Saturday, September 23, 2023

Sheriff Kendall on Rumors a Serial Killer Is Behind Recent ‘Suspicious’ Deaths of Mendocino County Women:​ ‘Currently, There Is No Evidence They’re Connected’


In the last week, Mendocino County residents have had to grapple with the tragic news that two young women have been found dead and in both circumstances, law enforcement has characterized their deaths as “suspicious.”

The shared traits between these two deaths including their gender, their youth, their residence in Mendocino County, their characterization as “suspicious,” and the fact the cases emerged just days after each other have led many locals to speculate a serial killer is behind the deaths.

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told us that after “exhaustive efforts of investigators” there is currently, “no connection between these two cases.”

Photograph of the area where Amber Dillon’s body was located [Picture provided by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office]

Last Sunday, January 8, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) announced they had recovered a body from a field near the intersection of Highway 101 and Geysers Road near the Mendocino/Sonoma County line. On Tuesday, January 11, SCSO Sergeant Juan Valencia revealed the body was that of 33-year-old Amber Dillon, a Willits woman whose death he deemed “suspicious.”

Deputies spoke with civilians while investigating on the day Alyssa Mae Sawdey’s body was found on Ukiah’s Christy Lane [Picture provided by a Ukiah resident]

News of the second death broke on the same day that SCSO identified Dillon. Initially, a dead body was reported in the vicinity of Ukiah’s Christy Lane. Three days later, the decedent found near Christy Lane was officially identified as 22-year-old Alyssa Mae Sawdey from Ukiah. The press release indicated MCSO conducted a forensic autopsy on her body and results are pending and expected to take several weeks. As of now, the press release stated Sawdey’s death is considered “suspicious.” 

Regarding Dillon, Sheriff Kendall told us he could not comment due to the case being under the SCSO’s jurisdiction.

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“[I]f I thought we had a serial killer out there, the public would be the first to know,” Sheriff Kendall reassured the community.

Family and friends of Amber Dillon and Alyssa Mae Sawday have spoken openly about their loved ones’ struggles with substance abuse. A cursory Google search of both women will reveal they each had run-ins with law enforcement and faced charges often associated with addiction including forgery, identity theft, burglary, and drug possession.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse examined this relationship between drug abuse and crime in their paper “Publications Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations – A Research-Based Guide.” The research describes three categories of crime that often result in drug addiction:

(1) offenses defined by drug possession or sales, (2) offenses directly related to drug abuse (e.g., stealing to get money for drugs), and (3) offenses related to a lifestyle that predisposes the drug abuser to engage in illegal activity, for example, through association with other offenders or with illicit markets.

Though this connection between addiction and criminality is broadly recognized, the paper explores the paradoxical lack of treatment for offenders within jails and correctional facilities which leads to continued drug abuse. Without support, “Untreated substance abusing offenders are more likely than treated offenders to relapse to drug abuse and return to criminal behavior.”

Knowing this, it is safe to say that after Dillon and Sawday had their brushes with the law, they would emerge not rehabilitated nor healed, but deprived and suffering still from their addiction.

Law enforcement has deemed both separate deaths as “suspicious” which often implies a crime was committed in association with that death. From what we know about the lifestyles of Amber Dillon and Alyssa Sawday, the pair were dangerously vulnerable to overdoses, transient lifestyles, and intimate partner violence. 

As described in the 2014 paper “Intimate partner violence and drug-addicted women: from explicative models to gender-oriented treatments, “women’s consumption of substances may enhance the risk of being abused by their partners, whereas substance use may act as a sort of coping strategy for facing those experiences.” Basically, the salve that soothed a woman suffering from intimate partner violence also made her vulnerable to that same violence.

Knowing their struggles, the attribution of these womens’ death to a Jack the Ripper-esque serial killer is a failure to recognize the deficiencies of our mental health and criminal justice systems that had many opportunities to intervene and rehabilitate. Maybe, we are more comfortable conjuring a killer than recognizing these systemic failures. If these systems failed these women, who will they fail next?

Both MCSO and SCSO are asking the public for information regarding the respective cases. If you know anything about the circumstances surrounding Dillon’s death, contact Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 565-2650. If you have information about Sawdey’s death, contact Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at 707-234-2100 or the WeTip anonymous crime reporting hotline at 800-782-7463.

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    • What does their criminal records or addictions have to do with their murders??? Just because they’ve been arrested or used drugs makes it ok for their deaths??? Total discrimination they’re past shouldn’t even be brought up you guys make it sound like they weren’t important like they were just two druggies no big deal that’s wrong they both have families that love them very much and although thanks to the press painting an ugly picture they were more than just unimportant people to they’re family and friends … You post irrelevant information so people think so low.. you people make me sick to my stomach.. did anyone look into anything aside from they’re criminal records maybe they were senior queen or world’s best employee or something good that could be remembered by instead of criminal druggies… You people really need to get ur heads out of ur asses

      • I don’t think you understand why they added the drug information. I think that if this possible murderer went after them because they were what police department deem as not important, why not prostitués? They could have been buying from the man that killed them. He could have drugged them. They could have been high at the time of the murder. Drug addiction plays a huge part in the possible murder.

        Like for criminal profiling, if this person wanted to be seen and strike fear, they would have targeted people who are seen as more important by society.

      • Well let me add to this how many people have heard about sheriff’s in Mendocino county being out of thugs. I can personally tell you that More then half of the cops and sheriff’s in that county are fake. They should never become cops because they don’t respect the things that that swore a oath to protect. They need to be dealt with if being a drug addict means it ok to be killed then it’s fair to say that killing a bad cop should be the same but in fact cops that are no good are committing treason and should be publicly executed. I remember when people were shot at in Ukiah and it happens no big deal yeah the cops will show up in a little while. But let me tell you what someone shoot at a cop at his house when he not on duty hell no talk about the ww3 you know I miss Ukiah maybe it’s time to come back

      • Yeah @clara I think this was a long-winded way of assuming they were all prostitutes. However, the article hasn’t aged well already because it isn’t including the other 2 recent deaths…4 deaths total. All suspicious. I hope there aren’t more.

    • Really? It doesn’t NEED to come from the southern border- Mendo and Lake county is well known for having Meth labs all over . Jesus

  1. Great article about a sad situation. I think the author is correct when he talks about us needing a dark figure to blame rather than seeing things as they are. El Cucuy exists in our minds for a reason it’s easy to blame him for our failures in society.

  2. Great article about a sad situation. I think the author is correct about us needing a dark figure to blame this on. El Cucuy exists in our minds for a reason. It is easier to blame him than to look at our failures in society.

  3. Drug overdose deaths end up in the cold case file. A hotshot is the perfect American murder because law inforcement doesn’t follow up except for people of importance. I have found two bodies dumped. They died somewhere else. Micheal Humicey was dumped on Franklin St in Ft Bragg 2015
    People of no importance get ignored. Look at Green River murders, took 30 years to catch him because he killed prostitues

  4. Or maybe there is a murderer who knows these womens weakness with substance abuse maybe that’s how he lures them in like hey girl u wanna party and if hes a Charming looking man why wouldn’t they ,, just a thought

  5. Sounds very much like blaming the victims. If they were drug overdoses why wouldn’t they just say that rather than say ‘suspicious circumstances’?

    • Wow funny how they r still trien to cover up the fact that there has been a serial killer for a while. Google it deaths of woman in Northern California ….they all have similar characteristics and similar circumstances….why they are trien to cover it up makes no sence when they need to be warning people.

      • I agree I had to hear about this from my friend who just got back from Vegas and she told me they heard it in Vegas I haven’t heard one word about this we should all be being warned to be careful it really sucks that they’re blaming the women! I’ve heard of many missing women.

    • Their waiting for the toxicology tests. Then it’s still up in the air. No witnesses to what really happened I assume. Somebody could of slipped them some dope, or they could of overdosed on their own

    • Their just holding back for the real facts after toxicology tests etc. It would be neat if they told us stab wound, gun shot would, or broken neck etc. Hopefully none of the above on either

  6. Sucks when meth addiction play a role in someone’s life because then u don’t know what to think if she died from an od. Or was “murdered” ppl should stop and really think about ukiahs drug problem as well not just that it’s a serial killer

  7. We do have a serial killer on our hands, I’m afraid. Domestic violence cases don’t leave bodies by the side of the road. We hope the Sheriff and other law enforcement are closely watching our local psychopaths, their travels and activities.

  8. Aww. So scarey to think someone I know might be next.
    Whether it’s drug abuse or murder, it’s sad.
    But we could wrap the whole USA up in a package…and still have murderers and cooks in meth labs.
    USA: meth lab capitol of the world.


  9. 💔 TWL – 2022 Fentanyl OD

    Our loved ones are dying.

    Dealers please stop dealing dirty dope…please??? Is the $ really worth it knowing YOU are murdering people? Please sell them clean dope NO FENTANYL. Then if they die it’s on them.

    Users, please stop being so selfish! I know a young son who is without a mama tonight. Did HE deserve that? It’s bad enough she was an addict and in and out of his life anyway but at least he had her. She didn’t deserve to die that way. What about the mama who lost her child to the fentanyl, did she deserve that?

    I’m not judging you…I’m pleading with you. Not just for the addict and their loved ones but for you. Someday your conscience is going haunt you. If you still have one. Please ✋ stop.

    👺💰What are you gonna give in exchange for your own soul?

  10. Having relapses or continuing to use drugs does not lead to your death “with suspicious circumstances ” maybe the killer thinks this is an easy way to kill and get away with it.

    • Yes and please know my comment was NOT directed at the young ladies in the article. It was it response to another comment and in regard to my close friend’s niece overdosing. I’m kind of reeling from the week our city had with all the sadness. Mine included.

    • What? This place is like Mayberry. Sure every town has problems and bad apples but to say Willits is a very dangerous place is silly.

  11. Ban creates crime all through history. The government put benzine in alcohol during prohibition killing thousands of causing blindness. The government sprayed Paraquat on Mexico weed creating the Emerald Triangle. We never learn from history. “History does not repeat but it does rhyme” is often attributed to Mark Twain

  12. I think the writer of this article is incredible irresponsible. Reporting these women’s history and coming to a conclusion is in bad taste and unprofessional. Let law enforcement investigate and report the story facts as they unfold. When journalists report their personal opinions on serious open cases it only causes unnecessary distractions and could jeopardize the case.

  13. The suspicious part is why is one laying in the street or alley & the other one laying in a field. People could have been getting high with them & they died on them. Trying to avoid being charged themselves just left them there. Since they were both dumped, seems very similar. Who knows

  14. Donald Trump signed a bill to look into missing and murdered Native American’s. The numbers are huge. Biden just added push to that. These cases ended up in cold files all over the country. Public action groups need to build a fire under law enforcement to get results when people of zero importance disappear or are found murdered. Too many cases never even get looked at without the “soapbox”. The Lindburg kidnapping and the OJ Simpson Media Carnival are extreme examples. Compare that to marginalized persons investigations that get no real man hours of detective effort.

  15. Discard Me
    A song to the tune, Happy Wanderer
    I love to go a scavenging through dumpsters after dark
    And then I put my treasures in a stolen shopping cart
    Discard me, discard me, discard me! I don’t matter matter matter
    I have many more verses to this song I wrote after finding Eva Marie Miller’s half naked body in a ditch near Colfax Ca 1990’s. Native American woman from Reno Nev…. Case closed

  16. Sorry for everyone’s loss to rule out any possibility is not good police work 6 women missing or found and there is a big connection besides there addictions or not addicted or mental health; can any one of you tell me the color of there eye’s, height there may be a connection after all and since December..I would start looking at a little more communication between the departments just saying..

  17. It’s very sad what happened to these girls. They were both my friend and if there is someone to blame for their passing I hope to see justice for them and their loved ones pained. Let’s not forget we’re human and we’re nothing close to perfection. We all got struggles DON’T LET THEIR STRUGGLES BLIND JUSTICE FOR A LIFE CUT SHORT!! Rip girls much love and you are missed!!!

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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