Weeks-Long California Manhunt Yields New Clue, Photo of Suspected Killer, Aaron Bassler

Sep 28, 2011 5:00pm
ap aaron bassler murder suspect thg 110928 wblog Weeks Long California Manhunt Yields New Clue, Photo of Suspected Killer, Aaron Bassler

A camera captures suspected murderer Aaron Bassler, on the run from police for weeks. (AP Photo)

Like naturalists searching for an elusive animal, police in California have installed dozens of cameras in the California wilderness looking for signs of a man suspected of murdering two local officials, including a Mendocino city councilman.

Cops believe they got a glimpse of Aaron Bassler, 35, on the run for a month, when one of those cameras snapped the image of a tall white man, his pants torn and his  head shaved, carrying an assault weapon and breaking in to a vacation cabin.

Police made the image public on Tuesday.

The weeks-long manhunt for Bassler has covered hundreds of square miles in the dense redwood forests of Mendocino County north of San Francisco.

Local, state and federal law enforcement officials are using nearly every arrow in their quiver – employing K-9 units, SWAT teams and helicopters.

The area is dotted with wanted posters and hikers are being told to keep off forest trails.  A charity footrace to raise money for the Mendocino Coast Hospital, which traced the area police are searching for Bassler, was cancelled Wednesday.

The manhunt began Aug. 27, when Jere Melo, 69, a councilman and former mayor was shot and killed while walking the woods looking for a suspected marijuana farm. He planned to call the GPS coordinates into police once he discovered the grove.

While Melo searched the woods with a friend, Bassler is believed to have emerged from the woods and gunned the man down, shooting him several times with high-powered shotgun.

Soon after Melo’s death, police connected to the killing to the death of Matthew Coleman, 45, a forest ranger found dead near his car on his rural property near Fort Bragg.

Bassler was spotted one other time since the shootings, near his mother’s home. Police pursued him at the time, but he escaped into the woods.

In the past, “he never really did anything violent, but you could feel the potential there,” his 59-year-old father, James Bassler, told ABC News. “We were all pretty scared of him, that he might go over the edge.”

“He’s likely out there thinking he’s Rambo, shooting the bad guys,” Bassler said. “He’s just totally lost.”

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