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Triple homicide in Forestville

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 | Posted by
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 4:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 6:56 a.m.

A man found his brother and two other men shot to death Tuesday at a rural home off Highway 116 between Forestville and Graton, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said.

Sonoma County Sheriff Detective Travis Koeppel walks along a driveway while marking evidence near the scene of a triple homicide off Ross Station Road in Forestville, Tuesday, February 5, 2013.

The shooting appeared to be targeted, however investigators did not go into further detail about what transpired at a cabin toward the back of the Ross Station Road property. The shooter or shooters remained at large.

“This was not a random crime,” Lt. Dennis O’Leary said. “I don’t believe there is any danger to Sonoma County citizens or people elsewhere.”

The man had not heard from his brother for several hours and went, with a girlfriend, to the property on the 9700 block of Ross Station Road near Douglas Lane to check on him, O’Leary said.

They found the bodies in a bedroom and the girlfriend called authorities at 3:13 p.m., he said.

Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies, as well as ambulance and fire crews, flooded the narrow road.

The men were declared dead at the scene. There was no obvious signs of a struggle, O’Leary said.

A resident of the property, Ed Lark, returned home from work to find his driveway cordoned off and a crowd of law enforcement and television crews gathered on his normally quiet road. Lark said a friend alerted him to the shooting, but that he did not know more.

“The unknown is unnerving. I don’t know what’s going on,” Lark said.

He said he, his landlord and others lived on the property.

“This is a wonderful place,” Lark said.

None of the slain men lived there, but one of them had family who lived on the property, O’Leary said.

Three well-kept homes and a cabin sit back from the road in the oak woodland property surrounded by vineyards, orchards and woods.

A paved driveway wound among the main homes and turned into a dirt road as it wound back toward the cabin. Two vehicles were parked in front of the cabin.

Detectives placed evidence markers in the dirt and photographed tread marks as day turned to dusk.

Neighbors reported hearing cars arriving at the property mid-morning and leaving in the early afternoon.

One neighbor, after learning what transpired, reported hearing gunshots earlier in the day, O’Leary said.

Darkness fell as detectives waited for a search warrant to re-enter the home and further examine the scene. The Sheriff’s Office drove a mobile command truck onto the property. Bright lights illuminated the trees.

Coroner’s investigators were expected to return today to retrieve the bodies. Deputies declined to identify the three men.

The property is at the end of Ross Station Road near Iron Horse Vineyards. Winery employees said they’d been told not to go near the site of the law enforcement activity.

“The (winery) owner called and said there’s some sort of disturbance and that they’re blocking the road and all the employees need to go out the back way,” said Erica De Maldonado, a member of the accounting staff.

“If I look out the window, I can see a few police cars on the road,” De Maldonado said.

A resident who has lived on the street for 20 years said she had tried to find out what happened from the officers who descended on Ross Station Road.

“They said it might be a good idea if you went inside and locked your doors,” said Kathi Spork, who lives in sight of the Iron Horse Vineyards property at the street’s end.

“Hopefully they’ll catch whoever did it . . . I just hope it wasn’t anyone we know,” she said.

Staff writers Kerry Benefield and Jeremy Hay contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220, julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @jjpressdem.

For updates and more photos from the scene, go to pressdemocrat.com

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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