Crime

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

HumCo Fentanyl Overdoses Coming at "Staggering" Rate in 2021

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 8:52 AM

Humboldt County is in the midst of a surge of fentanyl-related overdose deaths, alarming local officials who have long braced for the powerful opioid’s impact on the North Coast.

Fentanyl has accounted for nearly 50 percent of Humboldt County’s alcohol and other drug (AOD) deaths so far this year, with five overdose deaths logged in March alone, according to data provided by the Coroner’s Office. And through the first three months of the year, 2021 had already matched the number of fentanyl overdose deaths recorded in Humboldt County in all of 2019 and was on pace to more than triple last year’s tally.

“The 2021 overdose rate of fentanyl here in the county is staggering,” said Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal in an email to the Journal. “Our County Drug Task Force has responded swiftly to this sudden onslaught of dangerous fentanyl into our community.”

After being found in one overdose victim locally in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018, fentanyl was found in seven of Humboldt County’s 71 (9.7 percent) AOD deaths in 2019, and nine of the 63 (14.7 percent) recorded in 2020, according to data provided by the Coroner’s Office.

Sheriff’s Lt. Shawn Sopoaga, who currently commands the task force, said fentanyl has quickly become a primary focal point for the task force, a team of investigators from multiple agencies that make high-end drug cases. The task force has made a series of large busts this year, starting back in January, when it seized a local record 4 ounces of fentanyl in a traffic stop of a Eureka man returning from San Francisco. Then in March, agents arrested several people connected to the alleged trafficking of 5,000 fentanyl-laced counterfeit prescription pills into Humboldt County from the San Jose. Earlier this month, the task force reported arresting a Piercy man after finding him with 1.5 ounces of fentanyl.

Fentanyl, cocaine and firearms seized as a part of a weeks long investigation stemming from a string of fentanyl overdoses. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE
  • Humboldt County Drug Task Force
  • Fentanyl, cocaine and firearms seized as a part of a weeks long investigation stemming from a string of fentanyl overdoses.

“We are definitely reacting to what is quickly becoming one of the most influential narcotics in Humboldt County, Sopoaga told the Journal, adding that while urban areas and other parts of the country have been dealing with fentanyl for years, it’s fairly new to the North Coast.

While Fentanyl is tremendously addictive, it's considered to be especially dangerous because of its potency. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, a lethal dose of heroin is generally considered to be roughly 30 milligrams, while a 3-milligram dose of fentanyl — which looks like a few grains of salt — is enough to kill an average adult male. That potency makes it attractive for drug traffickers, officials say, as a tiny bit can be used to stretch illicit street drugs or counterfeit pharmaceuticals. But if the drug isn't blended sparingly, thoroughly and evenly, it can prove deadly.

The task force is seeing far more fentanyl circulating locally in counterfeit pills, Sopoaga said, which is a huge concern.

“It’s not like these counterfeit pills are being processed with quality control in a laboratory,” he said. “They’re very inconsistent. I think we have been seeing some overdoses as a result.”

Because fentanyl is so much more potent and consequently cheaper than other drugs, there have also been reports of non opioid counterfeit pills — like benzodiazepines, barbiturates and amphetamines — being cut with fentanyl, which can prove deadly for users who don’t have a built up opioid tolerance and are expecting to ingest something else. In some cases, it’s also unclear if street-level dealers are aware of what’s in the pills they’re selling.

“One of my biggest concern is that our teenagers and young adults are taking pills from these dealers that are laced with fentanyl,” Honsal said. “The chances of overdose is very high. I urge the people of Humboldt County to not take any prescription pills that were not prescribed by a doctor and not purchased at a pharmacy.”

But Sopoaga also made clear that some users are very actively seeking out the more powerful opioid.

“The buzz on the street is people want fentanyl,” he said, adding that this will remain “the priority” for the task force. “It’s obviously the biggest issue just based on the deaths.”

Sopoaga said the task force is also working with the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and an association of state narcotics officers and has looked into the possibility of building a homicide case against a dealer linked to an overdose death.

Honsal said federal prosecutions are also possible.

“We are going after the dealers and suppliers of this poison,” he said. “We are working with both our state and federal law enforcement partners to hold those persons accountable that are pushing fentanyl in our community. Dealers can be charged by the state or federal government for distributing fentanyl resulting in overdose death. This is our No. 1 priority in the county right now. We have zero tolerance for fentanyl dealers.”
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Sunday, April 11, 2021

'He's Not Forgotten': Vigil Planned for David Josiah Lawson

Posted By on Sun, Apr 11, 2021 at 8:18 AM

David Josiah Lawson - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • David Josiah Lawson
David Josiah Lawson's mother is intent on both making sure Humboldt County never forgets his name and giving back to the community that has embraced her, echoing her calls for justice.

Lawson, a 19-year-old Humboldt State University sophomore, was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party April 15, 2017, in a case that remains unsolved with charges dismissed against its only named suspect. To mark the fourth anniversary of her son's death, Charmaine Lawson has planned a day of events in the Arcata Plaza on Saturday, April 17.

Because her son ran track and loved the outdoors, Charmaine Lawson said she's been training to run the Los Angeles Marathon in his honor and decided to hold a 4-mile run/walk to mark the four-year anniversary.

"You can run, you can walk, you can skateboard — bring pets, kids in strollers — it's going to be a fun event," she told the Journal. "It's about being outside, exercising, making sure people are staying healthy."

The run/walk will begin at noon at Arcata City Hall before heading to the Humboldt Bay Trail and the Arcata Marsh.

Then, at 2:30 p.m. (once the farmers market wraps up, as Charmaine Lawson said she didn't want to interfere with people enjoying the market), there will be a vigil on the Arcata Plaza with a keynote speaker, music and outreach services to those in need.

Charmaine Lawson said she can't do the coat drive for the poor she's done the last few years because of COVID-19 but this year has packed 100 backpacks with toiletries, blankets and gift cards and plans to give them out to people in need during the vigil, which will also have food for those who are in need.

"I just want to give back, give back in honor of DJ," she said. "DJ was a giver. He had an amazingly big heart."

Anyone looking to contribute can bring a new sleeping bag or a gift card to a local restaurant or grocery store to donate, Charmaine Lawson said, adding that those looking to volunteer with the run/walk can show up at city hall by 11 a.m.

Charmaine Lawson said she's looking forward to being back in Humboldt County, where she says she'll never stop pushing to find justice for her son.

"I just want the community to come out and remember DJ and celebrate him and know that he's not forgotten," she said.
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Thursday, April 1, 2021

EPD Arrests Man for Alleged Sexual Assault of Child

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 4:06 PM

41-year-old Jorge Alcazar Vasquez of Rio Dell - EPD
  • EPD
  • 41-year-old Jorge Alcazar Vasquez of Rio Dell
The Eureka Police Department has arrested Jorge Alcazar Vasquez of Rio Dell for the alleged sexual abuse of a child under 10 years old after a months-length investigation.

Vasquez is suspected of oral copulation or penetration with a child under 10, sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under 10 and recurring sexual conduct with a child.

The investigation is ongoing and EPD asks anyone with information to call Detective Corrie Watson at 441-4032.

Read the full press release below.

Subject: Male Arrested for Ongoing Sexual Assault of Minor
On March 31, 2021, the Eureka Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team (POP), with assistance from the Humboldt County Drug Task Force (DTF), arrested 41-year-old Jorge Alcazar Vasquez of Rio Dell following a month’s long investigation into ongoing sexual assault of a child under 10.

The Eureka Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Section (CIS) headed the
investigation into the ongoing assaults that occurred in Eureka. The report was
submitted to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and an arrest warrant forAlcazar Vasquez was issued.

Alcazar Vasquez was transported and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility for oral copulation or penetration with a child under 10, sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under 10, and recurring sexual conduct with a child. Bail is set at $1,705,000.

This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Corrie Watson at (707) 441-4032.

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DA Names New Chief Investigator

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 3:45 PM

Kyla Baxley is sworn in as the chief investigator by District Attorney Maggie Fleming. - COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • County of Humboldt
  • Kyla Baxley is sworn in as the chief investigator by District Attorney Maggie Fleming.
The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced today that Kyla Baxley has taken on the role of chief investigator, having previous served as the senior district attorney investigator, replacing Wayne Cox, who retired on Tuesday.

Baxley, who joined the office in 2013 after five years with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, grew up in Eureka and received a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida after also attending Humboldt State University.

“I recognize the vital role the District Attorney Investigations Division can have on the cases our office receives for prosecution,” Baxley said in a news release. “I have always valued the opportunity to interact and build professional relationships with the allied agencies and our community. I feel fortunate I am in a position to continue to do this and look forward to leading the Investigations Division with honesty and integrity.”

Cox — who served as chief investigator for eight years —is widely known for his work in solving the murder of 14-year-old Curtis Huntzinger, a Blue Lake boy who was missing for 18 years before his body was found in a shallow grave in December of 2008, and bringing his killer to justice.

The next year, he was named the California District Attorneys Association’s first-ever “Investigator of the Year” as well as received the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s annual Law Enforcement Excellence Award.

“Among many other valuable qualities, I appreciated Wayne Cox’s willingness and ability to handle an incredible variety of tasks (at all hours) and the value to our Office of his amazing network of connections to people throughout the county and state,” District Attorney Maggie Fleming said in a release. “I also look forward to Kyla Baxley’s service as chief investigator, because her track record gives many reasons to anticipate that she will be excellent in her new role.  Humboldt County has greatly benefitted from the service of Wayne Cox; we are fortunate to continue benefitting from the service of Kyla Baxley.”

Read the full release from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office below:

The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced Kyla Baxley has been promoted from Senior District Attorney Investigator to Chief Investigator.  Chief Baxley grew up in Eureka and attended both Eureka High School and Humboldt State University before graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida.  She joined the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in 2007, where she worked as a patrol deputy and later as a detective before joining the District Attorney’s Office as an Investigator in 2013.  Chief Baxley has served as a member of the Child Abuse Services Team throughout her tenure as a DA Investigator.  Her selection as California Sexual Assault Investigator of the Year in 2017 indicates the excellence of her work and level of commitment.  Following her selection as Chief Investigator, Kyla stated: “I recognize the vital role the District Attorney Investigations Division can have on the cases our Office receives for prosecution. I have always valued the opportunity to interact and build professional relationships with the allied agencies and our community. I feel fortunate I am in a position to continue to do this and look forward to leading the Investigations Division with honesty and integrity.”

Chief Baxley replaces Wayne Cox, who retired on March 30 after serving as District Attorney Chief Investigator for the past 8 years.  Former Chief Cox worked in law enforcement for over 30 years, including service with the Eureka Police Department and the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement before he joined the District Attorney’s Office in 2007.  The California District Attorneys Association recognized Chief Cox’s outstanding work by selecting him as Investigator of the Year in 2009.  His many contributions to law enforcement include recognizing the need for, and leading the establishment of, a Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) for Humboldt County.  Established in 2018, the MCTF has already made key contributions to several investigations.

District Attorney Maggie Fleming shared her perspective on the change in Chief Investigators: “Chief Investigator for the DA’s Office is an exceptionally challenging job.  Among many other valuable qualities, I appreciated Wayne Cox’s willingness and ability to handle an incredible variety of tasks (at all hours) and the value to our Office of his amazing network of connections to people throughout the County and State.  I also look forward to Kyla Baxley’s service as Chief Investigator, because her track record gives many reasons to anticipate that she will be excellent in her new role.  Humboldt County has greatly benefitted from the service of Wayne Cox; we are fortunate to continue benefitting from the service of Kyla Baxley.”
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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Drug Task Force Reports Seizing 5K Fentanyl Pills

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2021 at 11:08 AM

Fentanyl, cocaine and firearms seized as a part of a weeks long investigation stemming from a string of fentanyl overdoses. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE
  • Humboldt County Drug Task Force
  • Fentanyl, cocaine and firearms seized as a part of a weeks long investigation stemming from a string of fentanyl overdoses.
The Humboldt County Drug Task Force reported today making a handful of arrests and seizing more than 5,000 counterfeit Percocet pills containing fentanyl after a weeks-long investigation initiated after multiple fentanyl overdoses were reported in the Hoopa Valley.

According to a  press release, the investigation started March 5 when a Humboldt County Sheriff's deputy working in the Trinity Valley reported to the task force a potential overdose death attributed to pills known on the street as "perc30," which were allegedly being sold by Christian "Punky" Colegrove, 23, and a 17 year old. A little more than a week later, a 13 year old reported overdosed after taking the same pills but was revived when responding officers used Narcan.

The investigation reportedly led to Anthony Dion Medina, 24, of Eureka, who was allegedly picking up "large quantities" of pills in the San Jose area and then selling them in Humboldt County. After as surveillance operation, task force agents reported observing Medina returning from a trip to San Jose along State Route 299 when he stopped in Willow Creek to meet Colegrove and Warren "Pops" Sloan, 23.

Agents contacted the men and served as each warrant on Medina's vehicle and reported finding a total of 5,002 "perc30" fentanyl pills. A passenger and an infant were also in Medina's vehicle, according to the press release.

When agents served a search warrant at Medina's residence in Eureka, they reported finding a number of firearms — including a 9 mm "ghost gun" with a 30-round magazine drum — and more than 8 grams of cocaine.

Local officials have become increasing concerned about fentanyl locally, as it has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths, following a national trend. After being found in one overdose victim locally in each 2016, 2017 and 2018, the coroner's office found fentanyl in at least seven of the county's 46 overdose deaths in 2019.

"Something changed," Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Lt. Sam Williams told the Journal last year. "It's a marked difference."

Fentanyl is considered to be especially dangerous because of its potency. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, a lethal dose of heroin is generally considered to be roughly 30 milligrams, while a 3-milligram dose of fentanyl — which looks like a few grains of salt — is enough to kill an average adult male. That potency makes it attractive for drug traffickers, officials say, as a tiny bit can be used to stretch illicit street drugs or counterfeit pharmaceuticals. But if the drug isn't blended sparingly, thoroughly and evenly, it can prove deadly.

Read more about local officials' concerns about fentanyl in the Journal's Feb. 6, 2020, cover story "Third Wave."

Sloan was issued a misdemeanor  citation on suspicion of loitering with intent to purchase drugs, while Colegrove was taken into custody on active warrants. Medina and his passenger were arrested on suspicion of possessing and transporting a controlled substance for sale, child endangerment and conspiracy.

The task force asks anyone with information related to this investigation to call 267-9976.

See the full task force press release copied below.


Continue reading »

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Monday, March 22, 2021

'Real People': Sunday's Love Over Hate Vigil

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 6:51 PM

The sun belied the chill on Sunday afternoon in the lot of the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bayside, some 200 people came for a walking meditation and vigil for victims of the March 16 shooting in Atlanta that targeted Asian women and took the lives of eight people.
hapi-6.jpg

In front of the closed hall, members of Humboldt Asians & Pacific Islanders (HAPI) in Solidarity who’d helped organize the event set out bottle of sanitizer, nametag stickers and origami cranes for visitors to pin to their coats. Patty Hecht rubbed her arms in the wind and explained the group had chosen the church grounds rather than the more visible Arcata Plaza in order to avoid potential conflict or harassment.

Days before, the press release announced, "The tone of the vigil is compassionate, peaceful, and respectful, to demonstrate support for Asians and Pacific Islanders against whom acts of violence have been increasing over the past year." The mood was indeed more one of solace than protest. (See the slideshow below by photographer Dave Woody.)

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Eureka Mayor 'Angry' About Alleged EPD Text Messages

Posted By on Fri, Mar 19, 2021 at 2:36 PM

Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman issued a statement this afternoon saying the text messages allegedly sent between Eureka Police Department officers that were released in a bombshell report from the Sacramento Bee earlier this week "are wholly unbecoming of any professional, or any decent human being for that matter."

"Public trust is hard to earn and easy to lose," Seaman said in the recorded statement. "People are angry and they should be. I'm angry. There is no excuse for the demeaning, disrespectful content reported to have been included in those messages."

Seaman reported that EPD the city has hired an "unbiased third party from outside the area" to conduct a formal internal investigation into the text messages, but said the city won't identify the investigator until their report is complete. The mayor said she expects the investigation to deliver answers quickly.

Earlier this week, EPD Chief Steve Watson said he's placed two officers on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Relying on a text message thread between six officers provided to the newspaper by an anonymous source, the Bee named two officers — Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez and Mark Meftah — as participating in the threads, which made fun of homeless residents, demeaning comments about women's bodies, threats of violence and disparaging references to a female colleague, while also referring to a former county health officer as a "bitch."

According to the Bee's report, when officers discussed a woman "who was known to shoplift and who also had a history of mental illness" and was walking through town, Reyna-Sanchez responded, "Get pics of her rack!!"

"Saggy ol udders," Meftah allegedly replied.

In another thread, Reyna-Sanchez allegedly updates his fellow officers on a police standoff with John Karl Sieger that ended with him being fatally shot after pointing a gun at officers, telling them Sieger "is at st joes with several extra holes in him!!" The Bee also reported other messages in which the officers allegedly joke about beating up protesters and "face shooting" a suspect released from jail after allegedly stealing a tactical vest of Reyna-Sanchez's.

Watson penned a letter to the community earlier this week denouncing the statements in the alleged texts, while the Eureka Police Officers Association issued a statement saying it "does not and will not condone violent, racist, sexist, or indifferent attitudes towards the community members we are sworn to protect and serve, or each other.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Police Make DUI Arrest After Fatal Crash

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2021 at 9:51 AM

chp.jpg
The California Highway Patrol has arrested a 31-year-old on suspicion of felony driving under the influence after a fatal head-on collision on State Route 36 Saturday left a 61-year-old Blocksburg man dead, according to a press release.

Police report that Andrew Harmon was driving a Dodge 3500 eastbound on State Route 36 near mile post marker 15.5 when for unknown reasons it drifted across the center lines and collided head-on with a 2006 BMW driven by Marc Broussard. Broussard and his passenger, Kaylem Branson, 51, were transported with major injuries to St. Joseph Hospital, where Broussard died hours later.

Harmon allegedly left the scene of the crash prior to officers' arrival but was tracked down and arrested in Rio Dell.

The CHP asks anyone with information about this crash to call 822-5981.

See the full CHP press release here.
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Friday, February 12, 2021

Details Emerge in Triple Homicide; Loleta Community 'Heartbroken'

Posted By , and on Fri, Feb 12, 2021 at 1:43 PM

Mauricio Eduardo Johnson.
  • Mauricio Eduardo Johnson.
The 18-year-old Loleta man accused of fatally shooting three people — including a 16-year-old girl — at a home on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation on Wednesday morning was known to the victims and was a “guest in their house,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal told the Journal this morning.

Deputies were called to the home in the 200 block of Carroll Road a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday, when a juvenile in the home called 911 to report a shooting. They arrived to find two people dead and a third with “serious injuries” who later died at a local hospital. Two children — 11 and 13, according to Honsal — were also found uninjured in the home.

The victims were later identified as Nikki Dion Metcalf and Margarett Lee Moon, both 40, and 16-year-old Shelly Autumn Mae Moon. Honsal said the suspect — Mauricio Edwardo Johnson — was a “friend” of the family and had a relationship with Shelly, though Honsal said their “exact relationship” remains under investigation. But he said Johnson had been given permission to be inside the house by “at least one of the residents” and the family knew he was in the house prior to the shootings.

Detectives, Honsal said, are still investigating a possible motive for the killings.

“It’s a tragedy,” the sheriff said. “Our hearts go out to the Bear River community and the Moon family. It’s just an absolute tragedy.”

The killings have had profound impacts on the Bear River and Loleta communities. Shelly and Margarett Lee Moon both worked at Loleta Elementary School as aides, tutoring students and working in the afterschool program.

"Loleta Union School District is saddened by the loss of two wonderful young women," the district said in a statement emailed to the Journal. "They graced us with their beautiful smiles and loving hearts. Their work with children was appreciated, they will be missed by everyone at LUSD."

In coordination with the Humboldt County Office of Education, the Bear River Rancheria, Two Feathers, Humboldt Bridges and SELPA, the district is offering counseling and support for anyone who needs it. Anyone wishing to access services or get more information can call 733-5705.

"We are a community and are here to help each other," the statement said.

Attempts to reach the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria for this story were not immediately successful.

When deputies arrived at the scene of the shootings Wednesday, Honsal said they immediately recognized the gravity of the situation and called out the major crimes task force, which includes senior detectives and evidence technicians from a host of local agencies, all of whom “basically swarmed to the scene.”

Investigators got a “ton of community cooperation,” Honsal said.

“People came forward and gave us information,” Honsal said. “That ultimately led us to Mr. Johnson, the vehicle he was associated with and a likely destination.”

Investigators learned Johnson was traveling with his mother, Melissa Sanchez Johnson, and her friend, Von Keener, in a white Toyota Highlander, reportedly heading to a friend or family member’s residence in Indiana. Honsal said investigators wanted to act on this information before it became public — potentially allowing Johnson to change course or destroy evidence.

“We know that people listen to police scanners, so we oftentimes put this type of sensitive information out through email or teletype that say, ‘Do not transmit over the air,’” Honsal said. “We don’t want the suspect to know we’re looking for him.”

In this case, a "be on the lookout" advisory went out to allied agencies in California, Nevada and Utah, asking officers to look for the suspect vehicle and advising its three passengers were wanted in connection with a triple homicide and Johnson should be considered to be armed with a handgun. Despite the request not to broadcast the information, an agency in Placer County did announce the advisory over its dispatch radio, recordings of which then made the rounds on social media.

Meanwhile, around 1:30 p.m. yesterday, Utah Highway Patrol troopers were notified of the ongoing effort to locate the Highlander and its passengers. About an hour and a 15 minutes later, troopers spotted the vehicle and “put a plan in place to safely stop” it and take its occupants into custody, according to a UHP press release, calling for an emergency response team and readying a helicopter if backup should be needed.

“A traffic stop was initiated and the vehicle refused to stop,” the press release states. “The vehicle’s tires were spiked shortly thereafter.”

When the vehicle came to a stop, Johnson was arrested, Keener was taken into custody on an unrelated Humboldt County warrant and Sanchez Johnson was detained for questioning, according to the release.

Honsal said officers constantly work to balance transparency and keeping the public informed with the potential of harm to an ongoing investigation. In this case, he said they did not have any information to indicate there was an ongoing threat to local residents and the balance tipped in favor of not releasing the suspect’s identity or whereabouts while they tried to bring him in to custody.

At this point, Honsal said investigators have no evidence that Keener or Sanchez Johnson were involved in or present at the time of the homicides but that they “are investigating their roles after the homicides.”

“We take aiding and abetting very seriously, so we want to know through our investigation how they may have aided and abetted Mr. Johnson in his escape,” Honsal said.

Autopsies on the victims in the case are scheduled to be performed today, Honsal said, but added they did appear to have died by “gunshot wounds.”

Honsal said he’s grateful for the cooperation and hard work of his and allied agencies’ investigators and evidence technicians, many of whom worked 24 to 36 hours straight to get an arrest in the case, as well as the cooperation of community members who came forward with valuable information.

“The first 24 hours of this investigation were just crucial,” Honsal said. “The reason we were able to get this information and develop it into an arrest warrant so quickly is because of the cooperation from the Bear River Rancheria, the community and the witnesses who came forward.”

The Loleta Elementary School Facebook page cover photo was switched at 7:03 p.m. Wednesday to a picture of Margarett Lee Moon.

"Heartbroken we are over this tragic loss, Margarett was a beautiful person inside and out," reads the first comment. "Was there for everyone, she had an awesome personality and laugh like no other. Our prayers are with her family."
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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Suspect in Bear River Triple Homicide Arrested

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2021 at 3:04 PM

Humboldt County Major Crimes Task Force at the scene. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Humboldt County Major Crimes Task Force at the scene.
An 18-year-old has been arrested in Utah on suspicion of murder in the deaths of three people at a home on the  Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation.

Loleta resident Mauricio Eduardo Johnson is being held on a no-bail warrant.

According to a news release, the sheriff’s office investigation “determined two vehicles associated with Johnson to be traveling in the State of Utah” and contact was made with law enforcement agencies in the area.

“At approximately 2 p.m., law enforcement located the two vehicles traveling on I-80 in Tooele County, Utah,” the HCSO release states. “One involved vehicle yielded, and a female subject was detained. The second involved vehicle failed to yield, and a short pursuit ensued. Law enforcement deployed a spike strip, disabling the vehicle.”

Johnson was in the second vehicle with Von Eric Keener, who was also taken into custody on a parole warrant.

The victims have been identified as Nikki Dion Metcalf, 40, Margarett Lee Moon, 40, and Shelly Autumn Mae Moon, 16, Two other juveniles who were in the home were not physically injured and have been placed in safe custody, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies were call to the scene on the 200 block of Carroll Road a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday and found two of the victims dead and another with serious injuries, who later died after being taken to the hospital. The investigation is continuing.

Read the HCSO release below:
The suspect in the homicide of three Bear River residents has been taken into custody in Utah. The suspect has been identified as 18-year-old Mauricio Eduardo Johnson of Loleta. Johnson will be held on a no-bail warrant for charges of murder. Through the course of their investigation, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Investigators determined two vehicles associated with Johnson to be traveling in the State of Utah. Sheriff’s Investigators contacted the Utah Highway Patrol and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office for assistance in apprehending Johnson. At approximately 2 p.m., law enforcement located the two vehicles traveling on I-80 in Tooele County, Utah. One involved vehicle yielded, and a female subject was detained. The second involved vehicle failed to yield, and a short pursuit ensued. Law enforcement deployed a spike strip, disabling the vehicle. Inside the vehicle, law enforcement located Johnson and Von Eric Keener, age 46. Keener was taken into custody on a parole warrant. Johnson was taken into custody on a warrant for murder. The female is still detained as of this release with criminal charges anticipated. This is still a very active investigation and more information will be released when available. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Utah Highway Patrol and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in the apprehension of Johnson. Anyone with information about this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.
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