 out of 25,431 California bridges are structurally deficient, covering an area of 1.8 million square meters of bridge deck.

Perhaps the state’s and the region’s most famous bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, is rated as structurally sound in the Vital Signs report.