Southern Humboldt Homicide Story Clarified by HCSO

According to Lt. Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, somewhere between Wednesday night and Thursday morning of last week, Zachery Jacob Chapman, age 36, is believed to have died as a result of a gunshot wound. His body was dumped in or near the Eel River near Tooby Park and a trailer in the Connick Creek area west of Garberville was set on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.

Benjamin Jasper Carter, age 33, is a suspect in Chapman’s homicide. His wife, Melinda Elaine Carter, age 41, (see photo right) was arrested at the Brass Rail in Redway on Friday for assisting in the cleanup after the homicide including moving the victim’s vehicle (among other charges. See press release below.)  The vehicle was subsequently found still running beside the road. Another woman was briefly detained but not arrested.

The trailer fire is being investigated for evidence by the Humboldt County Arson Task Force and the California Department of Justice.

A CHP helicopter searched along the Eel River on Saturday attempting to locate the body of Chapman but, according to Hanson, “unfortunately, a citizen found [it]” in the water near the riverbank. The Coroner’s office will do an autopsy later this week.

The Sheriff’s Department received credible information that the GMC pickup used by the suspect Benjamin Carter could be found in the Twin Trees area south of Garberville. On Saturday, they searched a property there but did not locate it. Eventually, the Fortuna Police Department found the truck near School and Boone Streets in Fortuna.

If the suspect, Benjamin Carter (see photo right) is seen, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to immediately call 911 and stay away as he may be armed and is considered dangerous.  If anyone has information on this homicide they are encouraged to call Investigator Cheryl Franco at 707-268-3644 or the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.  

Previously:

 Humboldt County Sheriff’s Dept. Press Release:

On 04-18-2014 at about 10:30pm, Humboldt County Sheriff Office Detectives arrested Melinda Elaine Carter age 41 for conspiracy and accessory to a homicide, auto theft and arson. Melinda Carter was transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility in Eureka where her bail was set at $750,000 dollars. Detectives located Melinda Carter in a motel room at the Brass Rail Motel in Redway where they had served a search warrant related to the homicide investigation. Melinda Carter is the wife of the suspect, Benjamin Jasper Carter age 33, who has not been arrested yet in connection of the homicide. 

On 04-19-2014 at about 12:30pm, a citizen dialed 9-1-1 after locating a deceased male body just off Kimtu Road, Garberville. The body was in the water near the river bank. Sheriff’s Office Detectives, who were in the area immediately responded to the scene. Sheriff’s Offices Detectives assisted by the California Department of Justice processed the crime scene. The Humboldt County Coroner Office responded to the scene to take possession of the body. 

The male victim was identified by the Coroner’s Office as Zackery Jacob Chapman age 36 from Redway. Chapman appears to have died from the result of a gunshot wound. An Autopsy is scheduled for later this week. 

On 04-19-2014 the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office along with Humboldt County Arson Task Force and the California Department of Justice processed the homicide scene, which was located on a piece of property off Conic Creek, Garberville. A trailer on the property had been burned down after the homicide in an attempt to conceal evidence where the homicide occurred. 

The Sheriff’s Office is advising the public if they see the suspect Benjamin Jasper Carter to immediately contact law enforcement and do not approach Carter, who is considered armed and dangerous. They are being advised to dial 9-1-1. 

If anyone has information on this homicide they are encouraged to call Investigator Cheryl Franco at 707-268-3644 or the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.  

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