New Officers Sworn in by Sheriff Downey

Kym Kemp / Monday, Aug. 4 @ 3:04 p.m. /  News

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Press Release:

Humboldt County Sheriff Michael Downey is pleased to announce the swearing in of two new employees with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and one new employee with the Yurok Tribal Police Department.

Ethan Miller from Crescent City was sworn in as a Correctional Officer and will be assigned to Humboldt County Correctional Facility. Dustin Del Biaggio from Ferndale was sworn in as a Deputy Sheriff and will be assigned to the patrol division for the Sheriff’s Office. Edward Wilson is a retired Los Angeles Police Department Officer and was sworn in as a Level 1, Reserve Police Officer with the Yurok Tribal Police Department.



Ammunition, Handgun Described as Authorities Release Information on Shane Miller’s Death Scene

Kym Kemp / Monday, Aug. 4 @ 1:41 p.m. /  Crime

Shasta County Sheriff’s Office Press Release:

 

On Friday, August 01, 2014, at approximately 2300 hours, an anonymous party reported finding possible human remains on the river bank of the Mattole River, in Petrolia, California. Members of the Petrolia Fire Department responded to the location as well as Deputies from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. It was confirmed the remains were in fact human. Detectives from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Department of Justice were called to process the scene and collect the human remains. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office contacted Detectives of the Shasta County Sherif’s Office as the body’s location was within an area where Shane Miller’s had previously fled from law enforcement.

On Saturday, August 02, 2014 the scene was processed and the remains were collected by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office with assistance from the Department of Justice, and Detectives from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. The remains were located in a draw surrounded by heavy vegetation approximately 1,500 feet East of where Shane Miller’s vehicle was located. The remains were partially covered in silt from water runoff during rainy conditions. The remains were clothed in a sweat shirt, pants and boots. Adjacent to the remains was a FNH Five-Seven 5.7X28 mm handgun with a loaded magazine. Three additional loaded FNH magazines were adjacent to the handgun. The blue tipped polymer ammunition in the magazines was consistent with ammunition located in Shane Miller’s truck and at the homicide scene in Shingletown.

On Sunday, August 03, 2014 the skeletal remains were positively identified through dental records as those of Shane Franklyn Miller. The positive identification was made by Doctor William Farrell who is a forensic odontologist from Shasta County. The cause of death is pending further investigation by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office.

The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office is grateful to the approximately 24 different law enforcement agencies who participated in this investigation as well as the citizens and volunteers. Shane Miller was featured on the top “15 Most Wanted” List with the United States Marshall’s Service. The search for Shane Miller was in the forefront of media attention both locally and nationally. This investigation was the featured premiere for John Walsh’s new series “The Hunt”. The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office is very appreciative to the media for getting information out to assist in this investigation.

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Strong Possibility’ Shane Miller Committed Suicide

Kym Kemp / Monday, Aug. 4 @ 11:03 a.m. /  Crime

 

Lt. Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office  stated this morning that there is “a strong possibility that Miller may have committed suicide.”  Shane Miller, the suspect in the shooting deaths of his wife and two young daughters, had been the subject of a year long manhunt until his remains were found and identified this last week.

Hanson went on to say that the position of the remains indicates that the body had not been moved by water. “It looks like the body was on that spot [since Miller died,]” Hanson explained. The remains were found about a half mile “as the crow flies” from where Miller’s truck had been abandoned in May of 2013,” said Hanson.

He pointed out that there was no way of determining exactly how long Miller had been in that spot. He scoffed at the “T.V. show endings” that can pinpoint exact times of death. “We’ll probably never know if it happened that night or two days after…Even if we had found his remains two weeks later [we would not know.] Hanson confirmed that Miller’s wallet and ID were found in connection with Miller’s remains. 

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

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[Maps Added] Meeting Held About Lodge Fire Complex

Kym Kemp / Monday, Aug. 4 @ 8:47 a.m. /  Fire!

UPDATE 11:10 a.m.: Maps!

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Original Post below:

Smoke from the Lodge Complex [All photos provided courtesy of Supervisor Mark Lovelace.]

As the Lodge Complex Fire northwest of Laytonville increases in size and continues to threaten structures, a community meeting will be held this evening at 3:00 p.m. at the Harwood Memorial Park hall. The hall is located at 44400 Willis Avenue in Laytonville.

Overnight the fire, which was started by lightning July 30, has expanded to 2900 acres. The containment has increased to 15% though. 

Firefighters are continuing to clear out vegetation from around the 17 structures threatened by the blaze. (See a map of the fire here.)

 

A helicopter dips low over Cal Fire vehicles.

The number of Cal Fire equipment and manpower are staying relatively steady at 48 fire engines, 28 fire crews, 20 bulldozers, 14 helicopters, 24 water tenders and total personnel of 908.

The tent city set up one mile north of Laytonville to accommodate the firefighters and their support staff. 



Lodge Complex Continues to Grow

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Aug. 3 @ 7:52 p.m. /  Fire!

Smoke from the Lodge Complex as seen by South Legget.  [Photo provided by Paria Amber Wallan.]

As the Lodge Complex fires northwest of Laytonville expands, fire crews are preparing for a worst case scenario and removing brush from around structures that are at risk. According to Cal Fire spokesperson Julie Cooley, “Fire crews are in the process of removing dried and dead vegetation around residences in the Horseshoe Bend area.” Seventeen structures are threatened. The blaze, which now encompasses, 2700 acres is only 10% contained.

Click to make the map larger. [Map provided by David Jeffreys]

More personnel and equipment have been brought in to fight the fires. There are now 908 individuals, 48 fire engines, 28 fire crews, 20 bulldozers, 14 helicopters and 24 water tenders.

Firefighters near one of the helicopters working on the Lodge Complex. [Photo provided by Paria Amber Wallan.]

More information about the fires here.



Multiple Fires Strain Critical Resources in Humboldt County

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Aug. 3 @ 5:05 p.m. /  Fire!

Cal Fire map showing rough locations of current and recent fires [Follow this link to go to the original map where clicking on individual fires brings up more information.]

Danger,” warns the Fruitland Fire Department’s Facebook page, “Our county resources are at an all-time low… . NO AIRCRAFT available! We are drawn down to bare bones.” Humboldt’s fire resources are being sent to other places as blazes devour woodlands and threaten homes. Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency “due to the wildfires burning in Northern California.”

Fire departments across the county were cautioned today about the serious lack of fire fighting resources available in our area. Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marty Hobbs explained, “Humboldt is drawn down to critical levels. [In case of a fire,] additional resources coming to the county may not be available.”

There are good firefighting resources here in Humboldt, according to Diana Totten, Captain of a Briceland fire engine that is currently staffing a Cal Fire Station. She pointed out that “local government resources—both volunteer fire departments and paid fire departments—are staffing a lot of Cal Fire stations in Humboldt and Del Norte County due to the draw down of state and federal resources that are on fires statewide.”

Hobbs said that there are also three inmate crews stationed in several areas of the county.

However, Totten pointed out, “There are no aircraft sitting waiting. They have to be pulled off another fire [if they are needed here.] All aircraft are committed.”

The aircraft will mostly be available and can be pulled off other fires if needed, Hobbs explained. He said that already today a helicopter had been brought up from the Lodge Fire in Mendocino when there was a report of a fire near Alderpoint. Hobbs said that “we put a lot of priority to new fires.” But, he said, if it should happen that the aircraft are defending structures already in other areas, fire command is “reluctant to let them go.”

Totten pointed out, “Priority is where whole towns are being threatened like in Burney. We’re a lot lower compared to whole towns burning up.” (A 23,000 acre fire is currently forcing patient evacuations at a hospital in Burney.)

Hobbs said that though Humboldt is normally pretty dry and hot this time of year, the drought has created “fuels that are dryer than normal. The fuels are acting like it is September now—not like it is the beginning of August.” 

Totten reassured the community that “the local volunteer fire departments have done extensive training and acquired the equipment necessary and the training for a time like this. We’re working under Cal Fire’s direction. We’re helping them to help us.”

MORE →



Human Remains Confirmed to Be Those of Triple Homicide Suspect Shane Miller

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Aug. 3 @ 10:11 a.m. /  News

UPDATE 3:07 p.m.: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office Press Release:

On Friday, August 01, 2014, at approximately 2300 hours, an anonymous party reported finding possible human remains on the river bank of the Mattole River in Petrolia, California. Members of the Petrolia Fire Department responded to the location as well as Deputies from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. It was confirmed the remains were in fact human. Detectives from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Department of Justice were called to process the scene and collect the human remains. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office contacted Detectives of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office as the body’s location was within an area where Shane Miller had previously fled from law enforcement. 

On Saturday, August 02, 2014 Detectives from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, and members of the Department of Justice processed the scene and collected the skeletal remains as well as other evidentiary items. The remains were transported to the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office. 

On Sunday, August 03, 2014 the skeletal remains were positively identified through dental records as those of Shane Franklin Miller. The positive identification was made by Doctor William Farrell who is a forensic odontologist from Shasta County. 

The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank all the citizens of both Humboldt and Shasta County, law enforcement agencies, volunteers and personnel, both sworn and non-sworn, who assisted in or had a part in this investigation. The press conference date, time and location will be determined at a later date due to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office personnel currently being assigned to several large fires within Shasta County.

UPDATE 2:47 p.m.: The Record Searchlight is tweeting,

UPDATE 1:20 p.m.: According to Janine Johnson, who spoke to us for our original post, she just received a call from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office confirming that the human remains found in Petrolia are confirmed as belonging to Shane Miller.

We have calls into the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office and to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office requesting more information as to how the identification was made.

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Original Post:

Janine Johnson, the last person known to speak to Shane Miller, the triple homicide suspect who was the subject of a massive manhunt near Petrolia last year, said that a Shasta County Detective contacted her yesterday afternoon telling her that the human remains discovered this last week near Petrolia were almost surely Miller’s.

Johnson, who had spoken to Miller in Petrolia briefly the morning after Miller’s wife and two daughters were found dead of gunshot wounds, said she was told by the Shasta County Detective that he was “99% sure” that the human remains found not far from where Miller’s truck had been abandoned were Miller’s. Johnson said that the the detective told her that “they had found his wallet with his driver’s license in it.” 

Johnson said that she asked the detective, “Did he take his own life? He said, ‘Yes, he did.’” 

Johnson said the detective told her that law enforcement could not positively ID the remains “until they do a DNA test.” DNA tests could take months.

The human remains discovered near Petrolia were found about a half a mile from the site where wanted fugitive Shane Miller abandoned his truck in May of 2013. Miller had been the subject of an intense manhunt in the area when he showed up there after allegedly killing his wife, Sandy, and their two young daughters in Shasta County. Miller was never found and eventually was placed on the US Marshal’s Most Wanted list. Most recently, Miller was the subject of the premier episode of CNN’s new series, The Hunt with John Walsh. (See previous stories below.) 

According to Petrolia resident Carol Wright Wilson, her husband was the one who discovered the human remains on Thursday evening while he was searching the south bank of the Mattole River for a fern to plant in her yard. Wilson told the Lost Coast Outpost that in the dwindling light, her husband thought he saw a body but he wasn’t sure. When he got home, he told her what he suspected but by that time it was too dark to go out again. The next morning was Wilson’s birthday and family came to visit. After her guests left, Wilson and her husband returned to the river bar.

The remains, Wilson said, were up from the river about 40 feet. There, in some silt, they saw one boot and a shape that seemed vaguely human. The shoe, a work boot, Wilson said, was “heel down and toe up.”

Unsure what she was seeing, Wilson looked closer. “I had a machete in my hand because of the weeds and I sort of poked,” she said. At that point she saw some bones. “I saw a skull bone and the pelvis. Long bones like maybe thigh… .” Wilson saw deteriorating cloth, too. She thinks she saw a shirt. Maybe a sweatshirt, she said. The remains were mostly bones. “No hair, no skin,” she said but she isn’t exactly sure. She didn’t stay around long.

I didn’t mess around just in case it was a crime scene,” she said. She speculated that the body had been carried there by a river full of winter rain. “Maybe washed down in high waters because it was covered with silt and sand,” she suggested. “High water had been there and moved things around somewhat.  This winter, water had to have gone over this place.” Silt, she said, covered the remains. 

By the time we got back across the river and I told the fire department, it was getting late,” she explained. She called them instead of 911 because, for rural residents, she said, “they are the best first response to any sort of situation… .” She lives so far from law enforcement, she explained, “if I call the Sheriff’s department, it takes them an hour and a half to get there.” Her local volunteer fire department, however, were close by. 

A member of the Petrolia Volunteer Fire Department, Laurie Cook, came down to verify the find, said Wilson. “Then she called the rest of the fire department.” By 11 p.m. Friday night, the Sheriff’s Department was notified. According the Humboldt County Sheriff’s press release, deputies arrived and confirmed the find. Humboldt County Sheriff’s detectives, Department of Justice officers and Shasta County law enforcement were on scene recovering the body by early Saturday morning.

Although Johnson feels certain the body is Shane Miller’s, according to the press release issued by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department yesterday, “The age, sex, and identity of the body are unknown at this time along with the cause of death.” 

Johnson says that she is comfortable saying that the body is Miller’s. “This is better than not knowing. I’m so thankful he was found.”

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