[UPDATE 12/20] Record Number of Humboldt Homicides in 2016; A list of Victims and a Brief Summary of What Is Known

No matter how you count them—and there are differences in opinion on how to do that—Humboldt County had a record number of homicides so far this year. We’ve had either 20 or 21 depending on how you count it. To put this in perspective, from 1986 to 2013 we averaged a little over 8 per year. However, we had 15 last year and 16 in 2014, the previous record holder.

Below is the Humboldt County Coroner’s list of those whose deaths were or are being investigated as a homicide as of November 28. Since that time there has been a death Friday on P Street which was deemed suspicious by Capt. Steve Watson and early this morning a man died of gunshot wounds. That makes 20 homicides. We, however, have included Kiya Kitchen who, because she died out of the area and did not have an autopsy here, was not included in the list by the Coroner’s Office for a total of 21 homicides.

Homicides Humboldt County as of November 2016

Homicides 2016 list from the Humboldt County Coroner up to November 28, 2016

We went through the list with the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office. For years they have compiled these statistics. They decide which deaths are considered homicides (intentional killing of another) in Humboldt County and which aren’t. Below are the names of the dead that they have on their list. (Please note that not all homicides are illegal. The death of a person killed by someone defending themselves is still considered to be a homicide. A legally justified police shooting is also still considered a homicide.)

This list has several additions from last time and one notable subtraction–Omar Dean previously listed as a homicide has been removed as the autopsy showed he may have died of natural causes.

—————–

Hugh Duggins

Hugh Duggins

1)  Deceased: Hugh Duggins, age 71 (Asphyxia by neck compression.)

Summary: Well-liked Southern Humboldt man Hugh Duggins was found alongside Alderpoint Road on January 21. At first no signs of foul play were discovered but a second autopsy revealed that Duggins died from “asphyxia by neck compression.”

Links to earlier stories:

2) Deceased: Arthur “Cricket” Ruiz III, age 42 (Gunshot wound of head)

Summary: Little more is known other than that human remains discovered January 28 near Hoopa were identified as Hoopa resident Arthur “Cricket” Ruiz III. He died of a gunshot to the head.

Links to earlier stories:

3) Deceased: Rodger Allan Yale, age 30 (Stab wound of chest)

Summary: On February 13, an argument at a Hoopa gas station resulted in Rodger Yale’s stabbing death. The suspect, Gearold Sotolongo, fled and was arrested on March 9.

Arrested: Gearold Sotolongo, age 25

Capture

Gearold Sotolongo

Links to earlier stories:

4) Deceased: Unidentified John Doe (unknown)

Summary: On May 15, a mostly intact skeleton was discovered partially in the Eel River near Stafford. The person is believed to have died in late 2015/early 2016. According to Ernie Stewart the Humboldt County Coroner, though it is unknown whether this person was killed or died naturally, “We are treating it as if it were a homicide.” He confirmed that this should be considered a homicide for the purposes of this list.

Links to earlier stories: 

5) Victim: Rhianna McKenzie, age 19 (Gunshot wound of chest)

Summary: At approximately 3 a.m. on June 30, a young woman standing in the doorway of a vehicle was shot. 

Robison, Maxx

Maxx Robison

Arrested: Maxx Robison, 20 of Eureka

Links to earlier stories:

6&7) Deceased: Faith Tsarnas, age 14, and Kiya Kitchen (Multiple blunt impacts)

Kiya Kitchen

Kiya Kitchen

Summary: On July 12 a little after 9 p.m., two teenage girls were skateboarding on Eel River Drive near Fortuna. They were struck by a hit and run driver. A suspect vehicle was later located at the residence of Kiya Kitchen’s mother. Faith Tsarnas died on the scene. Kiya Kitchen died later the next morning out of the county. Though the Coroner’s Office doesn’t count Kiya Kitchen’s death as one of the homicides of 2016 because it occurred out of county, we’re currently leaving it in the list.

Arrested: Marci Kitchen age 39 of Fortuna.

Marci Kitchen

Links to earlier stories:

8) Deceased: Brials McCutcheon, age 41 (Gunshot wound of head)

Summary: On August 6, McCutcheon was shot in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Eureka. At first, law enforcement were not sure whether he had committed suicide but eventually it was determined that an unknown person had shot him. He died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Links to earlier stories:

9) Deceased: Stephanie Gawboy, age 52 (Gunshot wound of head)

Stephanie Gawboy

Stephanie Gawboy practicing Aikido 

Summary: Gawboy was found deceased of a gunshot wound on August 17 in her Redway residence. However, it is believed she died earlier.

Links to earlier stories:

10) Deceased: David Fulton, age 58 (Multiple gunshot wounds)

Summary: After an altercation that began on August 17 with a landlord, David Fulton barricaded himself in his apartment. Allegedly, he fired at law enforcement early in the morning of August 18 and was shot dead. He died of multiple gunshot wounds. (Note: Not all homicides are considered a crime. Police shootings have been traditionally included on the list of homicides counted by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office.)

David Fulton

David Fulton

Officers Involved in Death: Humboldt County Sheriff Names Officers Involved in Fatal Shooting of McKinleyville Man

Links to earlier stories:

11) Deceased: Jane Doe, a 7-week-old infant whose name has not been released to the public. (Blunt impact, head injuries)

Summary: On August 27, the Arcata Police Department received a call reporting an unresponsive infant. The baby was taken to the hospital where it died. The baby’s mother has been charged with her death.

Arrested: Ewa Misztal, age 28Ewa Misztal

Links to earlier stories:

12 & 13) Deceased: David Sims, 48 years old from Samoa, Ca (Gunshot wound of right hip into abdomen)

David

David Sims

and Lawrence O’Connor, 50 years old from Eureka. (Gunshot wound of back into chest)

Lawrence O’Connor provided by Mike Davis in an email Says taken 8?29

Lawrence “Irish” O’Connor reportedly taken 8/29/2016

Summary: On Sunday, September 4, the two men were gunned down at a marijuana grow west of Hyampom. At this time the only information we have on suspects is that there were multiple assailants and multiple shots fired.

Links to earlier stories:

14) Deceased: Allan Gradwhol, age 55, (Blunt force trauma of chest)

Summary: Robert Willard Bergeson III, 24 years old of Arcata., was arrested for driving while intoxicated after allegedly striking and killing Gradwhol.

Links to earlier stories:

15) Dana Hudson, age 44  (Complications of gunshot wounds)

Summary: Dana Hudson was shot near Saber Tooth Road in Willow Creek. He was medevacked to an out of the area hospital. He died Monday, September 4 from his wounds.

Links to earlier story:

16) Deceased: Tim Smith, age 42,  multiple gunshot wounds 

Summary:

Jon Goldberg and Tim Smith

Suspect Jon Goldberg and victim Tim Smith.

According to court documents, on September 26 Jon Goldberg allegedly shot Captain Tim Smith of the Fortuna Fire Department at point blank range.

Links to earlier stories:

17) Deceased: Jordon Antonsen, age 23 (age incorrectly given in table provided by Coroner’s Office), (Stab Wounds in chest.) 

Jordon Antonsen

Jordon Antonsen

Summary: On the evening of October 7 in Weott, Jordon Antonsen engaged in a fight with another male. Antonsen was stabbed and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other person involved is known but has not been arrested. This may be considered self-defence. 

Links to earlier stories:

18) Deceased: Jerry Sisson, age 81, (Gunshot wounds)

Summary: On October 8, Fortuna Police believe that Jerry Sisson was shot by his son, 50-year-old Steve Sisson, who subsequently appears to have shot himself.

Links to earlier stories:

19) Deceased: Cheryl Bussell, age 50, (Multiple stab wounds)

Summary: In the early morning hours of November 25, Cheryl Bussell was pronounced dead at a residence in the Hoopa Valley. Lorence Emmanuel Bailey

Arrested: Lorence Emmanuel Bailey was taken into custody the same day as Bussell’s death.

Lorence Bailey mugshot

Lorence Bailey

Links to earlier stories:

20) Deceased: Jennika Lee Suazo, age 18 (autopsy undone)

Jennika Lee Suazo, age 18

Jennika Lee Suazo

Summary: In what Captain Steve Watson called a “slow, meticulous process,” the Eureka Police are investigating the death of an 18-year-old girl who was discovered on December 9. The girl’s name has not yet been released publically though her name and photo have been seen on social media.

The girl had been reported to Eureka Police as a missing person on the same day she was found. “A family member did make a missing person’s report around the time she was found,” Watson said.

“We want to bring anyone involved to justice,” he said. “She was very much loved by many people.”

Police officer crime tape

Captain Steve Watson of the Eureka Police Department at the P Street address on Friday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

Links to earlier story:

21) Deceased: Tyson Claros, age 20, (Reportedly gunshot wounds–unconfirmed by autopsy)

Summary: Early this morning, December 12, a 20-year-old man died in an apparent armed robbery near Manila. Details at this time are sketchy.

Arrested: Cesar Octavio Valenzuela-Campos and Tamara Nicole Thomson

Cesear and thomson

Links to earlier story:

UPDATE 12/20: Chp confirmed that Tessa Gingerich’s death is now being looked at as a homicide.

22) Deceased: Tessa Gingerich, 16,()

Summary: On December 14, James Arthur Merrick allegedly struck and killed 16-year-old Tessa Gingerich while driving under the influence and while on probation for charges related to being intoxicated while driving.

Arrested: James Arthur Merrick

MERRICK, JAMES ARTHUR

MERRICK, JAMES ARTHUR (Image from Megan’s Law site)

Links to earlier stories:

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47 comments

  • After thoroughly reading the above & reflecting on each individual life that was taken… I am speechless. God help us all.

  • WTF is going on in Humboldt?!?!!! This is the time for Humboldt to shine & to show the world what we are made of. NOT show the world they need to stay away & be afraid. If we as a county are going to survive legalization, we need to be welcoming & friendly. People visit Humboldt from all over the world to see the Redwoods & now to see what we’ve been growing. Let’s not scare them away. We depend on tourism!

  • Thank you Kym! This was very beautifully done & gives life to each victim, not just as a statistic.

  • FinderOfLostKitties

    No offense or anything, but wasn’t the record set in 1860 when more than 80 people were murdered at once on Indian Island?

  • This was a great article and timely. Do you have a number for how many is missing in this past year? It would be great if the Mendocino Voice followed with their totals. Of course it would be nice to know Del Norte and Trinity County’s numbers also.

  • LeAnna Carson-Hansen

    There are far too many folks missing here in Humboldt County, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties.

    While it is heart rendering to see the known facts regarding those killed, it is a reminder for us to be aware of our surrounding and community.

    Each of those killed leave behind loved ones, family, friends and community.

    May all who grieve over the loss of their loved one find comfort and endurance as investigations continue and trials happen.

    May justice be done for all the victims.

  • So very sad. I hope that awareness can help people to look out and intervene more and stop the trend. What is sad too is the number of crimes involving weapons that could have easily ended up in a homicide too. Sending out much love to all the families and friends and hoping for improvement.

  • So sad….so very very sad. Let us pray for peace and safety of all our fellow county-mates. Just cant help but love my home though. Love it here and grateful for this.

  • November 25th homicide victim – her surname was “Bussell,” not “Bissell.”

    The entire list is absolutely disheartening, considering we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world (Humboldt), and yet we are plagued with such darkness.
    Prayers and love to the family and friends of each of the deceased person listed.

  • What must it take to actually take another person’s life, no matter the age, male or female?
    I am older and have lived in Humboldt County off and on since 1955. Who would have ever
    guessed this great, majestic wonderland would come to this. No one of my generation. This
    evil that is bringing about all this terrible loss of lives is spiraling out of control. God help us!

  • And this is not including the folks that have gone missing and possibly victims of homicides as well

  • To which of these murders is Cesar Valenzuela connected (booked yesterday)?

  • Thanks for putting this together, Kym! It acknowledges the victims and brings perspective.

  • Still no investigation into hughs murder It seems HCS don’t have time to investigate so hum murders. His tweeker roommate was stealing and selling his property the very next day. walking up the street with arm loads of property. Yet no one ever talked to her or barly anyone in the community. complete failure on the sheriffs dept.

  • The Journal is reporting 22. Humboldt County possibly has the highest murder rate per capita out of every county in the US. Twenty-two murders in 351 days calculates to 1 homicide every 16 days! That is outrageous! Humboldt is not safe for anyone!

  • Historians have documented this loss of the value of human life. The Romans degraded human life to the point of finding it entertaining to see life snuffed out with the striking of a sword. And the Roman Empire collapsed in a short time. Early in the history of the empire the Jews saw Christians as the enemy and thousands were crucified including several of the notable Christian disciples. Fast forward to the mid 1800’s when thousands of Native Americans were inhumanely slaughtered. Then 1917 and the thousands of ethnic cleansing deaths. And most of us are aware the horror of World War Two. Both in the Pacific and in Europe. Germany has been chronicled in hundreds of books. But not so prevalent the Japanese stories of indiscriminately murdering Koreans, Filipinos, and Chinese long before we entered the war. And let’s not forget Vietnam where 1.6 million innocent Vietnamese violently lost their lives. Most of these examples were perpetrated by people in power. But as people in power go so does the citizenry. America has been a violent nation for two hundred years. And now that violent environment has filtered down to the public much like it did in the Roman Empire. And then it rotted the society from the bottom up. We have been down this road before and the results are always the same. When violence hits your neighborhood it’s too late to turn around. The reason being most people don’t know what to do about it. And unfortunately as with the Caesars of Rome who fought violence with violence our newly elected President has already demonstrated that violence against violence as the procedure when dealing with protesters he is just replaying and heading down that dangerous precipice as what happened in Rome, American in the mid 1800’s, the Japanese, the Germans, Korea, Vietnam and you can throw in Africa and the Middle East. Like those before us we are on the slippery slope towards the end. Sit back and watch your satellite and cable TV’s crime programming, the entertaining tens of stories about murder in the 10th degree, the Internet, movies that glorify killing and the murders in your neighborhoods. If history is a guide it is going to get a lot worse. Forget knives, guns and bombs. They are only instruments used by violent humans solving personal conflicts. The next generation already knows this.

    • Lincoln's echos in our country today.

      After reading your post I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address. It was just after the Proclamation and part of his address said this,

      “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud.”

  • What a sad year, lets be honest though it’s a bautyful place that has always had an underlined shadyness to it due to the pot industy and the criminals and low lives that attracts. Like a magnet for wanted fugitives and felons that find refuge in the woods, rubbing off their shit attitudes and behaviour and all the other unmentioned garbage that comes along with having them here making it for some a hellhole that is hard to escape due to some of these characters being family or loved ones.
    Keep your chin up things have to get better because I believe we have reached the lowest point.
    Thank you Kym, and to all the other folks who are tired of this shit and not supportive of it.
    Thank you also to the Law enforcement on all levels for all the hard work!

    • “Keep your chin up things have to get better because I believe we have reached the lowest point.”

      Can you cite one example of conditions getting better? Read the history. It has never happened. Your “lowest point” is revolution and no one wins with mass killings and things not getting better. Po Pot convinced the people he would bring peace while he murdered over 400,000 people. A family is only built from a strong foundation. Our country has a crumbling foundation and some would believe to strengthen the house the house needs to be torn down and completely rebuilt. And no violent country has ever down that.

  • Phineas Homestone

    The violent wind down of alcohol prohibition has, so far, accurately predicted the current wind down of Cannabis prohibition nearly event by event. Just as in the 1930’s, a majority of the violence ramped up as prohibition waned from hard-illegal, to grey-sort of illegal, finally to legal commodity agriculture (brewing/distillation for alcohol).

    Bottom line is this spike in violence is awful, and likely to wane in the next few years, as market forces reduce the value of cannabis to the point criminal enterprise (green-rushers) can no longer make a profit. Then the locals that craft a quality, legal product, will see profit as honest business is always more (financially) efficient than violent criminal enterprise. Who murders/rips off distilleries these days?

    Colorado, Washington have already proven this arc, and possibly Oregon, once stats can be collected. Lets hunker down and weather the (not forever) storm.

  • So much for criminal justice reforms. Was it prop 57 decriminalized drugs? The reason we have prison is so the civilized people can live longer.

    Maybe get rid of the current politicians and vote some new perspectives? Just a thought.

    • New perspectives for sure. We need an entirely new politics in this country. Modern liberalism and modern conservatism have both failed us, as I think this past election demonstrates. Time for old political ideologies to go. Maybe the rising generation will have some better ideas.

  • What about that body north of Redway a couple months ago?

  • What about the death of the passenger of vehicle v. bull in August?

  • Jennika Suazo’s autopsy has been completed. Any word yet on a suspect? Is it still listed as a murder? So sad to see so many murders including so many young lives. Condolences to everyone that lost someone this year.

  • Today is jan.13-17.going back reading all these comments,it’s hard to believe that all this beauty that surrounds us,that theirs all this ugliness.we can’t let all this hate win.what happen to all the love that was once HUMBOLDT😢

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