Murder on the Ridge
A $50,000 reward buoys homicide investigation
Paradise police aren’t able to release much new information as to the town’s sole unsolved murder, but over the past few weeks have continued to pursue the crime with the aid of a state-funded reward.
Paradise police Sgt. Steve Rowe said investigators are treating the $50,000 offered for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the death of Eric Jones as an additional tool to solving the late-2008 homicide.
“It’s certainly an assist, but it doesn’t tell us who they are,” said Rowe, referring to the individuals connected to the crime.
Rowe, a detective, is certain he’s looking for multiple suspects—three altogether—because Jones’ home was equipped with an infrared camera that captured their images on the night of the murder. Last month, police released a clip of the video (available on the Internet with a simple search) to the public. It shows a masked figure crouching just outside of his Azalea Lane residence.
Police found Jones, a purported freelance electrician, dead about 45 minutes after he and two other individuals were assaulted at his mobile home late in the evening on Dec. 28. Because the investigation is ongoing, investigators won’t release many details of the circumstances surrounding the 50-year-old man’s death, including disclosing exactly how he was killed.
Rowe did, however, give a motive.
“I’m pretty certain they were there to rip off his drugs,” he said.
Jones, who had a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana, was cultivating an extensive pot garden in his yard. Rowe said the number of plants exceeded the limitations established under Proposition 215 (California’s compassionate-use law), but the plot didn’t hold an amount the police would bother to fuss over. Nor was there any evidence the Paradise man sold his crop.
Still, it appears the masked men, who attempted to break into a safe containing pot and guns, knew exactly what they were after.
“They were lying in wait for him,” Rowe said. “Whether there was intent to kill him or that just happened, I can’t tell you.”
The eerie video clips clearly show one of the suspects crouching inside of the gate leading to Jones’ home. Because of the mask, though, the images don’t give viewers much to go on. However, the investigation is further aided by two unidentified individuals who accompanied Jones to his home. They were also grabbed as they neared the residence.
Based on statements from the witnesses, police believe the suspects are white males. One is a large man, possibly between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4 and likely at least 250 pounds. The other two suspects vary in build—anywhere from 5-foot-8 to 6 feet tall. While the camera’s infrared makes it appear the man’s apparel is light-colored, Rowe said all of the men were actually wearing dark-colored clothing and masks.
Jones didn’t keep his grow a secret. In fact, the witnesses were strangers he met earlier that evening at a local bar and invited back to his home to smoke marijuana. Rowe, a 15-year veteran of the Paradise PD, said incidences of drug-related home-invasion robberies are on the rise. Marijuana, he said, is still big money.
Investigators have taken in well over 200 calls from the public, including several since the institution of the reward last month. Paradise police Chief Gerald Carrigan requested the funding, which was issued under the Governor’s Reward program. According to the governor’s Web site, 255 rewards have been offered since 1967 and just 19 have been paid. Still, Rowe said he’s hoping to hear from anyone who might have recognized anything from the video, or who might have an idea of who would carry out this crime.
“We don’t want it to happen to somebody else,” he said. “We want these guys off the streets.”