Arturo Flores might be Boonville's least known serial killer. In 1987, Flores would tell his friends that “all anglos should be exterminated.” Then he exterminated one. Maybe he'd exterminated others, too, but we knew from the cold, dead fact of Gregory Evans, a 27-year-old softball player from Rohnert Park, that Flores exterminated Evans because two men saw Flores do it. That was almost forty years ago, and Flores got away with it, and then he ran away, far away.
You'd see Flores around Boonville at all hours of the day and night. Couldn't miss him. He was tall for a Mexican, lean and he stared a big-eyed stare right at you, unblinking, not hostile exactly but homicidally indifferent, a vacant-eyed psycho-stare, a kind of encompassing death ray. Vehicles, people, dogs, insects disappeared into those eyes. You got the feeling that Flores wanted to kill it all.
Some people thought Flores was crazy. Others were merely unnerved by him. "That Mexican creeps me out big time," someone would say. "Does he sleep standing up? He's always here," another person would say. There he was, a constant staring public presence, a brooding human surveillance camera, leaned up against the wall of the Lodge or Tom Cronquist's cyclone fence or the Anderson Valley Market, never saying a word to any anglo body, not much to his countrymen, always staring that blank stare that somehow seemed to go blanker at the gringo visuals.
Of course it is better than likely that Senor Flores had had unhappy encounters with gringos some of whom, at the time, amused themselves by heaving Mexicans out the door of the Boonville Lodge like so many fifty-pound bags of pinto beans. Mexican-tossing finally ended the memorable afternoon the Mexicans counter-attacked, beating down the locked door of the bar with half a telephone pole to get at the Mexican tossers who had barricaded themselves inside the bar when fed up Mexicans suddenly appeared outside the bar in seriously angry numbers.
When a contingent of riot-geared deputies arrived from Ukiah, the Mexican assault force was inside the bar where a replay of the Alamo was underway. A small group of Mexican-tossers was backed up in a corner where they were beating back their attackers with broken pool cues. Another gringo — a fat, strong one — was all-fours on the floor with a determined Mexican riding his bucking back, sawing away at the big man's enlarded throat with a knife not quite sharp enough to penetrate the suet. "His fat and his arm strength saved him," a deputy commented later. "The Mexican couldn't cut all the way through the neck because the guy was able to scrunch up tight enough to keep the knife from penetrating. He was starting to fade, though. Another minute or so and the Mex would have had him sliced and diced."
Boonville was a hard place for Mexicans then, and Arturo Flores didn't bother making distinctions between good gringos and bad gringos. He hated them all.
The night Flores launched his gringo eradication program, assuming he hadn't already notched one or two before he touched down in bucolic Anderson Valley, Anastacio Yanez and Luis Orozco had met Greg Evans in the Boonville Cantina, also known as The Mexican Bar. (Now Lauren's Restaurant.) Yanez and Orozco had watched Evans drive in the winning run in a Boonville slo-pitch softball tournament across the street at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds. It was the first tournament of the year, and the weather was in and out; it rained a little, the sun came out, it rained a little more, the sun came out. That night it rained steady and hard.
Yanez and Orozco said Evans was drinking a lot of beer before he left the Cantina. They said they next saw him outside the bar trying to flag down cars for a ride. When Evans saw Yanez and Orozco walk out of the Cantina he asked them for a lift to Ukiah. Evans said he'd pay them for the trip. Yanez said he was going to Ukiah anyway so Evans didn't have to pay him.
Yanez said later that Evans "was a very good person."
Yanez invited Orozco and Flores to drive with him to Ukiah in his Ford Pinto. Yanez said he was headed to Ukiah for a dance. Flores and Orozco climbed in the back. Yanez got behind the wheel, Greg Evans rode in the passenger seat, which Flores may have seen as an undeserved concession to the gringo or, worse perhaps to Flores, the human panopticon, gringo-hood's assumed front seat privilege.
Yanez said Evans was "friendly" during the trip over the hill. He said that he and Evans hit it off so well that Evans offered to introduce Yanez to some bimbitos* in Ukiah. Yanez said that Evans gave him a card with Evans' name and address and telephone number on it. Evans and Yanez chatted as best they could in mutually unintelligible languages all the way up and over the Ukiah hill until the carload of merrymakers was about five miles from Highway 101 and Ukiah's night life, rightly assumed, but not by much, to be more exciting than Boonville's.
Gregory Evans suddenly threw up his hands and exclaimed, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
Whatever Evans thought he'd done to be sorry about was neither audible nor visible to either Yanez or Orozco.
Flores, seated directly behind Evans, had suddenly reached over the seat and driven a knife blade deep into Evans' heart. Evans said he was sorry and then he was gone.
Orozco asked Flores why he'd done it. "This is nothing," Flores said. "These guys we have to exterminate."
Yanez and Orozco couldn't have been too upset about the murder of the Rohnert Park softball player because the three amigos dumped Evans' body about a foot off the pavement of Stipp Lane, then drove to a Mexican bar on North State Street to re-commence their Saturday night festivities. In the men's room of the bar on North State, Yanez said he saw Flores wash the blood off the folding knife he'd murdered Evans with.
Evans' body was discovered by a passing motorist at about 11pm, only a few hours after his final apology. Evans hadn't even been dragged into the bushes, just dumped on the side of the road.
Flores, Yanez and Orozco saw the cluster of police and police vehicles as they drove back to Boonville.
Yanez and Orozco said their fear of Flores prevented them from voluntarily turning themselves into police. They didn't say that Flores had threatened them; he didn't have to. He might prefer to murder gringos but anybody would do.
There being few secrets in the Anderson Valley, and the few secrets that aren't in general circulation are fully known by Deputy Squires, the three Mexicans were arrested three days after Gregory Evans said he was sorry. Orozco and Yanez quickly agreed to tell all in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Their stories matched, and Yanez and Orozco were released from custody. Flores was arrested and, it was assumed, confined to the County Jail to await trial.
The Mendocino County Jail was rather loosely administered in the middle 1980s. An inmate was caught boffing a female jailer in a broom closet, and tennis balls stuffed with marijuana frequently sailed into the prisoners' outdoor commons by dope missionaries passing by on Low Gap Road. The day before he was scheduled to be arraigned for exterminating Gregory Evans, perhaps while inmates scrambled for a pot ball, Flores vaulted the jail fence out onto Low Gap and hasn't been seen since.
(*Bimbito, n. 1. Spanish for bimbo. 2. Loose woman short in stature. 3. Bilingual welcome wagon specializing in intimate transnational relations.)