Man gets 14 years in prison for Laytonville pot murder

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The first of seven men involved in the brutal slaying of a Laytonville marijuana grower has been sentenced to 14 years in state prison, while the other six are scheduled for sentencing Friday, the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office said.

Four relatives of the victim, Jeffery Quinn Settler, 35, traveled from Texas to Ukiah to attend the sentencing of Michael Andrew Kane, 27, of Pleasantville, New York. He was one of the seven men Settler had hired as marijuana trimmers who were suspected of fleeing from the remote property in the hills northwest of Laytonville with 100 pounds of marijuana.

Settler’s father, sister and brother delivered before Superior Court Judge John Behnke “moving statements” on the impact the slaying had on their family, prosecutors said in a news release. Settler’s mother also attended the hearing.

The slaying at Settler’s remote marijuana growing operation on Nov. 11, 2016, came during the annual harvest season and upset Laytonville residents who considered him a local.

Settler, a father of three, had been growing cannabis in Laytonville for about 10 years, relatives said.

Kane pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter by use of a hatchet and robbery of an inhabited dwelling while acting in concert with others, both felonies, the District Attorney’s Office said.

The sentence was the maximum allowed by law for those crimes, prosecutors said.

Because the two crimes are deemed violent, any credits for good behavior or prison work Kane may attempt to earn while incarcerated may not exceed 15 percent of his sentence.

Investigators said in 2016 the trimmers surprised Settler at night while he slept in a shed that housed the marijuana. A source said he was beaten and stabbed, suffering defensive wounds as well as lethal injuries as he fought back. Some of the trimmers had been evicted from the property days before the killing, and there may have been a dispute over payment, authorities said.

Kane surrendered to authorities at the Mexican border in January 2017.

Others were arrested at different times in Mendocino County, South Lake Tahoe, Southern California and Virginia.

The other co-defendants are: Gary Blank III of Garberville; Jesse Wells of Laytonville; Frederick Gaestel of Clifton, New Jersey; Zachary Ryan Wuester of Haskell, New Jersey; Gary Lynn Fitzgerald of Roanoke, Illinois; and Abdirahman Mohamed of San Diego.

They’re scheduled for sentencing at 9 a.m. Friday at the Ukiah courthouse and will each receive a stipulated state prison sentence.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457.

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