UPDATE: 3/31/23 — Per the results of an autopsy conducted Thursday, MCSO has confirmed that the injuries found on Whipple’s remains were a gunshot wound to the torso. The case is now being investigated as a homicide.
COVELO, 3/30/23 — Sheriff’s detectives are investigating a possible homicide reported early Wednesday morning in the Covelo area of unincorporated Mendocino County. Deputies were dispatched to the vicinity of the southern intersection of Tabor Lane and Little Lake Way around 4:30 a.m. on a report of an injured man. Investigators believe he may have been shot.
Deputies say tribal police administered CPR, but the man did not survive. Covelo is roughly 40 miles and an hour’s drive from the nearest emergency room.
The victim has been identified as 20-year-old Nicholas Shehli Whipple, of Redwood Valley, and an autopsy was scheduled to take place this afternoon. Whipple’s death remains under investigation by the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force, the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office and a criminalist with the California Department of Justice.
Sheriff’s Capt. Gregory Van Patten told The Mendocino Voice that a criminalist was requested due to a lack of adequate staffing to search for and process evidence, conduct interviews and follow up on leads.
“The DOJ labs (mainly in Eureka) analyze our evidence eventually so often it is more streamlined to have them help with the evidence collection and transportation to their lab(s),” Van Patten said in an email. “Usually it takes them several hours to the next day for them to deploy and travel to our county. If evidence can’t be protected before they arrive (like an outside crime scene being affected by weather), then we are forced to collect/process the evidence without their assistance.”
Anyone with information relevant to Whipple’s death has been asked to call the MCSO tip line at (707) 234-2100. Callers can also utilize an anonymous tip line at (800) 782-7463.