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Citrus Heights: 2017 Year in Review

Citrus Heights, Scott Ruiz, Richard Kniesel
On March 31, 2017, a 400-year-old Oak tree uprooted behind a historic home on Sunrise Boulevard owned by Richard Kniesel.

Note: The Sentinel published full articles or news briefs on all the events or stories listed below in our Weekend Edition emails during 2017. To follow all our local coverage in 2018, sign up for our free Weekend e-Edition.

A lot went on in Citrus Heights during the past 365 days of the year 2017. Our short overview of the city’s 20th year of cityhood includes new businesses and restaurants that entered the local scene, notable deaths and arrests in the city, and highlights of events and happenings from January through December. Next week, we’ll followup with a list of what’s coming to Citrus Heights in 2018.

New businesses:

A partial list of new businesses that opened in 2017 include Sourdough & Co. on Sunrise Boulevard, Antojitos Locos at the corner of Sunrise and Antelope, Bo’s Urban Eats on San Juan Avenue, Yellow Yo frozen yogurt at Sylvan Corners, Sutter Health’s new Walk-in Clinic at Sunrise and Madison, Armenian Grill House in the Birdcage shopping plaza, and Bischoff’s Medical Supplies, which took up the long-vacant retail building at the corner of Antelope Road and Auburn Boulevard in December. Plush Night Club also opened at the old Alley Katz bar on Arcadia Drive, Black Bear Diner opened in February, and Crepes & Burgers opened in January on Auburn Boulevard.

Notable business closures:

  • Denny’s restaurant in Citrus Heights abruptly closed in July on Sunrise Boulevard. The site remains vacant with a for lease sign in front.
  • Abel’s Christmas Trees on Sunrise Boulevard also closed its doors this year after serving the Sacramento region for more than six decades.

Notable deaths:

  • Mel Turner (1949-2017). Councilman Turner passed away on April 20, 2017, while serving his second term on the Citrus Heights city council.
  • James Leroy Wheeler (1940-2017). Wheeler passed away in his home at the corner of Old Auburn Road and Mariposa Avenue on Mar. 12, 2017. Little is known about Wheeler, but the now-boarded up home drew community attention after several months and resulted in a Sentinel story about the home in July.
  • Leonard Shymoniak (1941-2017). The founder and owner of the well-known “Pumpkin Farm” on Old Auburn Road passed away on Nov. 13, 2017.
  • Marilynn Ann Stribley (1930-2017). The 87-year-old was the victim of a tragic robbery at a Citrus Heights Rite Aid on Nov. 27th. She passed away on Dec. 1, after being pushed over by a fleeing robbery suspect.

Notable arrests:

  • Kimani Randolph, 21, was arrested on Dec. 7 for allegedly robbing a Citrus Heights Rite Aid on Nov. 27 and knocking over Marilynn Stribley while he fled the scene.
  • Dustin Smith, 31, was arrested on suspicion of entering an elderly woman’s home in Citrus Heights on Aug. 30 and raping her.
  • Jordan Byers Lynch, 24, was arrested after a neighbor tackled him to the ground while he was allegedly fleeing the scene of a home where he was accused of robbing and stabbing a woman on Aug. 9th.
  • Jesse Berube, 32, was arrested on Dec. 13, after police said he was attempting to access a Greenback Lane business through a chimney, but got stuck and called 911 for help.
  • James Bradford Nelson III, 28, was arrested after a June 23 incident at Sylvan Corners where officers said he resisted arrest and dropped him to the ground on hot pavement, causing severe burns. The incident prompted protests by Black Lives Matter activists, and the Sacramento District Attorney’s office announced in September that some of the more serious charges against Nelson had been dropped.
  • Charles Williams Fuhrman, 56, was arrested on arson charges following a suspicious fire at his own residence on Glen Echo Street on March 27.
  • Levi Pierce, 23, was arrested on Feb. 16 in connection with a series of early morning burglaries in the Citrus Heights area in January and February of 2017. Pierce is still in custody as of Dec. 30, with bail set at $1 million.
  • Jared Moody, 24, was arrested on Jan. 30 after allegedly leading officers on a 100-mile-an-hour chase and attempting to ram several police vehicles. He is currently in custody on separate charges stemming from another arrest on Oct. 14.


JANUARY: Citrus Heights kicked off the year with a reception at city hall to celebrate the city’s 20th birthday. January also began with a pair of “atmospheric rivers” that brought over five inches of rain to the region over one weekend alone, leaving fallen trees and minor flooding in the city. The opening month of 2017 also brought with it the opening of “Theatre in the Heights,” a small but successful venture on Auburn Boulevard that brought comedy and drama to Citrus Heights.

Business in January also brought some controversy, with residents gathering at city hall to organize and collect signatures to oppose a proposed ARCO gas station and car wash at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Sungarden Drive. The month concluded with the city’s first roadway tragedy, when an 88-year-0ld man was killed after being t-boned as he attempted to cross Sunrise Boulevard in his vehicle on Jan. 26.

FEBRUARY: Demolition work began on the old Sylvan Middle School building on Auburn Boulevard in February, with the now-leveled 13-acre parcel later attracting the City of Citrus Heights as a potential buyer for the lot — although the future of the site still remains unknown. Police also began to warn residents in February of a series of residential burglaries in several areas of Citrus Heights and arrested suspect Levi Pierce on Feb. 16 in connection with the crimes. As of Dec. 30, he remains in custody with bail set at $1 million. A first-ever rotating “Winter Sanctuary” to temporarily shelter the homeless in Citrus Heights concluded in February as part of an inaugural seven-week program hosted at area churches.

MARCH: A “Hidden Treasures” exhibit featuring local artists was set up at Sunrise Mall during the first two weeks of March, followed by a Spaghetti Feed fundraiser for the Citrus Heights Community Marching Band at the Community Center and a Spring Carnival at the mall. The city also announced the launch of a new online pet licensing program, and the police department reported during a March city council meeting that overall crime in Citrus Heights had risen by 4% in 2016. The month concluded with a bang when a massive, 400-year-old oak tree came crashing to the ground behind Richard Kniesel’s historic Citrus Heights home on Sunrise Boulevard on March 31.

APRIL: In April, city leaders charted out 6-month objectives to accomplish in 2017, detailing out 22 different goals to achieve — including reducing roadway fatalities, due to the first four months of 2017 each having a fatal incident. April also saw the first ‘Taste of Citrus Heights’ event at the Community Center, hosted by the Citrus Heights Women’s Club, along with the annual Pet-a-Palooza event at Rusch Park on April 22. At city hall, the mayor confirmed in April that the city had expressed interest with the school board to buy the old Sylvan Middle School property. Councilman Mel Turner also passed away on April 20 at age 67, after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. In crime news, masked thieves made off with $250,000 in diamonds at a Sunrise Boulevard jeweler on April 21.

MAY: In May, the long-awaited groundbreaking of Dignity Health’s medical office building was held, along with the council appointing Albert Fox to fill the vacant seat on the city council left by Councilman Turner. Other events included a Senior Health Fair at the Community Center, along with a Memorial Day ceremony on May 29 at Sylvan Cemetery. Bearpaw Boots, which is based in Citrus Heights, also announced plans for a large expansion of its footwear in Europe.

JUNE: Highlights from the month of June included the 18th annual Red, White & Blue Parade on Sunrise Boulevard, along with the city’s massive block party on June 3 to celebrate 20 years of cityhood.

JULY: In July, Citrus Heights Police reported that Fourth of July fireworks calls dropped in 2017 and the department also released a survey showing a significant drop in homeless-related calls in the city, compared to the prior year — crediting the city’s funding of a new homeless “navigator” for the success. The city also installed additional red-light cameras at two intersections on Greenback Lane, following a controversial 4-1 vote by the council earlier in July. Campers again set up in Rusch Park on July 22-23 for the city’s annual “Community Campout,” and the month wrapped up with a new “Summer Jam” event at the Rusch Park Skate Park on July 29.

Related: Citrus Heights to add more red light cameras at intersections, but do they work?

AUGUST: Over a dozen National Night Out events across the city kicked off the month on Aug. 1, followed by the 4th annual Hot August Bites event at Rusch Park on Aug. 12. In mid-August, a herd of about 140 goats arrived to Citrus Heights to begin clearing weeds outside city hall and several other locations. The Citrus Heights Police Department also issued a news release crediting its partnership with a nonprofit for a drop in domestic violence incidents.

Also in August, Citrus Heights Mayor Jeff Slowey gave a positive outlook in a “State of the City” address at a Chamber of Commerce business luncheon, and a pair of companies based in Citrus Heights made it to the Sacramento Business Journal’s fastest-growing companies list.

SEPTEMBER: In September, police reported mid-year crime statistics for 2017, showing a spike in burglaries and a drop in violent crime. Circus Vargas set up at Sunrise Mall, and “Brassie,” a 7-foot-tall dinosaur made of recycled instruments, was unveiled for the first time by the Citrus Heights Community Marching Band. Sunday Funday was also held on Sept. 24 at Rusch Park, and the Sunrise MarketPlace received approval from the city council for $300,000 to purchase a new 2,500-seat stadium for outdoor concerts and events at the mall, set to begin in 2018.

OCTOBER: The month of October in the city boasted the annual “Spooktacular” event hosted by the Antelope Crossing Business Association in the Raley’s shopping center parking lot. The Citrus Heights Marching Band also held its annual “Howl-o-Ween” parade and festival later in the month, and a Fall Carnival outside the Sunrise Mall wrapped up the month’s festivities. In business news, gas prices were reported to be the lowest in Citrus Heights compared to anywhere else in the state on Oct. 25, with the price recorded at $2.47 per gallon.

NOVEMBER: The month of November was a busy one, kicking off with over 300 people attending a spaghetti feed fundraiser at Holy Family Catholic Church to raise funds for the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART), followed by a mostly full public hearing at Rusch Park on Nov. 8 where the Citrus Heights Water District voted to raise water rates and fees. A ceremony was also held on Veterans Day at Sylvan Cemetery, and the Auburn Boulevard Business Association announced a 31-point action plan for improving Auburn Boulevard.

DECEMBER: The final month of the year kicked off with a surprise flash-mob style performance by the Citrus Heights Community Marching Band inside Walmart on Dec. 2, followed by over 1,000 people attending the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree on Dec. 7 at city hall. The following week, 18 students participated in the annual “Shop with a Cop” event at the Citrus Heights Walmart, and the Sunrise Marketplace concluded its first-ever “Magical Moments” holiday event series with a pet-themed Christmas event in front of PetSmart on Dec. 21. Plans for a new Studio Movie Grill at the old Citrus Heights Kmart building were also publicized in December, and the council voted to select Steve Miller to serve as the Mayor of Citrus Heights for the upcoming year.

As happens every holiday season, extravagant lights also began to show up around the city in December, which were highlighted in The Sentinel’s top seven must-see displays in Citrus Heights. A newcomer to the local light scene was a home on Sampolo Court, where over 50,000 coordinated flashing lights are synchronized to 25 minutes of music.

Those interested in additional highlights can view a pair of videos highlighting 2017 and the city’s 20-year celebration of cityhood that were released by the city in 2017 (see videos). A theme for each month in celebration of the 20th anniversary was also announced by the city, with a new ‘Top 20’ list released each month. The full list can be viewed here.

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A thank you note to our readers: The Sentinel published on average between 30-40 articles per month during 2017, often covering exclusive local stories that received no attention in regional media. We couldn’t do this without the support of our subscribers and supporters; so thank you for making our coverage possible.

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