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FORT BRAGG — The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office released a new photo Monday of murder suspect Aaron Bassler, where the fugitive appears to be carrying a high-caliber assault rifle and vandalizing a vacation cabin.

The photo was taken within the last two weeks by one of 40 surveillance cameras placed by law enforcement to aid their search, said Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Tom Allman.

Allman did not give the exact location where the photo was taken. Deputies are searching a 400-square-mile area, and have not left any of the original areas of their search, he said. Bassler is believed to be hiding in the dense, craggy forest between Fort Bragg and Willits, somewhere north of Highway 20.

"We have every reason to believe he is still in the original area," Allman said. "Many people wonder if we are getting closer to a resolution on this, and I assure you that we are."

Deputies are investigating burglaries at three to six other cabins in the area, during which a shotgun and a rifle have been stolen, Allman said.

"There are many vacation cabins in that area that have been broken into," Allman said. "We're obviously very concerned about that."

Bassler is suspected of shooting Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo, 69, and Mendocino Land Trust land manager Matthew Coleman, 45, of Albion. Authorities now have DNA evidence that places Bassler at the scene of Coleman's death, Allman said.

Bassler has not opened fire on any law enforcement officials, Allman said. He was seen about three weeks ago outside his mother's home, but slipped away from authorities. They sent a dog after him, which made contact. From the photo, it appears that Bassler was unharmed and is healthy, Allman said.

Since then, sightings by citizens have been reported to police, but they have not been verified by law enforcement.

"We do not believe Bassler is hunting any individual," Allman said. "We believe he is trying to stay away from society."

Bassler's father agreed.

"He's very unlikely to come out of the woods," James Bassler said in a telephone interview. "That's where he's been, and that's where he'll stay. He's not going to catch a bus out, because he's not comfortable with people."

On Monday, there was no visible sign of law enforcement officers patrolling the area around the home where Bassler's mother lives.

"Since he was first seen, there hasn't been any obvious presence of police," said Betty Stechmeyer, 64, who lives across the street from the property where Bassler was seen three weeks ago. "For several days after that, you could see men in camouflage, but that was very short-lived."

In the photo, Bassler is wearing a light-colored, long-sleeved jacket or shirt, and light colored pants that could be khakis or jeans. His dark hair appears to be recently cut or shaved, and the seat of his pants appears to be ripped. Allman warned that Bassler has dyed his hair before, but said he doesn't know whether Bassler has the materials to do so in the woods.

The U.S. Marshals Service has been working with the Sheriff's Office since the beginning of the search, and has sent its Special Operations Group to help with tactical operations. At times, the searchers get about two hours of sleep in 48 hours, said Mike McCloud, supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service.

"That happens a lot," McCloud said in an interview. "It depends on what information we're getting, what tips. In a rural operation like this, it's totally different than working in Oakland or San Francisco."

The unforgiving terrain is marked by jagged, steep grades, rising swiftly to 400 or 1,600 feet, said Sheriff's Office SWAT Commander Jim Van Hagen.

"It's pretty much straight up on your hands and feet," Van Hagen said. "It's steep country ... He could be sitting three feet away from you, and you wouldn't be able to see him."

Aside from the U.S. Marshals Service, Sheriff's deputies are being assisted by many agencies, including the FBI, the National Guard, federal and state Departments of Justice, sheriff's deputies from Alameda, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Placerville, Riverside and Sonoma counties, Cal Fire, California Highway Patrol, the state Department of Fish and Game, California State Parks, police officers from Fort Bragg, Placerville, Willits and Ukiah, the Fort Bragg Fire Department, and a local welfare fraud investigation unit.

"This is the largest search of any individual in the history of the Sheriff's Office," Allman said. "This last 31 days has presented a lot of information to us. I believe that each day we are getting warmer and warmer."