Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Captain Greg Van Patten confirmed that on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, a dead man was found in a vineyard between Ukiah’s Norgard Lane and Plant Road.
Captain Van Patten identified the decedent as 35-year-old Ukiah resident Justin Michael Malugani. At this point in the death investigation, a medical emergency or possible overdose appear to be contributing factors. There are no obvious signs suggesting foul play, Captain Van Patten told us, and an autopsy with a blood alcohol/toxicology analysis is slated for next week.
Malugani was found dead in a vineyard by a worker. Captain Van Patten said, “The property is owned by the City of Ukiah and leased to a local vineyard management company.”
Malugani was convicted of arson and other crimes after a May 2020 incident where he lit a boat, a motorhome, and three vehicles on fire near the Ukiah airport. The Mendocino County Superior Court Portal states he was sentenced to three years in state prison as a result of these actions. We were unable to determine when he was released from this sentence.
He has nearly a dozen criminal cases that have gone through the Mendocino County Courts dating as far back as 2002.
In 2014, Malugani sat down with Mendocino County resident Jason Killilea, who at that time was producing a YouTube series entitled “Word On the Street”, where the two discussed Malugani’s life on the streets of Ukiah.
It’s worthy of noting the area where Malugani was found deceased is within walking distance of the railroad tracks that serve as a common route for Ukiah’s homeless to traverse town.