Press Release – Attempted Murder and Arrests in Benton
During the early morning hours of April 12, 2020, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a physical altercation which occurred on the Benton Paiute Reservation. The altercation escalated and resulted in a shooting. Through the course of the investigation, witness statements and physical evidence were collected, which led investigators to identify two suspects.
On April 14, 2020, members of the Mono County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, Bishop Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Mono County District Attorney’s Office served search warrants on two residences located on the reservation. During the warrant service, both suspects were arrested without incident. Marque Santos Marquez was arrested and charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Battery with great bodily injury, and Felon in possession of a firearm. Emilio Elizarraraz was arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Shooting at an occupied vehicle.
We thank our allied law enforcement agencies for their assistance with this investigation. The investigation is still ongoing, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at
(760) 932-7549 ext 7.
The Mono County Sheriffs office has released details from a weekend recovery. According to the Mono County Sheriffs Department the body is presumed to be that of missing La Habra man Juan Manuel Vierheller. Vierheller was reported missing back on May 13th. Mono County Sheriffs department statement:
On the morning of Sunday, May 22, at approximately 10:30 a.m., the body of a deceased male was found in Crowley Lake. Mono County Sheriff’s deputies were on scene within minutes and took custody of the deceased person. The body is presumed to be that of missing person Juan Vierheller, who was last seen at Beaver Cove in the early morning of Friday, May 13. The family of the missing person has been notified. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
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Submitted by the Mono County Sheriffs Department February 26, 2016
In the early afternoon of Thursday, February 25, 2016, Mono County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to Adobe Ranch Road, south of Highway 120 East, to investigate a report of a squatter in a vacant cabin. The suspect, later identified as William Ward, broke into the property and illegally took up residence.
A deputy spotted Mr. Ward driving an older sport utility vehicle toward him on a narrow dirt road. As the truck approached, the deputy blocked the road with his patrol vehicle and turned on his light bar. Mr. Ward accelerated his truck and rammed the patrol vehicle. Fortunately, the deputy was able to get out of his truck
prior to the impact. Mr. Ward reversed his truck and retreated toward the cabin. Two deputies and a sergeant gave chase, eventually returning to the cabin.
Mr. Ward took refuge in the cabin, and the pursuing deputies took positions of cover and ordered him to surrender. A request was made for additional resources, and law enforcement officers from throughout Mono and Inyo Counties, along with support from medics and CalTrans, immediately deployed to the scene.
Meanwhile, Mono County Dispatch researched Mr. Ward’s criminal history. Mr. Ward had felony convictions for weapons-related offenses and had been incarcerated in state prison twice for those offenses.
As the afternoon grew into evening, Mr. Ward exited the cabin, armed with a rifle, and fired in the direction of law enforcement, shouting that they would have to kill him. Mr. Ward barricaded himself in the cabin, and it was clear he had no intention of ending the stand-off peacefully. A coordinated plan was put into place to
diminish Mr. Ward’s capabilities, while allowing responding personnel to safely take him into custody. Tear gas was deployed into the cabin, and team entered the cabin. Although Mr. Ward was still armed and fought being arrested, the team successfully disarmed him and took him down without significant injury.
Medics were standing by and treated Mr. Ward for exposure to tear gas. No responding personnel suffered injury during this incident. Many thanks to the responding personnel from the California Highway Patrol, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Bishop Police Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, United States Forest Service, California State Parks, California Department of Transportation, Mono County Paramedics, and, of course, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office.
Booking Charges for William Ward:
69 Penal Code:Felony– Resisting / Obstructing a Peace Officer
245 Penal Code: Felony – Assault with a Deadly Weapon
417.8 Penal Code: Felony– Exhibit a Firearm to Resist Arrest
459 Penal Code: Felony – Burglary
2800.2(a) Vehicle Code: Felony – Evading a Peace Officer
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On December 12, 2015, graffiti was discovered spray-painted on a boulder near McGee Creek Road in Crowley Lake. The vandalism took place on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This defacement of public lands shows disrespect for our beautiful landscape and disregard for the law.
Please take a look at the photos below. If you know who is responsible for this, please notify the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 932-7549. Or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, you can report online at http://monosheriff.org/sheriff/webform/report-crime.
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On Friday, November 20, 2015, two hikers from Ventura, California, called 911 for help. The two friends had attempted to summit Mt. Morrison just south of Mammoth Lakes, California, but reached a spot on a steep slope near the summit from where they were unable to continue either up or down. The Mono County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team responded to the trailhead at Convict Lake and sent teams into the hikers’ location. The Search and Rescue Teams were able to assist them down from their location and escorted them back to their campsite.
Many thanks to our Search and Rescue members, who volunteer their time and expertise to safely extricate those who are in need of assistance in the back country.
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Mono County Sheriff reports Dog mauled and Llama killed in Crowley
Report submitted by the Mono County Sheriffs department:
On Tuesday, November 17, a mountain lion attacked a dog near Mountain View Drive. The dog was badly mauled but survived the attack. On Saturday, November 21, a mountain lion attacked and killed a llama near Willowbrook Road. We do not know if both attacks were by the same mountain lion.
Mountain lions are solitary and elusive, and their nature is to avoid humans. They are most active at dawn, dusk and night. Mountain lions prefer deer, but they also eat pets and livestock. In extremely rare cases, people have fallen prey to mountain lions.
Although mountain lions are neither threatened nor endangered, they are a specially protected species in California, and it is illegal to hunt or otherwise take a mountain lion absent specific circumstances. Mountain lions that threaten people are immediately killed. Those that prey on pets or livestock can be killed by a property owner after the required depredation permit is secured. Moving problem mountain lions is not an option. It causes deadly conflicts with other mountain lions already there, or the relocated mountain lion returns.
To keep your family and animals safe, please heed the following advice:
• Do not hike, bike, or jog alone and avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active.
• Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.
• Keep a close watch on small children.
• Do not approach a mountain lion.
• If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
• If attacked, fight back.
• If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.
• Don’t feed deer; it is illegal in California and it will attract mountain lions.
• Deer-proof landscaping by avoiding plants that deer like to eat.
• Trim brush to reduce hiding places for mountain lions.
• Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
• Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats, and other vulnerable animals.
• Don’t allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active.
• Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting potential mountain lion prey.
More information about mountain lions can be found on the California Fish and Wildlife website: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Lion.
cover photo, file photo provided by the California department of fish and wildlife
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Statement from the Mono County Sheriffs Department
Date: October, 20, 2015
Subject: Fatal dirt bike accident near Mammoth Lakes
On the afternoon of Friday, October 16, 2015, at approximately 3:00pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a 911 call regarding a single dirt bike collision near the Chair 2 parking lot at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Kurt Kruse, age 59, of Mammoth Lakes, California, was riding dirt bikes with his son when he crashed into a fallen tree while going around a curve. Mono County Paramedics, Mammoth Lakes Police Department, and the Mono County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the area. Upon arrival, CPR was in progress and Mr. Kruse was transported by ambulance to Mammoth Hospital. Mr. Kruse was pronounced deceased at Mammoth Hospital.
The cause of death is pending autopsy results but appears to be of traumatic injuries caused by the crash. – Jennifer M. Hansen, Public Information Officer
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Reported by: Jennifer M. Hansen, Mono Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer
During the very early hours of Saturday, September 26, 2015, California Highway Patrol stopped a suspect on Highway 6 for a traffic violation. The suspect was identified as Jason Wolter, age 42, of Acton, California. Mr. Wolter fled from the CHP when they attempted to arrest him for a felony warrant out of Los Angeles County. Mr. Wolter was later located by CHP on a dirt road outside of Benton. Mr. Wolter fled again, eventually abandoning his vehicle on Black Rock Mine Road. Law enforcement officers from the Mono County Sheriff’s Office, Bishop Police Department, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management responded to assist. With help from a CHP helicopter, all responding agencies searched high and low for this definitely dangerous and possibly armed suspect, but were unable to locate him after several hours. Mr. Wolter had no known means of communication or sustenance.
Mono County Sheriff’s deputies continued to saturate and patrol the area where Mr. Wolter was last seen in an effort to protect the Benton and Chalfant communities. The diligent effort of the deputies paid off. Mr. Wolter was located near some large sage brush on Black Rock Mine Road shortly after sunset on Saturday, September 26, 2015. Mr. Wolter was taken into custody and transported to the Mono County Jail in Bridgeport without incident.
Jason Shane Wolter, age 42, of Acton, California, was arrested for PC 3455(b)(1) – revocation, modification or termination of post-release community suspension and VC 2800.0 – driving in willful or wanton disregard for safety of persons or property while fleeing from pursuing police officers. Mr. Wolter is currently in custody with all charges pending with the Mono County District Attorney’s Office.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Office thanks all the cooperating agencies for responding quickly and working together to capture this wanted suspect. We also thank the community members of Benton and Chalfant for your patience and assistance during this incident.
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On September 21, 2015, in the Mammoth Lakes courthouse, Edgar Lee Weaver, Jr. was sentenced for a violation of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated for the killing of Rebecca Dempsey, 21, of England. The case was handled by Assistant District Attorney Dave Anderson who argued that Mr. Weaver should spend the maximum sentence allowed by law of 6 years in prison for the offense. After the court weighed all the evidence and considered the parties arguments, the court sentenced Mr. Weaver to four years in state prison.
Ms. Dempsey was killed on October 6, 2014 in Mammoth Lakes after accepting an invitation from Mr. Weaver to ride as a passenger on his motorcycle. Mr. Weaver lost control of his motorcycle on Meridian Blvd just before the Meadowridge Condos. Mr. Weaver had a blood alcohol level of .22 and a speed investigation concluded he was driving at a minimum of 76 mph in a posted 40 mph zone when he lost control going into a sharp curve. Ms. Dempsey was pronounced dead upon arrival at Mammoth Hospital.
Ms. Dempsey arrived in Mammoth a few months earlier on a work visa after graduating from a university in England in May 2014. She was scheduled to return home the following week.
Ms. Dempsey’s mother, father, sister, and aunt traveled from England to be present at sentencing and spoke to their difficulty in the past year. Additionally, a number of Ms. Dempsey’s friends made the trip from all over California to show their support. Ms. Dempsey’s mother, Karen, also thanked the Mammoth community for the overwhelming support shown to them and their daughter.
Mr. Weaver was remanded into the custody of the Mono County Sheriff for transport to the California Department of Corrections.
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by: Jennifer M. Hansen, Public Information Officer
The Mono County Sheriff’s Office has received numerous reports from residents throughout Mono County, specifically the Crowley Lake area, of a recent phone scam. We want to make everyone aware of the current phone scam you may experience.
The current phone scam includes a male caller stating he is Lieutenant Foster (or another name may be given) of the Mono County Sheriff’s Office. He states that you failed to appear at jury duty and there is a $5,000 fine that you must pay. If the fine is not paid over the phone, someone from the Mono County Sheriff’s Office will come to your residence within 20 minutes and place you under arrest. The caller also will provide you with a fake Assistant District Attorney’s name and clarify that there has been an arrest warrant issued for you if the fine isn’t paid immediately.
This is a phone scam to try and access your personal financial information. Phone scammers are getting aggressive in their means to try and gain access to personal financial information.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Office wants you to be aware of this phone scam as it has created some panic amongst Mono County residents. Remember to never give personal information and credit card information over the phone. You should monitor your credit reports and your credit card and bank statements on a regular basis! Keep your identity and information protected!
If you would like to report any suspicious phone scams or verify that you have been a victim of a phone scam, please contact us at (760) 932-7549.
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Lee Vining, CA: Burning approximately two miles southwest of Lee Vining the Walker Fire remains at 3,715 acres. This is a human-caused fire that is still under investigation.
Crews continue to improve containment lines and begin mop up in certain areas of the fire. Mop up efforts also continue on the 65-acre spot fire.
Tioga Pass (Highway120) is open without an escort. However, there will be no stopping along the eastern six miles of the road. This will be strictly enforced. The fire remains active to the south of the road and this is essential for firefighter and public safety.
The fire is burning in mixed conifer, mahogany, and brush. Critical sage grouse habitat is also threatened. Visitors and residents should expect to see smoke from the June Lake and Lee Vining areas and along Highway 395.
Closures and Evacuations:
⦁ Walker Lake “Fishing Camp” has been evacuated.
⦁ A CodeRed Emergency Alert notice has been issued for Lee Vining and everything north of Double Eagle in June Lake (including Silver Lake and Grant Lake areas) for potential evacuations.
⦁ Campgrounds in the Lower Lee Vining Canyon have been evacuated and are closed, including Lower Lee Vining, Moraine, Boulder, Aspen Grove, and Big Bend Campgrounds.
⦁ Law Enforcement will be escorting campers into the Lower Lee Vining Canyon campgrounds to collect any gear left behind during evacuations. Escorts will run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. today. Affected campers will be allowed in with escort only. Campers are asked to meet Law Enforcement on Hwy 120 at Vista Point Drive. If an officer is not there, please wait patiently at the three cones.
⦁ The Walker Lake Road (1N17), the Parker Lake Rd. (1S25), the Upper Horse Meadows Rd. (1N16), and the Gibbs Road (1N18) are closed for fire operations and public safety. All of these roads are accessed via the northern end of the June Lake Loop. All spur roads off of these roads are also closed. The trail to Mono Pass (trailhead is at Walker Lake) is closed.
Approximately 484 firefighters are on scene as well as numerous aircraft, dozers, and engines. Resources from Mono County, local fire departments, Cal Fire, neighboring forests, BLM Bishop Field Office, and the Mono County Sheriff’s Office are assigned. For more information on the Walker Fire you can go to the following sites: Inciweb: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4515/
Date Started: 8/14/2015
Cause: Human Total Personnel: 484
Injuries/Illnesses to Date: 0
Size: 3,715 acres Structures Threatened: 235
Percent Contained: 35%
Resources: 4 helicopters, 0 seats, 2 Air tankers Engines 34, Crews 10, Water Tenders 6, Dozers 4 Structures Lost: 0
Estimated Containment: 8/23/2015
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Mono County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team aids an ill hiker at Shamrock Lake
Written and reported by: Jennifer M. Hansen, Public Information Office
On Monday, August 3, 2015, at approximately 10:20am, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center received a call regarding an ill hiker at Shamrock Lake.
A female hiker, age 52, of Ventura, California, and her family came to the Eastern Sierra for vacation. The family hiked to Shamrock Lake for an overnight camping trip when the female hiker began experiencing severe altitude sickness symptoms. The altitude sickness prevented her from hiking out of the Shamrock Lake area. Family members hiked out and called 911 along Hwy 120W when they obtained cell phone service.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Team was dispatched to aid the ill hiker. Seven SAR Team members staged at the Saddlebag Lake Resort. The ground team, along with Mono County Paramedics, was transported across Saddlebag Lake via water taxi. The ground team was then able to continue the hike up to Shamrock Lake where they met the ill hiker at her campsite. The ill hiker was transported via wheeled litter back to the Saddlebag Lake Resort where she was met by Mono County Paramedics for evaluation and then transported to Mammoth Hospital for treatment.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team thanks the staff of the Saddlebag Lake Resort for their assistance in this operation.
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