Shooting Death Investigation Uncovers Illegal Pot Farm

OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) — The shooting death of man in rural Northern California has led to five arrests, including his father and two brothers who are accused of trying to hide the body to prevent investigators from discovering an illegal marijuana growing operation, authorities said.

Butte County deputies found 33-year-old Melvin Garcia-Vargas dead with a gunshot wound in the back of an SUV parked along a remote road on Sept. 11, sheriff's officials said.

The next day detectives spoke with the victim's father, Carlos Garcia-Hernandez, at his home in Sacramento. Officials said deputies found evidence at the home and obtained a search warrant.

Investigators determined Garcia-Vargas died at an illegal pot farm controlled by his father in the Forbestown area.

The detectives found evidence that indicated the father and his two other adult sons, Juan Garcia-Vargas and Ronald Garcia-Vargas, moved and concealed the man’s body, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Eventually investigators determined the three men controlled multiple other cannabis growing operations. Five guns and more than 1,400 pot plants were found at seven plots of land, the newspaper said.

Sheriff’s officials said detectives found evidence that indicated Melvin Garcia-Vargas likely accidentally shot himself while working at the location in Forbestown.

Garcia-Hernandez, 66, and his two sons, Juan, 27, and Ronald, 28, were each arrested on misdemeanor charges of illegal marijuana cultivation, possessing marijuana for sale and unlawfully moving and disposing of human remains, sheriff’s officials said.

Juan Cruzcupido, 33, and Edgar Najera, 50, both of Sacramento, also were arrested. Cruzcupido and Najera were each arrested on misdemeanor charges of illegal marijuana cultivation and possessing marijuana for sale. Cruzcupido faces an additional charge of unlawfully moving and disposing of human remains.

The investigation is ongoing. It wasn't known Sunday if the men have attorneys.