Mostly clear

Laytonville men identified in marijuana and weapons bust

Authorities Thursday identified three Laytonville residents and a fourth man as those arrested in connection with illegal marijuana gardens found on private land west of Laytonville.

Deputies made the arrests during the same Wednesday morning operation when an officer shot and killed a man suspected of guarding a pot crop, Mendocino County sheriff's officials said.

Gerald Stephenson, 52, Kelly Dutra, 41, and David Higgs, 50, all of Laytonville, were arrested along with 22-year-old Delfino Contreras, described as a transient, at a residence on the property where agents also uncovered marijuana plants, firearms and narcotic paraphernalia, Capt. Kurt Smallcomb said.

The suspects were discovered at about 6 a.m. as agents raided a residence off Branscomb Road on a 574-acre property called Mendocino Magic, a remote wooded property with rolling hills, a private campground and a reservoir known for its trout fishing.

Authorities Thursday were still investigating if those arrested were involved in two large marijuana gardens found nearby where violence erupted when deputies arrived, Smallcomb said.

Dutra apparently lived on the property. The other men's connection to the property was not known.

Brigid Holland, who also goes by Stacey, said her family has owned Mendocino Magic for many years. She said she suspected illegal growers had taken over remote parts of the land, which stretches over about a square mile, Holland said.

"There are certain areas I don't want to go," Holland said.

Renters are asked to sign a lease that specifically prohibits them from growing or using illegal substances on the property, she said. She doesn't travel to the property often from her San Francisco area residence and has had trouble monitoring activities, she said. She's asked law enforcement officials to help keep watch.

"I've said, &‘Please come every month and scour this property,'" Holland said.

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