With apologies to Neil Young.
You're welcome to sing along.
A one and a two—
“Well, they say that Santa Fe is less than ninety miles away. And I got time to roll a number and rent a car. Oh, Albuquerque. I've been flyin' down the road, and I've been starvin' to be alone, and independent from the scene that I've known. Albuquerque. So I'll stop when I can, find some fried eggs and country ham. I'll find somewhere where they don't care who I am. Maybe some place like Mendoland, oh, Albuquerque.”
On the otherwise tranquil early morning of Wednesday, June 23rd at 1:30am, Ukiah police and firemen were summoned to the Economy Inn at 406 South State Street where a 1980-ish Ford pick-up was “fully engulfed in flames.”
The cops and the firefighters found that the fire had begun in the cab of the vehicle, and that it appeared to have been deliberately set. The truck's owner soon confirmed his beloved old Ford had been stolen from a Willits business earlier that night.
Willits Police were already investigating the theft of the truck.
It always seems to surprise outside crooks that rural cops hop right on these things.
At 1:30 on a Wednesday morning our local crooks are all inside. Besides, our crooks tend to do their things on the weekends.
A burning vehicle in the middle of the night in Albuquerque might get lost in that city's daily crime wave; not here. And Willits is only twenty miles from Ukiah. The cops from both towns talk to each other, especially in the midnight hours of a work a day Wednesday.
The Willits Police already had a full-face security video of a young guy in the act of stealing the truck.
Yep, we even have security cameras up here in the sticks.
The Willits cops recognized the thief as one of four young men they'd met earlier in the evening at Al's Redwood Room where the four had been involved in “a disturbance,” a generic disturbance involving some energetic pushing and shoving to a sound track of ungentlemanly insults having to do with mom and incest.
Kids these days. Walking clichés. Maybe they watch too much tv.
Patrick Wayne Gerber had just moved to Willits from Albuquerque. His homies had come out from New Mexico to visit him and maybe do some uniquely Mendo business. The homies included James Ryden Davis; Daniel Christian Sloan; Christopher James Hampton; and a pretty young woman named Alyssa Joan Cardosa, all of them in their middle twenties, all of them from 'the land of enchantment.'
The New Mexico contingent checked into the Economy Inn on South State Street, Ukiah, and headed north to hook up with their old pal Gerber. Gerber would show them the bright lights of Willits, which isn't the land of enchantment during daylight hours but doesn't look too bad at night.
The Albuquerque Gang got as far as Al's Redwood Room where they soon came to the attention of law enforcement, which isn't hard to do in the middle of a very slow crime night in a small rural town.
Gerber, the transplanted Albuquerque man and host for the evening had let his reunion jubilation get the best of him. He'd been arrested by the Willits Police for public intoxication, apparently leaving his guest, James Davis, with no way of getting back to the New Mexico Room at the Economy Inn in Ukiah. It was twenty miles south where Ukiah police had already noted a vehicle with New Mexico license plates.
Out of state plates at a motel in Mendocino County translate to law enforcement as The Marijuana Business.
Davis, stuck in Willits in the middle of the night, first helped himself to a bicycle. He pedaled around Willits' deserted late night streets looking for..... well, he couldn't very well ride a bike all the way to Ukiah, but he could drive an old Ford truck to Ukiah and that's what he did. Davis got that baby fired up and off he went down 101.
The Ukiah police, before it was even light out, knew that room 104 had been rented by a Mr. Hampton of New Mexico. A car with New Mexico plates was parked right in front of room 104.
They also knew some characters from New Mexico had paid a raucous visit to Al's Redwood Room.
And now there was pick-up truck burning in the street about fifty feet from the Economy Inn.
The Albuquerque Gang wasn't what you'd call “low profile.”
Quickly in possession of Davis's action video of himself in Willits demonstrating how to steal a truck, the Ukiah police just as quickly had one of those specialized, omni-purpose, ever-ready Mendocino County search warrants, and lickety split there they were at the door of room 104, Economy Inn, Ukiah.
The police were looking for Davis and, perhaps, a gasoline container and a box of extra-long fireplace matches to go with the truck burning outside.
Sure enough. There he was.
And there was Hampton and Sloan and Alyssa Joan Cardosa and Eric Raymond Garcia and $40,000 in cash, a .45 caliber Glock pistol and four pounds of processed bud.
Davis readily admitted to “drinking a large amount of alcohol” but, still ambulatory, had ridden away from Al's Redwood Room on a stolen bicycle looking to steal less strenuous transport south to Ukiah. Davis yearned for the succor of his friends at the Economy Inn.
He said he'd ripped off the old truck, drove it to Ukiah and set it on fire at his front door, and right here I suppose we can surmise that Davis had hoped to burn away any incriminating evidence. But, seeing as how the stolen truck had gone up in flames in front of the motel where he was staying, well, Davis might as well have set his door on fire, too.
The cops say they “believe the purpose of the group's trip to the area was for the purpose of obtaining marijuana.”
Myself, I think the cops might be right.
Davis was booked into the County Jail for vehicle theft, arson, possession of marijuana for sale, being armed during the commission of a crime, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Hampton, Sloan, Garcia, and the fetching Miss Cardosa were arrested and booked into the County Jail for possession of marijuana for sale, being armed during the commission of a crime, and criminal conspiracy. Lucky for the Albuquerque Gang that being dumb in a group isn't against the law or they'd be looking at one more charge.
If the Albuquerque Gang had simply stayed in Ukiah and walked down State Street to the Forest Club, none of this would have happened.