The Unsolved Case of Garret Rodriguez, Killed on “Murder Mountain”

Garret Rodriguez, 29, traveled to Humboldt County, California in December 2012 to work on a medical marijuana grow operation—in an area known as “Murder Mountain.” After not hearing from him for six months, his father reported him missing. An anonymous tip led police to the remains of Garret Rodriguez on December 1, 2013. Many local residents say they know who murdered Garret Rodriguez, but the case remains unsolved. His murder is now the subject of a docuseries called Murder Mountain, which launches on Netflix on December 28.

Murder Mountain

Alderpoint is a small, rural neighborhood found deep in the wilderness of Northern California’s North Coast. Located in Humboldt County, the tiny settlement with a population of just 186 hugs the Eel River to the north; it’s 90 minutes east of the Pacific Ocean and three hours west of Redding.

The sleepy community has a dark underbelly, though. It’s located in the Emerald Triangle (Trinity County, Humboldt County, and Mendocino County), an area famous for its illegal marijuana industry and murder.

It started out innocently enough. Like much of Southern Humboldt during the late ’70s and early ’80s, the area was known as a hippy hangout and great place to grow marijuana.

Much has changed since then. Recreational marijuana is now legal in California, but the secretive corner of the state has also developed a dangerous reputation. There are thought to be 15,000 illegal grow operations in the Emerald Triangle; and it’s the area’s dominant underground industry, producing at least 60% of the black market marijuana in the U.S.

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, then, to learn that crime, like pot, has blossomed. The Emerald Triangle has been described as being its own lawless country where anything can happen. Which might explain why it’s referred to as “Murder Mountain.”

The area has links to serial-killer spouses James Clifford Carson and Susan Barnes Carson, affectionately known as “the San Francisco Witch Killers.”

Known for its natural beauty, Alderpoint is ground zero for the hundreds of people, or “trimmigrants,” who roll into town to work the harvest. Unfortunately, visitors who roll into Alderpoint are constantly bombarded with flyers of missing persons: posted in storefront windows, on hydro poles, and being handed out by distraught family members. The area leads California in missing persons cases.

It’s here in Murder Mountain that, like so many others, Garret Rodriguez went missing.

Garret Rodriguez Heads to Murder Mountain

In December 2012, Garrett Rodriguez was headed to Rancho Sequoia, a rural subdivision near Alderpoint, to work on a medical marijuana grow-op. There, he could, he told his family, make a lot of money. An avid surfer and fisherman, Rodriguez was hoping to earn enough money so he could buy a home with his father in Mexico.

He’d made a trip home to San Diego for the Christmas holidays, and while on the road back up north, Rodriguez called his friend, Katrina LeBlanc, and asked her if she wanted to visit him. “He wanted a big group of us to come up for New Year’s Eve,” she said.

He called her from a 707 number, so she knew he’d made it back to Humboldt County.

Bill Macpherson, another friend of Rodriguez’s, remembers he got a call from Garret in January 2013, presumably from Humboldt County.

Garrett Rodriguez was known for keeping in touch with his friends and family regularly. He did warn them, though, that he would be back in the hills where cell service was spotty, so they may not hear from him for a while.

Garret Rodriguez

Garret Rodriguez; Photo: https://www.facebook.com/groups/223566294434875

They didn’t expect Garret Rodriguez to go silent for so long.

In April 2013, Garret’s friends began to compare notes. None of them had heard from him since January.

“It is really out of character for him not to contact someone. He was really social…He always had contact with his friends,” said his mother, Pamela McGinnis. “The people who have known Garret for years know that he would have to have contact with the people he cares about.”

“He was just the best, funny, smart, loving,” said his aunt Bonnie Taylor.

“I was trying to call him, couldn’t get a hold of him. I was worried what was going on up there,” she said.

Garret Rodriguez Reported Missing

Worried that he hadn’t heard from his son in six months, Garret’s father reported him missing on April 25, 2013.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HSO) issued a press release asking for the public’s help in finding Rodriguez. He was described as a 29-year-old white male, 5’8”, 180 lbs, brown hair, and green eyes.

He was last seen driving his 1998 Dodge Ram pickup truck with California license plate number 7P63498.

The Rodriguez family also pooled their money together and hired Cook & Associates, a local private investigation company.

Garret Rodriguez poster

Garret Rodriguez missing poster; Image: Cook & Associates/ Lost Coast Outpost

Authorities Find Rodriguez’s Truck

It didn’t take long for clues to emerge. In late May, Rodriguez’s white truck was found about 20 miles away from where he worked, on a private property in a remote area. Because Garret’s family had a copy of his VIN and license plate, they were able to confirm the abandoned truck belonged to him.

The family whose property the truck was left on was cooperative. The person who left the truck there, though, was out of the area and, as expected, difficult to track down. Garret’s mother Pamela said, “It would be nice to know how [the person] came by the truck and when they came by it…”

McGinnis said the truck was clean. Chris Cook, the lead private investigator, observed: “It wasn’t like it was detailed out. There was crap in the back.”

While it was hoped there would be additional clues left behind, “there were no obvious signs of foul play.”

A Coerced Confession Leads to the Body

Despite early leads, like finding Garret’s white truck, months went by without any arrests. This did not sit well with some people who lived nearby. For them, vigilante justice was the order of the day.

According to the Humboldt Sheriff’s Department, on Thursday, November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving Day), eight men known collectively as the “Alderpoint 8” confronted the individual they believed was responsible for the disappearance of Garret Rodriguez.

The posse shot the man twice, once in the arm and once in the leg. They then tied up two people who had been visiting for the holidays and took the injured person of interest away with them in a vehicle, and forced him to show them where the body was.

On November 29, 2013, at around 2:00 a.m., investigators at Cook & Associates began to receive phone calls from an anonymous source.  They told the investigators that a person of interest in the Garret Rodriguez case had confessed to murdering him. He also led a group of concerned citizens to the body.

The man in question owned property in the Rancho Sequoia area. The anonymous source said they knew he killed Rodriguez and did not want someone with his disposition living in the area. Not only that, but they located a body in the area where the person of interest said it would be.

This information was then relayed to the HSO.

Not long after, at around 3:00 a.m., the HSO got a call from two men claiming they had been tied up and the homeowner had been shot and kidnapped. Half an hour later, HSO received a call from Garberville Hospital saying a gunshot victim had been admitted.

Investigators interviewed the individual, a 25-year-old Rancho Sequoia man. He had indeed been shot twice, but was recovering in a different hospital out of the area.

On Friday, November 29, the HSO went to the home of the property owner and found evidence of the confrontation between the group of vigilantes and owner of the property.

The next day, investigators received specific information with regards to the location of the body.  The size of the rural property was so large it was difficult to search the area without specific directions.

On Sunday, December 1, at 7:00 a.m., investigators went to the site and found a body near Jewett Ranch Road. It is just 10 miles away from Rancho Sequoia, the last-known place where Garret Rodriguez lived.

Also see: Jimmy Haakenson: The Missing Teen Identified as John Wayne Gacy’s Victim

Remains Identified as Belonging to Garret Rodriguez

The Humboldt County Coroner’s Office identified the human remains found on Murder Mountain as those belonging to Garret Rodriguez.

Coroner Dave Parris said the “totality of the circumstances of the investigation” (condition of the body, its location, etc.) —led to the positive identification. But he refused to discuss those circumstances in detail.

Police confirmed that Rodriguez had been murdered but declined to provide a cause of death, suggesting it could compromise their investigation since only the killer would know the details.

 

The domino affect started with the Alderpoint 8. Their methods may have been unorthodox, and illegal, but for residents, the Alderpoint 8 became local heroes.

“We know all of them and they are all really good people, they just took it into their own hands to get her son’s body back,” a local resident named Ladonna said.

“Somebody had to go and get him!” said Courtney, a local mom with a young child.

Murder Solved?

Who actually murdered Garret Rodriguez is still a mystery. Lt. Steve Knight, with the HSO, said they are facing headwinds. “The local growers don’t want law enforcement coming in to where marijuana is at. They are afraid that we will see the marijuana and will take it from them, and that is their living,” he said.

As a result, many locals involved in the illegal marijuana industry decide it’s better to solve any problems on their own.

A number of murders that have taken place on Murder Mountain have been solved, but Garret Rodriguez’s isn’t one of them.

Locating a body may have provided closure, but now Garret Rodriguez’s family and friends want justice.

Anyone with information relating to murder of Garret Rodriguez is asked to contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Tip Line at 707-268-2539.

Garret Rodriguez

(Garret Rodriguez; Photo: https://www.facebook.com/groups/223566294434875)


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