Jul 23, 2014

From the "hood" to a business management courses at CR, the journey of one criminal who got "saved" by Christ

Tyrell Brannon said he wants to go to CR for business management when he gets out of prison. When Ms. Firpo asked him why, he said he no longer wants to be a part of his former life with the gang and has changed his life since he got "saved" and became a Christian.

"I am no longer good in the hood," he said.

He was polite, took responsibility for his past actions and very calm as he testified.

There are others like Rhett August and Sean Butler-Smith who have also said how their lives have changed with the incidents in this case. They may not have changed their lives because they found Christ, but just like Brannon, they are young men once on the wrong path, who did the right thing and are looking to better their lives.

Of all the witnesses, Butler-Smith and Brannon have the most to lose. Other witnesses have preferred to stay silent and sit in jail for contempt, refusing to testify. To these young men and all those who were brave to speak up; their courage and character speaks for themselves.

Some have family to help them, some don't.  They may not be rich in their bank accounts, but they are rich and in a more permanent way.

There are people who live in this community complaining every day about others, never taking responsibility, never doing anything to help someone. I wish these young men the very best. They are not waiting for someone else to change their lives, they are doing it themselves, despite great odds.

Problem house on 800 block of O Street in Eureka results in search for suspect with outstanding felony warrants

On 07/22/14 at approximately 5:24 p.m., Problem Oriented Policing (POP) Detectives were conducting an investigation on a “Problem House” in the 800 block of “O” Street.  A detective observed a 1993 blue Dodge van park approximately a half block from the “Problem House.”  When detectives attempted to contact the driver of the vehicle, the driver fled in the vehicle in an aggressive manner.

A nearby officer observed the driver commit a traffic violation and attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle.  The driver briefly yielded but then fled and a pursuit ensued with speeds reported to be approximately 35-55 mph.  As the pursuit approached the Henderson Center area an officer attempted to deploy spike strips but the driver was able to avoid them.

Officers discontinued the pursuit when the suspect drove the wrong way on “H” Street between 10th and 7th Streets.  Officers spotted the vehicle traveling southbound on Myrtle Avenue but eventually lost the vehicle near the Myrtle Avenue Market.  The vehicle was later located and towed near Myrtle and Pennsylvania streets.

The driver has been positively identified as John Wayne Ellis, 34 of Eureka.  Ellis has two outstanding felony warrants for his arrest for possession of a stolen vehicle, misdemeanor warrants for eluding in a vehicle, resisting arrest, and possession of a controlled substance.  Ellis now has an arrest warrant issued by the Eureka Police Department for felony evading and driving on a suspended license from this incident.  If you have any information on the whereabouts of Ellis contact the Eureka Police Department at (707)441-4060.

Rancho Sequoia victim identified, male 57 years old

Scott W. Johnson is the victim that was located on 7/21/14 in the Rancho Sequoia area.

HCSO press release:

On 07-21-2014, at approximately 9:49 p.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a resident in the Rancho Sequoia area of Humboldt County who reported there had been a shooting and someone was shot. Two Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Deputies were in the Rancho Sequoia area at the time, looking for murder suspect Matthew Aaron Brown, 30 years old, who was wanted for the 07-18-2014 shooting homicide of Neil Decker, age 49. The deputies heard several shots at the same time the citizen reported the shots, and were on scene within minutes. The deputies were informed by the citizen that murder suspect Matthew Brown was in the area where the shots had been fired. The deputies were also informed that local residents had gone looking for Brown, and that one of the residents was believed to be shot and had major injuries. Medical personnel were called to the scene, along with additional law enforcement from the California Highway Patrol and Fortuna Police department. Medical personnel staged in the area awaiting law enforcement personnel to secure the scene for their safety.

 The deputies located a deceased person in the roadway.  Due to an armed murder suspect being in the area, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team was called to the scene.

 The SWAT team arrived at approximately 5:00 a.m., 07-22-2014, and located murder suspect Matthew Arron Brown at approximately 6:00 a.m. Brown was arrested and is currently enroute to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.  Humboldt County Sheriff’s Detectives are being assisted by Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office Investigators, Eureka Police Detectives and California Department of Justice .

 A Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant has been obtained and investigators have begun searching the property.  The area is still an active crime scene and it is unknown if there are any other victims.

Additional information will be released as it becomes available; investigators are still in the process of determining what happened. This is the fourth homicide in the Rancho Sequoia area in the last 24 months.

Brannon alleges Tree said "I'm going to beat this case" and get out

Brannon testified about a conversation he overheard between Tree and an inmate named Q. Brannon interjected into their conversation.  This was yelling back and forth and Brannon was in his cell. Brannon said he yelled at Tree to "shut up" and stop "bragging."

Brannon said he called Tree a "wierdo" and told Tree "he creeped on girls" and "shoots 17 year old kids." Brannon was referring to Christina Schwarz, as the 17 year old. He found that detail from media and others telling him personally.

Brannon was the young man who challenged Tree to a fight when he was groping Taraya Rives at Rhett August's house. He witnessed Tree "hitting on her" and later overhearing that Tree would not leave her alone. He also said Rhett August told him that he would tell Tree to back off and that he was making Taraya uncomfortable.

Brannon also said that he told Tree that he had "no remorse."

Brannon alleges Tree said to him, "I am not going to make the same mistake I did with Rhett. I 'm going to get you in the head."

A correctional officer intervened and told them to be quiet. Brannon said it was Officer Gilbert Resendez who testified yesterday that he over heard conversations between inmates, including Tree, but could not comment on specifics.

"I got something for you guys, I'll be right back"

"I got something for you guys, I'll be right back". Tyrel Brannon, an inmate currently in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility, who defended  Taraya at Rhett's August house on May 13 said this is what Bodhi Tree yelled at them after he was beat up the third time and left Rhett August's house.

Brannon also testified this morning about a conversation he overheard in jail which involved Tree and why he did not testify about the fight and other information at the Tree preliminary hearing.

Brannon said initially he did not talk to police because he was in a gang and you do not snitch. DDA Elan Firpo questioned him  about the April preliminary hearing and his state of mind at that time. She also asked him about his previous criminal history and why he was in San Quention prison. This was before defense cross-examined him.

Even though Brannon was offered immunity in April, the gang "political structure" was what influenced his decision. Brannon testified that he recently got "saved", became a Christian and got out of the "prison political structure" and had a "change of heart." Reading the Bible, he made a decison to drop out of the gang and wants to change his life.  A cellmate in Humboldt County jail was the one who gave him the Bible, but Brannon said he was already thinking of telling the truth before this and he wrote to the DA's office saying he wanted to cooperate. He also sent a letter addressed to District Attorney Paul Gallegos. This was on April 2014 before the 402 hearings. No one spoke to him until recently he was appointed an attorney.

Brannon did not ask for anything in return for his testimony. "Just wanted a clear mind, " he said. Brannon ater on he signed an immunity agreement for his testimony but that has not made any difference in any jail time he serves. He still has to go to San Quentin after he testifies Humboldt to finish time on a sentence.

Brannon was housed in jail unit 339 when a conversation between him and Bodhi Tree allegedly took place.


Jul 22, 2014

July 3 tip given to only me re Tree makes sense after today's testimony

This morning we were given a list of additional witnesses in the Bodhi Tree case who may testify. Correctional officers and two witnesses who were housed in maximum security last June with Tree.

A reader of my blog who is connected with one of these witnesses emailed me on July 3. I did not print that information because I had no way of verifying it. Today a correctional officer testified about two inmates conversing with Tree. The tip given to me now makes sense and may be be beneficial to the prosecution. This reader said that according to her, Tree may have given incriminating evidence in this case to other inmates housed under max security.

Humboldt County Correctional Officer Gilbert Resendez who testified today was questioned by DDA Elan Firpo at length about the Humboldt County jail layout and housing units and procedures. Officer Resendez said while he observed Bodhi Tree conversing with other inmates, he could not hear the specifics of the conversation. Some of the factors influencing that were noise from the showers and other activity such as the TV on the lower level.

Quentin Williams and Jason Losey are two inmates who were housed with Bodhi Tree last June in unit 339. Other witnesses who may testify are Hans Vedborg, a nurse at tve Humboldt County jail, Humboldt County Correctional  Officer Duane Christian, DA investigators Wayne Cox and Marvin Kirkpatrick.



Bodhi Tree trial estimated to conclude this Friday or by July 28

The Bodhi Tree trial resumed this morning at 9:30 a.m. That is the best estimate Judge Reinholtsen could give. Closing arguments expected July 30 or 31st.

Currently the Judge is speaking to two jurors that may be excused. The hearing is expected to resume shortly.

Two jurors were excused and two alternates appointed in their place.

Jul 21, 2014

Tip to wanted fugitives; breaking and entering may lead to your arrest

On 07-19-2014, at approximately 9:15 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding three suspects observed trying to break into a neighbor’s cabin in the Burr Valley area. The citizen told the dispatcher there were two males and a female involved, and they were in a black BMW.  The citizen believed one of the suspects may be Ronald Snider Sanchez, 26 years old, who was wanted on an escape from custody charge, and violation of parole. Sheriff’s dispatch  ran a DMV registration check and determined the black BMW was registered to Sanchez.

As the deputies were responding, the citizens in the area began calling neighbors and alerting them as to what was occurring. Another citizen called 911, and reported he heard the suspects may have been at his cabin trying to break in. At approximately 10:30 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office received a third 911 call, with the caller advising a citizen had the suspects black 2001 BMW blocked in with vehicles and stopped. A neighbor was now holding the suspects at gunpoint.

Deputies responded and met with the citizens at approximately 12:00 noon. When the deputies interviewed the witnesses, they told the deputies they had been warned by other neighbors about a black BMW driving in the area acting suspicious. When a 48 year old female witness saw the BMW near the Four Corners area of Burr Valley Road, she watched it. She saw the BMW drive to her neighbor’s cabin which was not occupied.  She watched the two male occupants of the BMW, one being Sanchez, exit the BMW, cover their heads with Hoodies and walk towards the cabin. When they saw she was watching them from a hill top nearby, they immediately left the area. As they were driving down Buck Mountain Road, she called the Sheriff’s Office and notified other neighbors, including the unoccupied cabin owner who resides in McKinleyville. She followed the BMW until she and another neighbor met up with it in the roadway and blocked it in with their cars. The other neighbor, a 30 year old male, then brandished a firearm at the suspects and told them he was holding them until law enforcement arrived.

The citizens told the deputy one of the suspects fled after being held at gunpoint for about twenty minutes. The suspect who fled told the citizen with the gun, he was Ronald Sanchez, and was wanted by law enforcement. He told the citizen would have to shoot him in the back if he was going to hold him any longer, because Sanchez did not want to return to jail. Sanchez ran off on foot.

Deputies determined the cabin the suspects approached was not broken into; however the same cabin had been burglarized in the recent past. The cabin owner showed up at the scene and told the deputies he wanted to pursue trespassing charges against the two suspects that were detained by his neighbors. Deputies arrested Mallory Tatum Lagace, 27 years old and Damen Rey Carlson, 19 years old, both from Eureka. They were both transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where they were booked and released on their own recognizance.

Deputies checked the area for Sanchez, but could not locate him.

On 07-21-2014, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the United States Marshals Service , California Department of Corrections and Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies located and arrested Ronald Sanchez at 2505 Garland Street, Eureka. He was transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where he was booked on arrest warrants. He is being held without bail.

On 07-21-2014, at approximately 1:45 p.m., the United States Marshals Service, California Department of Corrections and Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies drove to the 3300 block of E Street, Eureka and arrested Ronald Sanchez, Sr. 55 years old, on an outstanding arrest warrant for brandishing a weapon and terrorist threats. He was booked into the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Correctional Facility where his bail was set at $30,000.00.