[UPDATE 4:28 p.m.] Body Found in Burning Van; Witness Describes Encounter With Suspect

Charred items found after the van rolled away from the spot it was originally located. [Photo provided by Jamie Rennie]

After a body was found in a van that appeared to have been deliberately set fire yesterday about 1:10 p.m. on Hwy 1 about five miles west of Leggett, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning to nearby residents that it was investigating a death and looking for a man who was wanted for questioning.

The alert stated, “The subject is described as a white male adult, 6 foot tall, 180 lbs, wearing a white jumpsuit. with logging boots. SUBJECT MAY BE ARMED AND DANGEROUS. IF YOU SEE ANYONE MATCHING THIS DESCRIPTION DO NOT APPROACH AND CONTACT THE SHERIFFS OFFICE 9-1-1 or (707) 463-4086.”

Jamie Rennie, a Southern Humboldt resident, was returning home from visiting family in Mendocino County when he saw the van with a fire under it on the side of the road about mile marker 100 in a place he described as being near the Forest Service road that leads to Usal. “I was going northbound on [Hwy] 1 when I saw a white van in pretty decent shape.” He said he saw it near the gated forest service road. “There was a fire underneath it. It was a pretty aggressive fire…It looked like someone had a campfire underneath the vehicle.”  [Update: Further research indicates that this is Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc land.]

Rennie said then he saw a man underneath the van. At first, he thought the man was on fire. “The guy underneath it was totally bizarre. Initially, when I saw the scene, I was kind of bewildered. My first assumption was that he was trying to put the fire out.”

Then the man rolled out from underneath the van, Rennie said. “His leg was on fire…He was patting his leg and jumping around…He was yelling incoherently and ran around to the back of the vehicle.”

Rennie described the man as having on a “white jumpsuit or light coveralls” and workboots. He said the man was likely in his 50’s and was a cleanshaven white man.

“He was up to something there,” Rennie said. “He never tried to engage with me. He was just running around in a frantic situation.”

Rennie moved his vehicle further up the road so that fire vehicles could get close. As he was walking back, he saw what he describes as a surreal scene. He believes that the emergency brake melted. Then, he said, “The vehicle rolled backwards on fire, across the road, down the bank and hit a tree.” Then, he said, it was engulfed in fire.

Rennie tried to slow traffic as it passed by. Another man joined him. “When the fire crew got there,” he explained, “I told them my story.”

Van that was set on fire

Smoke rises from the van after firefighters managed to extinguish the flames. [Photo by Senet Kelly]

The fire crews found a body in the fire and told him he needed to stick around. “Me and another bystander walked up to where the vehicle [had been],” Rennie explained. He took the picture of the burnt cellphone, the gun, and the drill shown above at that time. Those items had been left behind when the van rolled away.

Rennie said he didn’t see where the man went. “My assumption is that he kept going by the forest road. I didn’t go looking for him.”

UPDATE 4:28 p.m.: Missing Eureka Man Linked to Burning Van Found With Body in It, Says Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

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81 comments

  • Yikes! Bizarre and frightening.

  • Muddy Black Dodge

    Wow what a story, hope the LEO’s get the witness in front of a stretch artist, and show him most wanted photos… He got a real good look at the guy. Wasn’t it a couple of weeks ago there were several arson fires on the 299 and they had a be on the lookout for a white van… Picture of a huge 10 point buck in our yard in Freshwater… Blurry cause I took it thru a window.

    • Black Rifles Matter

      do you mean a 5×5? Blacktail antlers are judged differently than white tails. Nice looking buck!

      • I’ve noticed that but didn’t know it was a black tail vs white tail thing. People from the east coast/ Midwest would call it a 10 pointer west coast would say 5×5. One of those small questions I’ve always wondered about, thx for the info 👍

  • Drilled a hole is gas tank.

  • Glad for the Mendo County sheriffs alert last night. Contacted some nieghbors and encouraged them to sign up…..a good thing in this day and age of unease. Loving the rain!

  • Meth is such a lovley and fun drug isn’t? Only methheads wear white jumpsuits and logger boots!

  • Usau? Or Usal?

  • Thanks so much for this article. We are way too close for comfort and have certainly lacked information.

  • Not sure, 10 points total… Black Riffles Matter.

  • political moderate

    Hope they didn’t tamper w evidence(top pic).

  • Suspect may have Burns to hands and leg, kinda sounds like the Professor from back to the Future, great Scott!

  • And that looks like maybe a meth pipe in the charred under car evidence?;

  • Maybe this whack job was trying to imitate the guy who burnt the two bodies in a vehicle on the side of the Briceland-Thorn Rd. a couple months back. Didn’t work out so well for that suspect.

    You’d have to be off your rocker to try to dispose of a body or hide a crime this way. Why not just put up a flashing neon sign over the body, and maybe a radio announcement, calling out to the public and law enforcement to come find this scene? Or better yet, go to some quiet, faraway place, and bury… well, i don’t know exactly how you’d hide a body without dogs finding it, but i figure creating a flashy crime scene on the side of a public road wouldn’t be the way.

    “Tragic” is hardly enough to say about the condition of the victim of this crime.

  • A mysterious man who disappears…I imagine law enforcement will be looking deeply into that story.

  • Meth pipe check, drill check, gun check. Now I’ll just drill a hole in the gas tank while smoking my meth pipe under the van with a dead body in it in this pullout, what could possibly go wrong.
    Shouldn’t be too hard to find this idiot.

  • The road to Usal is Mendocino County Road 431. There is no USFS property near there.
    Usal Beach and Sinkyone is owned by the State.

  • It may not be foul play; or very foul. Several years ago near Mendocino, the cops stopped a car being driven by a man who was drunk. In the passenger seat was a dead man. He was a friend of the driver and had died of natural causes.

    He must have been in general a quiet sort of fellow when he was alive for someone to not notice he`d died. The only crime was garden variety DUI.

  • 2018 has been the year for bodies in burning cars….

    Very sad.

    It’s either emulation of rap music, or that new fungicide not labeled for food crops is being used on dope crops, maybe both.

    The marijuana nightmare seems to not want to end.

    Stand firm, healthy people, the wound is being squeezed and healing will just take time.

    In 7 years, Kym’s blog will be one story about a fallen tree, a whale washing up, or a flying saucer spotted, with only a couple stories each week.

    The community will be so much better once dope is gone.

    Hang in there this is the final gasp.

    • political moderate

      Well meth and mayhem aside I have to say the escape was genius. Seasonal worker. White flaming jumpsuit and logging boots into forest. White indicates chemical transfer can be purchased at 5.11 tactical fall grower apparel line linked to chemical extraction op.

    • I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as that but, here’s hoping.

    • So wrong of an Idea, like a pipe dream….. Everyone knows that cannabis has been the backbone of our community after the logging industry collapsed from over cutting. Cannabis is what pays for mortgages, gas, food, clothes, vehicles, tires education for growers college kids. Without cannabis, as we are beginning to see already, there will be an incease in domestic violence, robberies, home invasions, burglaries, grand theft and murders. Look around, old tires on folks trucks, people lokimg stressed across Mendo and So Hum…. Ecerybody broke and struggling and this trickles down to construction companies, tire shops, boutique shops, hairdressers, garden shops, restaurants, hardware stores, Layoffs are eminent and “Goingbout of business sales” are coming…. Keep widhing the financial destruction of your community for the bare fact you have discrimatory thinking patterns that dont let you focus out enough to see the big picture. Broke families = Struggling children and domestic violence increase. Do your research…. You will see that violent crime is increasing with the destruction of our cannabis communities.

  • Previous poster above a few posts is correct. No Forest Service land anywhere near there. BLM possibly? Or State Park…

  • Proud Deplorable Grandma

    Sounds like the preview to one of the shows on investigation ID.

  • Looks like bullet holes in the van

  • Is it possible that the man that was under the van, got into it as it was rolling and he is now the dead guy?

    • That’s an intriguing thought. He’d have to be batshit crazy… either intentionally killing himself that way or without a lick of common sense, trying to save the van from a fire he himself set, once it was under way… but that wouldn’t be unlikely, given the description of his acts at the scene.

      • Wow, Laura! A whole new perspective. I like it. Wow.

        • Not new–Seamus’s thought! LoCO says that the suspect was last seen running off; if so, this theory is dead. But if you just went by the account given here–that the witness went to move his vehicle, then returned to see the van moving and apparently the suspect gone, then this is plausible.
          The description of the suspect does seem to match, broadly, the description of the van owner, Pinckney, as if only one man is involved. But then, perhaps that’s because Pinckney *is* the suspect, and not the victim–he, for whatever reason, was trying to torch his own van and whoever was in it, then ran off. Hmm.
          This is pretty wild speculation, but i guess that’s what we do on here.

      • I was thinking and wondering the same thing. Since the witness saw him running around and went to the back of the van

  • Better hang on to Rennie…he’s got more to say.

  • It may be that this guy got part of his Idea from that Lansley guy in this case maybe one criminal got his idea from another criminal.

  • Suspect wants to steal van. he decides to drain the gas and come back later to do the dirty but a spark ignights gas. He shakes it off and hightales it while the witness watches the van rolling off. Meanwhile, known or not, to the suspect, there is a man nodded off in the van who does not wake up to save himself. RIP

  • Wait for the dna evidence. Wonder who the victim is…. Would be interesting to review patrol car cameras, fire truck cameras, secluded enough place to sound planned, maybe he had a pickup ride coming, how else would he get out, hitchhike? Maybe he has a camp out Usal somewhere? Check the hispitals for burn victims from Eureka to San Francisco…. Good luck investigators, hope you catch this guy.

  • Pistol is a Beretta M9 or M92 in 9mm.

  • Breaking Bads got nothin on Humboldt reality. Murder Mountain visits the coast for a Beach Blanket Babylon ?

    • “Frank Pinckney is 58 years old and was born on 11/1/1960. Currently, he lives in Eureka, CA; and previously lived in McKinleyville, CA, Fortuna, CA and Fort Bragg, CA. Sometimes Frank goes by various nicknames including frank e pinckney and frank e pinckrey. His ethnicity is Caucasian, and religious views are listed as Christian. Frank is now single.”

  • Concerned citizen

    So is the man in the picture the dead man found in the van or is the man in the picture who were all looking for?

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