$30,000 Reward

Over this last week, the search for Aaron Bassler, suspect in the deaths of Jere Melo and Matthew Coleman, has led to serious disruptions in the lives of Mendocino County residents.  On Monday, law enforcement locked down the Fort Bragg middle school.  Fortunately, it was after hours and only three classes were still being held. Reportedly, Bassler had been seen in the area.

However, the only confirmed sighting of Bassler has been on Sunday, Sept. 4th.  Deputies saw him and a well-known local police dog, Dutch, chased him reputedly returning with an item of the suspect’s clothing. Since then, between 30 to 40 officers have searched the land around the Skunk Train tracks nearly every day. According to the Press Democrat’s excellent Friday, Sept. 16th story,

Authorities believe Bassler is traveling mostly in a 19-mile long corridor between Fort Bragg and Northspur, an west-to-east path that roughly parallels the Skunk Train tourist railroad, which runs from Fort Bragg to Willits.

Each day, search teams have pushed into deeper parts of that area. They’ve run across places where Bassler appears to have bedded down or cabins he may have raided for food and other items.

“Some of those (break-ins) we’re unsure who’s responsible,” Van Patten said. “But there’s no doubt he’s obtaining food and supplies that way.”

Authorities continue to receive five to 10 tips a day about Bassler’s whereabouts. They investigate each one, Van Patten said.

He said some of the spots where Bassler appears to have visited are miles apart, suggesting he is frequently on the move, covering rugged ground in a relatively short amount of time.

Residents are frustrated and worried. Some of them complaining that they feel as if they are being “held hostage.” Parents are keeping their children in and the last days of summer are passing without residents feeling able to enjoy the outdoors freely.

Meanwhile, costs mount in an already money strapped county.