Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Homicide victim found in marijuana garden identified

LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Friday that a homicide victim whose body was discovered last week in an illegal marijuana garden has been identified.

The body of Jose Luis Tafolla, 29, was identified as the result of an autopsy conducted Monday at the Napa County Coroner's Office, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Tafolla had been reported missing from Santa Rosa on Sept. 1. Sheriff's official discovered his body in a shallow grave in a large marijuana growing operation off of Highway 175 in Middletown last week, as Lake County News has reported.

Bauman said sheriff’s detectives attending the autopsy found that Tafolla had sustained multiple high-velocity gunshot wounds. Fingerprints collected during the autopsy were used to confirm Tafolla's identity on Tuesday.

On Monday, a combined task force of sheriff’s detectives, sheriff’s Search and Rescue and members of Kelseyville’s K-Corps conducted a daylong extended search of the eradicated marijuana operation and homicide scene for any remaining evidence relating to the homicide. Bauman said the search operation yielded several more items of physical evidence, including more ammunition and spent firearms cartridges believed to be connected to the homicide.

On Thursday, sheriff’s detectives served two search warrants relating to the homicide investigation on residences in the city of Santa Rosa, said Bauman. Those search warrants resulted in the interview of several potential witnesses and revealed the identities of several new persons of interest.

Since detectives began this investigation, they have learned that Tafolla reportedly left Santa Rosa on Aug. 24 with two associates and went to the marijuana grow in Lake County, apparently intending to steal marijuana by force to settle a debt owed to one of them by one of the growers, according to Bauman.

The three were not supposed to return to Santa Rosa for about a week but the day after they left, Tafolla’s two associates returned without him and his girlfriend – who Bauman said was previously believed to be Tafolla's wife – became concerned.

By Labor Day weekend, Tafolla had still not returned to Santa Rosa. When his girlfriend insisted on knowing his whereabouts, one of the two he went to Lake County with a week prior told her he had been shot and killed in a gun fight when they tried to steal the marijuana. Bauman said she then notified authorities in Santa Rosa of circumstances surrounding Tafolla’s disappearance.

Interviews and the condition of Tafolla's body when he was recovered from the marijuana operation indicate he was killed on or about Aug. 24, said Bauman.

He said that the two men arrested as they fled the area of the marijuana operation on Sept. 3 are still believed to be connected to the homicide, however, the investigation has yet to yield enough information to either charge them or clear them of any direct responsibility.

The investigation remains open pending further work by sheriff’s detectives, Bauman reported.


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