COVELO, 10/18/21 — Two weeks ago a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden found the remains of a man decomposing in the trunk of a sedan parked along Mendocino Pass Road, east of Covelo. Capt. Greg Van Patten, of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), said in an email Friday the victim has been identified and is not thought to be a local resident, but his name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin who are outside the United States. The sheriff’s office has not publicly identified a suspect yet, but Van Patten confirmed that deputies served a warrant Wednesday on Henderson Lane, finding what they allege to be a crime scene and securing it overnight to continue their search into Thursday.
“There were items of potential evidentiary significance located during the search warrant service which will require laboratory examination to determine if it is useful to the investigation,” Van Patten wrote.
This type of homicide, where a body gets dumped, makes for complex investigations and Van Patten expects this one to take “an extended amount of time.” There are two crime scenes so far, and detectives have also had to travel to other locations outside Mendocino County.
Looking back at it now, Round Valley had a violent month. On Sept. 4 William Bettega, a 25-year-old Covelo resident, was found fatally struck by a vehicle in the vicinity of Henderson and Crawford roads. Prosecutors charged 23-year-old Christopher Bettega, his cousin, with murder — further alleging that he used a vehicle to commit the crime. Christopher Bettega pleaded not guilty Thursday, and is scheduled to return to court with defense attorney Justin Petersen at 10 a.m. Dec. 10. Court records indicate the hearing will take place before Judge Keith Faulder.
Then on Sept. 15 Kenneth J. Frazier Whipple, a 26-year-old Covelo resident, was fatally shot with a handgun at Greely Street and State Route 162. MCSO deputies identified 34-year-old Dino Blackear Lincoln, also known as Dino Michael Blackbear, as a suspect and later apprehended him in the Fort Bragg area after a widely publicized manhunt. Prosecutors charged Lincoln with murder, and 32-year-old Corina Amanda Carrio has been charged as an accessory. Lincoln pleaded not guilty Oct. 8, and is scheduled to return to court at 10 a.m. Dec. 30, also before Judge Faulder.
While the details around Covelo’s most recent killing remain unclear for now, all three of these homicides were discovered over 29 days. Sheriff Matt Kendall took to social media Friday evening to inform residents that recent homicide investigations, combined with a statewide shortage of police labor, is impacting MCSO’s availability to respond to minor crimes.
“Several other calls for service such as noise complaints are continuing to rise and I received several correspondences regarding loud generators, loud parties and vehicle noise,” Kendall wrote. “One evening we had several complaints regarding loud music while our deputies were searching for a murder suspect. Please be patient and understand we have to triage calls for services as they come in. Often we simply have calls which take priority over other calls.”
Kendall told the Board of Supervisors that MCSO is on a “positive trend in hiring” during a budget workshop Oct. 5, due in part to incentives intended to help Mendocino compete with neighboring counties, including long-term efforts to recruit a resident deputy to live and work in the Covelo area and Point Arena. Meanwhile, there are openings for patrol deputies and salaries start around $61,500 per year. For more information contact [email protected].