Two men with ties to Sonoma County are among the 25 "most wanted" fugitives featured on a new website through which federal law enforcement officials hope to enlist the public's assistance in tracking down wanted suspects from Northern California.
Those profiled on the site, which was unveiled Tuesday, include a one-time Santa Rosa man, Grant Lavell Hudson III, who fled the area in 2003 on the eve of trial on charges he molested a girl over a period of about eight years, federal officials and court records said.
Hudson, 67, already was a convicted sex offender and had been bound over for trial on 13 newer felony counts involving suspected molestation of the girl, a relative, when he was released from jail and later disappeared, court records say.
Also among the most wanted is a Sonoma County gang member suspected in the slaying of a Ukiah man a little more than a year ago, police and federal law enforcement personnel said.
Manuel Rodriguez, 22, may have fled to Mexico in the wake of the Sept. 4 death of the victim, Duane Johnson, 45, Ukiah police said last year.
Johnson had been found unresponsive on Ukiah's North Main Street after what at first was believed to have been a fall, police said.
Investigation later revealed he had been the victim of "foul play," and Rodriguez was identified as the suspect, though investigators have revealed little else about the case.
Rodriguez and Hudson appear on the website because of violent histories that suggest they could still pose a risk to the public, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Joseph Palmer, a member of the agency's Fugitive Task Force.
They're "people that we think are out there committing other crimes while they're in that fugitive status," Palmer said Wednesday.
The new project, dubbed a Fugitive Awareness Initiative, is the product of the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which will manage the website.
It was created specifically for the federal Department of Justice's 15-county Northern California District and is unique to the country, Palmer said.
Though there are thousands of fugitives from justice wanted by federal officials, 25 were selected to launch the site based on the need to bring them into custody, the stage of development in their criminal cases and the certainty that each of the individuals knows he or she is being sought and is actively evading capture, Palmer said.
Most of the criminals on the fugitive list are sought in connection with crimes committed in the past 10 or 15 years, but three escaped from the federal prison at Alcatraz in 1962 and would be in their 80s if they were even still alive.
Palmer said the Alcatraz inmates were included because they are perhaps the area's "most infamous," though there's a high likelihood they did not survive the crossing from the island prison to San Francisco and the mainland. The primary evidence of their demise is the absence of any documented contact between any of the escapees and law enforcement — hard to imagine given their lengthy criminal careers.
But Palmer said an investigator on their case for the last decade or so continues to investigate it actively and receive several new leads every year, including one very recently. Each arrest warrant remains active until the subject is confirmed dead, confirmed captured or would have reached the age of 99.