Saturday, 15 June 2024

Detectives investigate homicide at illegal marijuana grow

MIDDLETOWN – Lake County Sheriff's detectives are investigating a homicide believed to have been committed in connection with an illegal marijuana garden in a remote part of the south county.


Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that detectives found the body of an adult male in a grave in a marijuana grow between the Bear Creek Canyon power plant access road and Socrates Mine Road on Wednesday.


The Santa Rosa Police Department contacted sheriff's detectives on Tuesday with information that a missing person from their area may have been shot and killed in an illegal marijuana grow here in Lake County, Bauman reported.


Later Tuesday morning, detectives – using the information provided by Santa Rosa Police – located a very large-scale marijuana growing operation in the area of Highway 175, south of Socrates Mine Road, he said.


Bauman said that when detectives entered the marijuana grow, they confronted several suspects that were believed to be armed and who immediately fled into the woods.


Due to the size, complexity and terrain of the search area, the Sheriff’s SWAT team was summoned for a specialized search, air support was requested from the California Highway Patrol, and the Sheriff’s Mobile Incident Command Post was deployed to the area, according to Bauman.


The investigation and search for suspects in the immediate area extended into Tuesday night and the SWAT team remained inserted in the grow through the following day, said Bauman. During the night in which there was little to no visibility, SWAT members reported hearing subjects trying to re-enter the illegal grow but attempts to contain those subjects were unsuccessful.


On Wednesday at about 7:30 am, Sheriff’s Incident Command received a report that two male Hispanic subjects had been seen running down Highway 175 from the area and acting suspiciously, Bauman said. A sheriff’s patrol unit in the area responded and both were detained.


He said deputies recovered near the roadway a loaded 9mm handgun which one of the subjects had attempted to discard when deputies contacted him. Both suspects were arrested for suspicion of cultivating marijuana and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.


An investigation into the illegal grow continued throughout Wednesday while sheriff’s detectives interviewed the two suspects about the operation and the alleged homicide. Bauman said evidence of long-term occupation by an unknown number of suspects was located in several grow sites in the area and several more firearms were recovered.


Interviews with the two arrestees confirmed not only their connection to the marijuana grow, but also to the homicide and one of them agreed to lead detectives to the area where the homicide victim was located, said Bauman.


Late on Wednesday afternoon, detectives located the grave and found the partially decomposed body of an adult male, and also recovered a sawed-off shotgun.


Investigation of the illegal operation continued through Wednesday, said Bauman. The State Department of Justice CAMP Program provided both personnel and air support to assist the sheriff’s office with the eradication of nearly 20,000 marijuana plants, and the movement of personnel and equipment in and out of the homicide scene.


Eradication of the marijuana operation concluded late Wednesday but the processing of the homicide scene continued into Thursday, said Bauman.


The body of the apparent homicide victim as yet to be positively identified and any connection to the missing person case out of Santa Rosa has yet to be confirmed, he added.


Both the illegal marijuana operation and the suspected homicide were committed by means of trespassing on privately owned lands, with no connection to the property owner he said.


The investigation is ongoing, Bauman said.


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