Sonoma man arrested after Cazadero man’s body found in barrel near Sonoma City Hall
A 40-year-old Sonoma man was arrested Saturday on suspicion of murder after a Cazadero man’s body was found stuffed into a 55-gallon plastic barrel that was discarded near Sonoma City Hall late Friday night.
The Sheriff’s Office identified the victim as Ronald Gordon Sauvageau, 64.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said the Sonoma Police Department received a call at 11:48 p.m. Friday from a person reporting the barrel had been illegally dumped in front of City Hall in the Sonoma Plaza 15 minutes earlier. Investigators discovered a large plastic barrel covered with a blue tarp, with dried blood on the outside of the barrel. They removed the tarp and found Sauvageau’s body inside.
Focha said deputies with the violent crimes and crime scene investigation units cordoned off the area to investigate. Their findings led them to a mobile home at the Acacia Grove Mobile Home Park on Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley, where Focha said detectives believe the killing took place.
Deputies secured a search warrant, then arrested Christopher McNatt on suspicion of murder and a misdemeanor drug charge. He was booked into Sonoma County Jail on a no-bail hold and is due in court at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
An autopsy on Sauvageau’s body will be conducted Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Focha said the weapon believed to be used in the killing has been recovered, but that she did not have any information about the type of weapon, the crime scene, whether Sauvageau’s body had been dismembered, the relationship between the two men or any other details about the events that unraveled in front of Sonoma City Hall.
“I can’t speak to the motivations, but whoever decided to kill the person and bring his body there seems gruesome and disrespectful,” Focha said.
Efforts to reach Sauvageau’s family Saturday were unsuccessful.
Friday’s apparent homicide was the second in Wine Country in less than a week. On Monday, a bitter business dispute led a Napa Valley vintner to kill his former investor, then himself.
The vintner, Robert Dahl, drew a gun fitted with a silencer and shot investor Emad Tawfilis, then led Napa County sheriff’s deputies on a high-speed chase before killing himself, officials said.
Sauvageau’s killing is the second homicide case in Sonoma County this year, following the fatal shooting of Olga Dinelli, 84, of Penngrove, inside her home on Feb. 26.
Focha said at least a half-dozen deputies with the Sheriff’s Office and Sonoma Police Department still were investigating the Sonoma death. The Sheriff’s Office operates Sonoma’s police department under an agreement with the city.
Deputies detained a second man in connection with the death early Saturday, but he was later let go. Focha said she had no additional details about what led to the detainment or why he was released. Focha also said that although the mobile home park near El Verano appeared to be the scene of the killing, she could not say where the two men were arrested.
“I do not have any details about where they were picked up,” Focha said. “I have no idea why they let the other person go.”
Sheriff’s officials said there is no danger to the public, but Focha said she couldn’t say whether police still were looking for additional people involved in the killing.
“There’s no danger to the public,” Focha said. “But no, I don’t know if they’re looking for other suspects.”
Sonoma Mayor David Cook declined to comment on the crime specifically, but thanked deputies for their efforts in the ongoing investigation. Cook said he was just learning details of the crime Saturday afternoon.
“This is a sad day,” Cook said. “It’s hard for me to say more without knowing any of the other details, but I would say that residents need to be aware of our surroundings - bad things happen, even in small towns.”
Martin Chavez, who owns The Plaza Bistro near City Hall with his wife, Blanca, said he learned about the crime from news reports. He said it alarmed him, and he planned to immediately look around the area and talk to other businesses to let them know.
“This is a shock,” Chavez said. “We see people having too much fun sometimes, but never, ever anything like this.”
Chavez said he left work, near the Plaza, around 11:15 Friday night - just 15 minutes before the initial call to police reporting the barrel.
“People were walking around. There were people in the Plaza, but I didn’t hear any commotion or anything,” Chavez said. “Maybe we need more police presence once in a while.”
Staff Writer Guy Kovner contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or email@example.com. On Twitter @ahartreports.