Final suspect caught in Settler killing; Gary Louis Blank arrested in New Jersey

Anonymous tips led Mendocino officials to collaborate with law enforcement in several eastern states.

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MENDOCINO Co., 3/11/17 — Gary Louis Blank III, 34, the seventh and final suspect in the killing of Jeffrey Settler, a Laytonville area cannabis grower, has been apprehended in New Jersey. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office detectives are traveling to New Jersey to follow up, and begin the process of extradition to California to stand trial.

A mug shot of Gary Blank, the seventh and final suspect in the Settler murder.

Settler was a long time resident of the Laytonville area, and a cannabis grower. On Nov. 11, 2016 a group of seven men, who he had contracted to trim for him, allegedly beat and killed him in the process of allegedly stealing about 100 pounds of processed weed.

Over the course of the last four months, have sought and successfully apprehend all seven suspects, several of whom are now on at the beginning stages of being tried for the murder in Mendocino Superior Court.

According to a press release, sheriff’s detectives received an anonymous tip that Blank, originally of Garberville, had been given a ride from southern California to the Northeast. They worked with police agencies in several states trying to track him down.

Yesterday evening, March 10, they were alerted by the New Jersey State Police that Blank had been arrested in the town of Red Bank, NJ. The arrest seems to have taken place late March 10, or early March 11, according to New Jersey time, but the notifications to the MCSO all occurred March 10 in California.

Blank in the previous photo before he was arrested.
Blank in the previous photo before he was arrested.

The press release states that the Mendocino District Attorney will work with New Jersey to have Blank extradited back to California.

The MCSO also extends appreciation to the New Jersey State Police and the Toledo Ohio Police Department for help in this arrest.

Five suspects in the case have appeared in Mendocino Superior court on March 2, but their plea hearing was once again delayed. Those in custody at that time included Jesse Wells, who was caught in February 24 in South Lake Tahoe, Michael Kane, who turned himself in to authorities at the California-Mexican border in late January , Zachary Wuester, 24,who surrendered to the sheriff’s office on November 14; Gary Fitzgerald, 23, who was arrested in Ukiah on November 25; Abdirahman Said Mohamed, 28, who was arrested in San Diego on December 7.

See our previous coverage of the Settler case here.

The updated section of the press release is directly below, the whole press release is under that:

UPDATED INFORMATION

In late February and early March of 2017, Detectives from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office were in communication with numerous state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in multiple states in efforts to try and locate and arrest Gary Louis Blank III (AKA Cricket). This included agencies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as information had been provided by anonymous sources that Blank had been provided a ride from Southern California towards the northeast.

On March 10th, 2017, at approximately 9:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time), Mendocino County Sheriff’s Detectives were notified by Detectives from the New Jersey State Police that they had good information about Blank’s whereabouts. At 9:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time) the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was notified by the New Jersey State Police that they had located and arrested Gary Blank III at residence in the Borough of Red Bank, New Jersey.  Blank was arrested without incident and subsequently booked into the Mercer County (NJ) Jail on the Mendocino County Superior Court NO BAIL arrest warrant, for murder.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office detectives are traveling to New Jersey to follow up on the arrest.  The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office will work with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office and the State of New Jersey to have Blank extradited to Mendocino County for prosecution on Jeffrey Settler’s murder. This arrest concludes a 4 month apprehension effort to locate and arrest the seven suspects.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend our appreciation to the New Jersey State Police and the Toledo Ohio Police Department for their assistance on this case.

The rest of the press release:

DATE:  “March 11, 2017”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Incident Number:

2016-35123

Crime/Incident:

187 PC  [Murder  UPDATE]

Location:

49000 block of North Highway 101 in Laytonville, CA

Date of Incident:

11-11-2016

Time:

3:39 PM

Victim(s):

Jeffrey Quinn Settler (35 year-old male from Bethel Island, California)

Suspect(s):

Gary Louis Blank III (34 year-old male from Garberville, Ca)

Written By:

Detective Sergeant Andrew Porter

Synopsis:

BACKGROUND

On 11-11-2016 at 3:39 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies were summoned to a reported man who had been murdered on a remote property located in the 49000 block of North Highway 101 in Laytonville, California.

The property was a rural parcel approximately 5 miles from Highway 101, on a dirt road that traveled in a westerly direction. Deputies responded to the scene confirming there was a male adult who was obviously deceased as a result of what appeared to be a violent assault. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Detectives were summoned to the scene, along with Investigators from the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office and Criminalists from the California Department of Justice.

During the investigation it was determined the deceased male adult, Jeffrey Quinn Settler, was operating a commercial marijuana growing operation on the property. In the early morning hours of 11-11-2016 (Thursday), multiple subjects who had been recently employed by Settler as marijuana trimmers returned to the property in the middle of the night with the intent to commit robbery of processed marijuana. The investigation has revealed the subjects knew the marijuana was stored in the same structure where Settler slept and the subjects violently assaulted him during the robbery, causing his death. The subjects were believed to have fled the property in at least two vehicles and were believed to have stolen over 100 pounds of processed marijuana. The suspects were believed to have fled to Southern California or out of state.

In all seven suspects were identified and subsequent felony arrest warrants were sought.

Prior to 03-10-2017, six of the suspects were in custody and awaiting prosecution for homicide or in the process of being extradited to Mendocino County.

UPDATED INFORMATION

In late February and early March of 2017, Detectives from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office were in communication with numerous state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in multiple states in efforts to try and locate and arrest Gary Louis Blank III (AKA Cricket). This included agencies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as information had been provided by anonymous sources that Blank had been provided a ride from Southern California towards the northeast.

On March 10th, 2017, at approximately 9:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time), Mendocino County Sheriff’s Detectives were notified by Detectives from the New Jersey State Police that they had good information about Blank’s whereabouts. At 9:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time) the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was notified by the New Jersey State Police that they had located and arrested Gary Blank III at residence in the Borough of Red Bank, New Jersey.  Blank was arrested without incident and subsequently booked into the Mercer County (NJ) Jail on the Mendocino County Superior Court NO BAIL arrest warrant, for murder.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office detectives are traveling to New Jersey to follow up on the arrest.  The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office will work with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office and the State of New Jersey to have Blank extradited to Mendocino County for prosecution on Jeffrey Settler’s murder. This arrest concludes a 4 month apprehension effort to locate and arrest the seven suspects.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend our appreciation to the New Jersey State Police and the Toledo Ohio Police Department for their assistance on this case.

Approved by:

Captain Gregory L. Van Patten

 

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