ALDERPOINT, Humboldt County (CBS SF) — Marijuana sales nationwide are estimated to hit $104 billion this year, and a lot of it is coming from California’s Emerald Triangle of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties.
It’s not like the old hippy days any more according to residents, especially on a place they call “Murder Mountain.”READ MORE: UPDATE: Fast-Acting Good Samaritan Rescues Man Trapped In Burning Building In San Francisco
Miles off the main highway in southern Humboldt’s Marijuana country, the area is nicknamed after a serial killing long ago. People are still dying there, and disappearing without a trace.
Take the case of Garret Rodriguez, a young surfer from San Diego. “He was just the best, funny, smart, loving,” said his aunt Bonnie Taylor.
Bonnie says even though his family begged him not to, Garret took off two years ago to work on a marijuana farm there. “He was told he could make a lot of money,” said Bonnie.
At first he checked in regularly with the family. Then suddenly last spring – silence. “I was trying to call him, couldn’t get ahold of him. I was worried what was going on up there” she said.
“These cases are becoming more and more frequent up in our area,” said Chris Cook, a private investigator hired by the family. She quickly learned neighbors suspected Garret was dead, and they told her they thought they knew who did it.
She reported her findings to the local sheriff, but said, “they did not appear to be interested.”
A frustrating situation not just for Garret’s family but the community, who knew they had a killer in their midst. Months went by with no arrests. The sheriff’s department says some folks in the nearby town of Alderpoint decided to take the law into their own hands.
According to the sheriff’s department, eight men known as the “Alderpoint 8” after the name of their town formed a posse, confronted the man they believed to be the suspect, shot him twice, once in the arm and once in the leg, and then forced him to take them to the body.READ MORE: PG&E Blames Overnight Power Pole Fires On Rain, Dust, Dirt, Salt Accumulation
An anonymous call alerted the sheriff, who confirmed it was Garret, buried in a shallow grave. He’d been shot to death.
For local residents the Alderpoint 8 have become 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,” said Ladonna, a local resident. “Somebody had to go and get him!” said Courtney, another local mom with a young child. Both didn’t want to give their full names.
But almost a year later there are still no arrests in the case. Lt. Steve Knight with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department says it’s not a simple situation. “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.
He says since the vigilantes also committed crimes, they won’t come forward as witnesses. “It’s just like what it was back in the prohibition days. Many of these communities will try and solve their problems on their own. And by the time that happens unfortunately the problem has magnified,” said Lt. Knight.
In fact, this summer two more people were gunned down on murder mountain. A family member tells us at least one of the men was a member of the Alderpoint 8. “I just feel helpless. I grew up here and I am trying to raise my son here,” said Courtney.
“Law enforcement cannot keep up with what is going on in our area. It’s out of control! It’s out of control,” said Chris Cook.
The sheriff did make an arrest in the latest two homicides. But there’s still no one arrested or charged in Garret’s case.
MORE NEWS: Oakland: 'Keys To Equity' Project Helps Low-Income Black Homeowners Build Backyard Rental Units