Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guerneville, CA: In Search of James Willett (Part 4)

By Wednesday, November 15, 1972 staff writer Bonny Saludes of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat had turned in the following article:

Willett Slayings: Did Wife See Husband Slain?

The slain wife of an ex-Marine whose headless body was found in a shallow grave in Guerneville last Wednesday may have witnessed her husband's killing and agreed to it.

That possibility is being discussed here as investigators evaluate statements of a confidential informant, who was instrumental in the identification of the Guerneville victim and the arrest of suspects in Stockton Sunday.

District Attorney John Hawkes said the ex-Marine, James Willett, 26, allegedly was shot by three members of a armed robbery ring to silence him on October 10.

There is speculation Willett's 19-year-old wife, Laurete (sic), was slain last weekend for a similar purpose.

Three men, Michael Lee Monfort, James Terill Craig, and William Merland Goucher Jr., were charged Monday with first-degree murder in the slaying of Willett, the son of a president of a Kentucky distillery.

Monfort, Craig and three women- Priscilla Copper, Nancy Pitman and Lynette Fromme- are charged with the murder of Mrs. Willett, whose body was unearthed from beneath a Stockton residence early Sunday morning. She reportedly was living in the house with the defendants.

At Hawkes' request at the time he filed the murder complaint, Municipal Court Judge Kiernan Hyland sealed the affidavit which the district attorney filed in support of the complaint.

The document gives details which led to the murder charge. Hawkes' written request to seal the affidavit stated it "contains material which cannot be released to the news media prior to trial of the case."

The Press Democrat has learned that by co-incidence, the confidential informer was reporting a body would be found in Guerneville about the same time an elderly man stumbled upon Willett's shallow grave on a mountain overlooking Guerneville last Wednesday.

About the time of Willett's death, it was learned, Willett reportedly wanted his wife and child disassociated from the alleged robbery ring and wanted her to go to another state.

The wife, however, wanted to continue her associations with the group.

Authorities say they have no evidence other than that indicating Mrs. Willett left the Guerneville area with the suspects on her own volition after her husband's death.

Miss Cooper told Stockton authorities Mrs. Willett was shot by Monfort while he was engaged in a modified version of russian roulette. She said the shooting was "accidental."

Authorities here are skeptical about that story and are wondering if Mrs. Willett was killed to silence her about her husband's death.

According to Hawkes, the robbery ring established headquarters at a Guerneville resort and allegedly went back and forth to Southern California, committing robberies. The four couples reportedly stayed at the resort for about a month.

Monfort, Craig, and Goucher probably will not be prosecuted in Sonoma County for the Willett slaying until well into next year, Hawkes said.

He said San Joaquin County District Attorney Joseph A. Baker told him he intended to prosecute the defendants in Stockton for the wife's murder before releasing them to Sonoma County for trial.

Hawkes said Goucher, who is not charged with the murder of Mrs. Willett, may be brought to Sonoma County sooner than the other two.

He is charged in Stockton with two counts of armed robbery and has already been bound over for trial after a preliminary hearing.

Goucher could be returned here shortly after the first of the year, Hawkes said.

The next scheduled appearance in Stockton for the other defendants is Nov. 28.

Believe it or not Eviliz readers, there is one last part of the Guerneville saga to come. Here's to hoping you are finding this as interesting as Patty does.


Panamint Patty said...

Patty wonders if the confidential informer was Lauren herself and hence the reason she got shot?

eviliz said...

i doubt we will ever know

great job Patty!

Mrstormsurge said...

Lots of Russian Roulette playing around some of these folks.