Sunday, 14 April 2024

REGIONAL: Search for missing man leads to homicide arrest

LAYTONVILLE – The search for a Laytonville man missing since last month led to a murder arrest Tuesday afternoon.


Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies arrested 62-year-old Phillip Frase of Laytonville for the murder of 49-year-old Steven Richard Schmidt, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.


Schmidt, a transient, was reported missing from Frase's home at 59659 Bell Springs Road in Laytonville on Jan. 17, Smallcomb said.


An investigation led to Schmidt's motor home being located and unoccupied in the Fort Bragg area. Smallcomb said the vehicle was towed to the sheriffs office for further investigation.


At 7 a.m. Tuesday Mendocino County Sheriff's detectives and other personnel, along with assistance from the Major Crimes Task Force, search and rescue personnel, Nevada County Cadaver Canine personnel and others, went to Frase's residence, which was Schmidt's last known address, Smallcomb said.


They served a search warrant at the property, and Smallcomb said Frase told investigators that Schmidt wasn't at the residence.


However, after three hours of searching, investigators found Schmidt's body adjacent to a tree and covered with fresh cut brush and branches, said Smallcomb. Detectives and officers continued their investigation at the scene for further evidence.


Frase was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the murder charge, with bail set at $500,000, Smallcomb said.


On Wednesday afternoon, an autopsy was conducted on Schmidt's body. Smallcomb said preliminary results revealed that Schmidt died of blunt force trauma to the head, and that it appeared a large object was used to inflict the injuries.


Smallcomb said the murder investigation is continuing. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to telephone the detectives tip line at 707-467-5159. Callers can remain anonymous.


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