Aaron Bassler's dark descent

  • Aaron Bassler, suspect in the shooting death of Jere Melo of Ft. Bragg. (Mendocino County Sheriff)

The death of 35-year-old murder suspect Aaron Bassler brings to an end 16 years of what his family has described as "a slow motion train wreck."

Aaron Bassler was a shy but seemingly normal boy until his late teens, when he began a dark descent into mental illness, according to his family.

"He was fine. He was happy," his father, James Bassler, said during an interview early in the five-week manhunt for his son, who was charged with the murders of a Fort Bragg forester and a land trust steward.

Shootout In Search For Aaron Bassler


There were no signs in Bassler's youth that his life would turn violent.

He played baseball and had a job delivering newspapers, according to his family.

But that changed when Aaron reached the age of 18 or 19, according to family members, who believe he suffered from schizophrenia.

Bassler had at least nine brushes with the law since he turned 19 in 1995, when he was given two years probation for driving under the influence. He's since been arrested and charged with crimes that include prowling, vandalism, carrying a concealed Glock pistol and resisting arrest, according to court records.

Bassler liked and collected guns, said his father, who could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Initially, James Bassler blamed drugs and alcohol use for the change in his son's behavior. But as the behavior became increasingly strange, he became convinced his son suffered from mental illness.

Aaron Bassler was unable to hold a steady job for any length of time, his father said.

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