UPDATE – Wednesday 11/16/16
Zachary Wuester, the suspect in the murder of Jeffrey Settler, has been arrested and booked. Follow the link for the new details.
UPDATE – Sunday 11/13/16 – 3:40pm
According to an email from Captain Greg Van Patten of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, “reports of an abduction have been dispelled at this point in the investigation.” He also said could not provide further information on the nature of the killing but that “a forensic autopsy will be conducted on Monday or Tuesday.”
The victim in this this homicide was Jeffrey Quinn Settler, 35, a resident of the Laytonville area, originally of Bethel Island, California. Sources close to Settler describe a him “good man,” a father, a Grateful Dead fan, “friendly and helpful,” and a “magic maker.” He had resided in the county for about 15 years, and a cannabis farmer. Facebook is awash in expressions of grief, condolences and respect in the wake of these events. Commenters are sharing memories of their friendship and stories of him and his family.
The photo below was provided by someone close to Settler and his family; he is shown here with Becky Harris. MCSO has issued a statewide be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) for five suspects in Settler’s murder — scroll down to see their photos.
See our previous coverage of the investigation: Homicide in Laytonville, Investigation Ongoing.
ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:
The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office (MCSO) today, Nov. 13. The Mendocino Voice has not independently confirmed any of the information. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty. There is a small typo in the release that the MSCO has sent an email to correct. The incident transpired from the late night of Thursday, 11/10/16, to the early morning Friday 11/11/16. The press release includes photographs of the suspects at the bottom.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
187 PC (Murder)
211 PC (Robbery)
49000 block of North Highway 101 in Laytonville, CA
Date of Incident:
Jeffrey Quinn Settler (35 year-old male from Bethel Island, California)
Zachary Ryan Wuester (24 year -old male from Haskell, New Jersey)
Frederick Gaestel (27 year-old male from Clifton, New Jersey)
Gary Blank III (Adult Male from Elgin, Illinois)
Gary Lynn Fitzgerald (23 year-old male from Roanoke, Illinois)
Amanda Weist (26 year-old female from Fairfax, Virginia)
Detective Sergeant Andrew Porter
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 subjects are believed to possibly be fleeing to Southern California or out of state.
One of the vehicles is believed to be a blue 2017 Volkswagen Golf 4-door sedan displaying Virginia license plate number VHR5611.
Sheriff’s Detectives have obtained a murder/robbery felony arrest warrant for Zachary Wuester, who was identified as being one of the subjects involved in this case.
Sheriff’s Detectives have also identified Frederick Gaestel, Gary Blank III, Gary Lynn Fitzgerald and Amanda Weist as being participants in the robbery/murder.
A statewide Be-On-The-Look-Out (BOLO) was disseminated for all the subjects and Sheriff’s Detectives will be seeking arrest warrants on the remaining subjects in the near future.
The investigation has shown no evidence or inference that the marijuana growing operation was for medical purposes and Sheriff’s Detectives believe it was solely for the purpose of commercial gain.
Any persons with information about this incident, or the current whereabouts of the named suspects are encouraged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Services Unit at 707-463-4421 or the Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 707-234-2100.
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten