Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Homicide of a Ukiah Man Found Dead Along Low Gap Road Remains Unsolved Nearly Two Years Later 

Workers carving out Low Gap Road in the 1930s [Picture from WPA]

Low Gap Road is one of those Mendocino County thoroughfares that is carved out of the wild.  The road is a product of the New Deal, funded in part by the Work Projects Administration. Members of the Silent Generation toiled in the rock, completing the road in 1938.

Beginning in Ukiah proper, Low Gap Road meanders past the jail, the high school, and the cemetery, and abruptly ascends the Ukiah Valley’s Western Hills following the topography of bluffs rising above Orr Creek.

On November 4, 2020, law enforcement learned of an unnerving find twelve miles up Low Gap Road.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the 11000 block of the rural roadway. Along the side of the road deputies located what appeared to be clothing, someone’s belongings, and human bones. The body was spread across the hillside which deputies attributed to animals. The remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. Deputies gathered the remains for analysis.

On November 19, 2020, MCSO published a press release informing the public of the grisly discovery. The agency asked that anyone with knowledge of how the human remains came to be on the side of Low Gap Road come forward. 

The story came and went. The public’s interest in the case largely faded. But, investigators kept at it. MCSO’s Captain Greg Van Patten told us what they found.

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In spite of the advanced state of decomposition, investigators dusted off the old-school detective playbook and gave fingerprint analysis a try. What could have been a long shot proved a slam dunk. Investigators found a match. The fingerprints gave a name and face to the remains found on the side of Low Gap Road.

Raul Tellez-Santos [Mugshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office]

The body found on that November day proved to be a 27-year-old Ukiah man by the name of Raul Tellez-Santos. Captain Van Patten said the man had never been reported as a missing person by a concerned loved one. 

Investigators concluded Tellez-Santos had died the victim of a homicide, his life taken by an unknown other. 

Very little is known about Tellez-Santos. Documents we obtained tied him to Cloverdale. The most accessible information about the man was buried in a police blotter describing a pattern of law enforcement interactions he had in the year before he was found dead and abandoned on Low Gap Road. 

Between November 2019 and the discovery of his body, he was arrested at least four times for a variety of charges such as disorderly conduct, attempted burglary, possession of a controlled substance, and resisting an officer. 

Sadly, we could find no other documentation of his life. Law enforcement confirmed they had informed his next-of-kin, but there was no obituary to be found. Tellez-Santos had no social media fingerprint, nor presence in newspaper archives. Though Tellez-Santos’s remains were identified, the life he lived and who killed him remains a mystery.

Sheriff Matt Kendall told us cases like those of Tellez-Santos invoke law enforcement’s fundamental duty to find justice for the victims of crime. “When the victim is no longer with us, we have to pick up the flag for them. It’s our job to solve the case.” 

As public interest fades and cases lie dormant, Sheriff Kendall said police become “advocates for victims” actively working cases even when family, friends, and the community have moved on. 

In a case like Tellez-Santos’s, Sheriff Kendall said “No one deserves to be murdered. Everything they have, everything they are going to have, is taken away. They are stolen from their lives and their families.”

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Sheriff Kendall predicted that this case’s resolution will most likely come in the form of human intelligence offered by one of three types of tipsters: a community member who saw something that is hard to forget, someone who is arrested offering information for leniency, or someone with a heavy conscience ready for absolution. 

Residents of Mendocino County: one of you could be the one that helps bring Tellez-Santos’s killer to justice.

Family and friends of Tellez-Santos: what do you know about his movements and relationships in the month preceding the discovery of his body? Where was he hanging out? Who was he hanging out with?

Residents of Low Gap Road: do you recall anything notable that occurred between September 15 and November 14, 2020 somewhere near the 11000 block? Any cars or people that stick out in your mind?

Captain Van Patten said, “We would ask for the public’s assistance with any information concerning contact with him prior to his disappearance and later discovered death.”

If you know something that could help investigators understand what happened to Raul Tellez-Santos, contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Bureau at 707-463-4421 or the MCSO Tip-Line at 707-234-2100.

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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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