Two Saturday nights ago, at about 10pm, Jaime Vasquez, 29, was taken from his car at gunpoint by four masked men. The abduction of the youthful farmworker occurred on a lonely dirt road less than a mile from the center of Boonville. There are lots of hidden places not far from the center of Boonville. This one is a short, northeasterly track that ends at an old wood house on stilts on the west bank of Anderson Creek. The house is on property owned by Phil Wasson, who leases it to farmworkers. The structure was once owned by an Indian elder by the name of Knight.
Seated beside Vasquez on what may have been the last night of his life was his terrified young wife, Monica Anguino. She held the couple's infant son. The Vasquez family wasn't far from home. They live in the old motel just south of Boonville which is now low-income housing managed by a local charity, The Anderson Valley Housing Association. Persons known to be engaged in criminal activity, which in Anderson Valley is synonymous with the drug trade, are quickly removed from the Association's tenant rolls.
Vasquez had been lured to the site on a pretext not as yet revealed. He has no criminal history. As the Vasquezes proceeded down the rutted road bisecting vineyards and an ancient apple orchard, several masked men emerged from the brush and stopped the Vasquez vehicle, a battered four-door import. There was a brief conversation before the men ordered Vasquez out of his car and took him away. He hasn't been seen since. Law enforcement won't say, but their operating assumption seems to be that Vasquez has been murdered.
Mrs. Vasquez, sobbing, distraught, soon appeared at the Boonville Hotel, where her mother works. The Sheriff's Department was called at 11:53pm. There was some difficulty on the police end making sense of what had happened. There was also confusion about where whatever had happened had happened. The hysterical Mrs. Vasquez seemed to say her husband had disappeared in the vicinity of the Boonville Dump, when the true location of her husband's abduction was a mile northeast of the Boonville Dump.
The Sheriff's Department wasted no time getting on the case. By Sunday morning, two detectives and a translator were in Boonville. Deputy Squires, who has been out on medical leave following knee surgery, was called out to help round up the usual suspects for questioning. Lots is known, but nobody who knows is talking. The investigation is ongoing and intense.
So far, the evidence of responsibility for the disappearance of Jaime Vasquez points at a local man. This man is known to many people who say: “Him? I don't believe it.” Nobody wants to believe he is involved, but then nobody wants to believe that there is so much of the methamphetamine known as “crank” here in Anderson Valley and everywhere else on the Northcoast that the level of violence that accompanies it has risen to where we all see it, if nowhere else but on the faces of the walking dead people it consumes.
A Sheriff's Department helicopter hovered low over Anderson Creek due west of the Evergreen Cemetery for long minutes Monday afternoon. Ten feet off suburban and sedate Anderson Valley Way can feel like a wilderness area. Between Anderson Valley Way and the area of Boonville known as Airport Estates, Anderson Creek meanders through a surprisingly broad flood plain, much of it thick with brush and small trees. Marijuana patches, too. It isn't wise to walk there by yourself. Jaime Vasquez was last seen just below where Monday's helicopter strained to find him — or something related to him that would help find him.
The occupants of the lingering police helicopter peered intently down at the stream-split, square-mile wilds of Anderson Creek, and flew off east towards Ukiah. Captain Broin of the Sheriff's Department confirmed the aircraft had been on a Vasquez-related mission.
“We consider him as a missing person at this point," Broin said. “The investigation is critical at this point, so we’re not releasing much information." Broin asked anybody with information as to what has happened to Vasquez to call 463-4111. He said Detectives Poma and Dygert were leading the investigation.
Informed that some locals had complained that the Sheriff's Department didn't seem to be taking Vasquez's disappearance seriously, Broin, slightly indignant, replied: “We don’t pick and choose victims. It’s too bad people feel that way. We've had our people over there every day, and we’re interviewing as many people as we can find to come up with the truth. I don’t want to comment much more about what the wife said. We have interviewed her and lots of other people, I can tell you that. We’re very concerned about this case.”
Broin confirmed that four detectives were in Boonville Monday working the Vasquez case. “And they’ll be working it today, too. We think it's drug-related, and we think we're going to get to the bottom of it.”
The rumors continue to fly, but it is known that four men were involved in the abduction of Vasquez. One man is being held in the County Jail. He has admitted that he was at the site with the other three men. He has admitted that he was involved. The police have confiscated a gun belonging to this man. He has not said anything more about the matter than that. He is said to be very frightened. One man who was interviewed about the case at his work in a local vineyard is believed to have departed for Mexico almost as soon as the detectives were out of sight.