50 years ago — An El Centro draftsman who said he started using marijuana at the age of 12 and heroin at the age of 16 was ordered to the California Rehabilitation Center by Superior Court Judge George R. Kirk this morning because examining physicians have determined he is a narcotics addict.

Roger Reh Baxter, 23, of El Centro, had previously pleaded guilty to passing bad checks at a local supermarket. The first of the forged checks -- the blanks had been stolen from a local barber – was for $18 and was passed July 5.

On July 13, Baxter cashed another forged check at the same supermarket for $30. On July 20 he went to the same market again and tried to pass one for $35. However, the store management called the police and distracted Baxter until an officer arrived and arrested him. Baxter said his habit was costing him $40 a day.


40 years ago — Pedro Hernandez Lira, 35, a recently convicted narcotics offender and state prison parolee, was found shot to death Wednesday in what law enforcement officials say has all the earmarks of an execution-style killing.

Imperial County Sheriff Oren Fox and county District Attorney Roger Cognala said the El Centro man had been shot at least three times with a small-caliber weapon.

One of the bullets was reportedly fired directly into the victim’s head, just behind the right ear, from a distance not exceeding 3 feet, said Fox. Two other bullet wounds were found in the victim’s back and on the inside of his right arm, midway between the elbow and the shoulder.

Deputy County Coroner Donald Cole estimated Lira had been dead three hours before the body’s discovery. It was found shortly before 3 p.m. by a pair of beekeepers who were tending some hives in a clump of trees at the east end of a private air strip belonging to Douthift Steel.

The air strip is about a half mile east of Dogwood Road and several hundred yards south of Evan Hewes Highway, just outside the El Centro city limits. There was some speculation that because the area is rather isolated the body might not have been found for some time if the beekeepers had not been working in the area Wednesday.

Based on preliminary findings, one investigator said it looked as though Lira had walked into the area and was “already wounded and on the ground” when the gunman fired the third and, most likely, fatal shot.

No motive has been established for the murder. Cole today said an autopsy was conducted late Wednesday by Colton pathologist Dr. Rene Modglin. Findings show Lira died as a result of the bullet wound to his head.

“The other two bullet wounds would not have been fatal. One entered in the lower back, the other hit Lira in the arm and shattering the bone,” Cole said.

Lira is the 15th murder victim recorded in Imperial County during 1980. There had been 14 kills by this time last year.


20 years ago — This ain’t your momma’s Girl Scout troop.

“I think people think all we do is sell cookies and go to Disneyland and that’s just not true,” Girl Scout troop leader Judy Peck said.

Of course Girl Scouts still sell cookies and do the occasional arts and crafts activity. However, Brawley troops 371, 7007 and 1417, like troops around the nation, make a point to prepare girls for their futures.

This year the girls will attend a variety of activities ranging from a car-care seminar to a career fair. Throw in some camping trips, boating lessons, visits to animal parks, community service and the famous cookie sales and the year is nearly complete.

“Being a Girl Scout prepares them for the world,” said Peck, a Girl Scout leader for 20 years who heads all three Brawley troops. Not only do the girls learn like skills such as how to change a flat tire and manage stress, the leadership skills and community service performed by Girl Scouts boost their resumes and college applications. The national Girl Scout organization also offers college scholarships.

“We’re not a women’s right organization, but we do want girls to know they can be anything. If you want to be a doctor, you don’t have to settle for being a nurse,” Peck said.

The members of Peck’s troops benefit from that outlook and preparation. Nearly every girl from the elementary level through high school plans to attend college.

Heather Sims, a freshman at Brawley Union High School, wants to attend Harvard after high school and eventually become an astronaut. Brawley High junior Natasha Armstrong, wants to study marine biology. Christina Vasquez and April Alexander, both seniors at Brawley High, plan to study computer networking after graduation. Sabrinnah Short, a sixth-grader at Westmorland Basic Christian School, wants to invent a machine to film the inside of black holes.

“My brother said I couldn’t do it, but I say I will,” Sabrinnah said. “You can do anything. It may take a little while, but you’ll get there.”

Right now, however, Sabrinnah is concentrating on gathering blankets, rags, chew toys, newspapers and cans of dog food to donate to local animal shelters. This aid to homeless dogs is part of a service project she is organizing.

April Alexander, a senior at Brawley High, will make 3-by-5 greeting cards for the elderly at Imperial Oasis Retirement Community as part of her service project. The cards, which will be distributed throughout the year, are a way of making people feel better.

“I want them to know they’re not forgotten,” April said.

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