UKIAH 3/2/2017 — Five of the seven men accused in the killing of Laytonville cannabis farmer Jeffrey Settler appeared in court on March 2 to delay entering their pleas until April 24. Four of the defendants appeared one month ago for the same purpose, but at that time, the plea was delayed so defense counsel could have more time to examine evidence. On February 24, Jesse Cole Wells, 33, of Laytonville, was arrested in South Lake Tahoe. He has since been included in the criminal complaint.
Jeffrey Settler was beaten and stabbed to death on his farm in Laytonville on November 11, 2016. Six of the accused in the case are now in custody, though Frederick Gaestel, 27, who was arrested in Virginia on February 10, is still out of state. Suspect Gary Blank III, 34, of Garberville, remains at large.
This morning, in his first appearance before the judge, Cole told the court that his attorney, Danielle Schultz of San Francisco, was unaware that he was appearing in court this morning and that he himself “had no idea this was happening today.” He also stated that he had been awake for 48 hours and had not had “adequate food.”
In the matter of the evidence, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Rosenfeld, who is prosecuting the case, told presiding Judge Richard Henderson that all of the attorneys had the evidence that has been collected by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, but that a surveillance tape was not in a format that is currently usable.
Two of the defense attorneys, Patrick Pekin, who is representing Zachary Wuester, and Michael Kane’s lawyer Ethan Balogh, who told the judge his last name rhymes with shallow, explained that they wished to visit the scene of the killing, but that the sheriff’s office was not cooperating. They asked if a court order would be necessary for the purpose of such a visit, and Henderson asked Rosenfeld to comment on the matter.
Rosenfeld replied that “I find myself in a difficult position, because were I a defense attorney for this case, I would certainly expect cooperation in that. However, as the prosecutor in this case, I...find a court order would be helpful.” Henderson directed defense counsel to prepare an order, and said that he would be in the courthouse today and tomorrow to sign it.
For our previous coverage of the Settler homicide go here.
March 2, 2017 Sarah Reith [email protected]