Though the Humboldt County-centered, true-crime documentary Murder Mountain was first launched by Fusion, it noticed a surge in reputation after dropping on Netflix in late December. The six-episode collection takes its identify from Alderpoint, a small, census-designated space of Humboldt County that has earned itself the grim, alliterative nickname with salacious tales of thriller and homicide. In Murder Mountain, filmmakers present the halcyon “hippie paradise” days of early hashish farmers juxtaposed towards a contemporary Humboldt the place extra individuals go lacking yearly than some other county in California. An unresolved homicide, alleged outlaw tradition, a gaggle of vigilantes, and gritty lacking posters are the typically overly dramatic hooks of the collection. However, viewers will even discover heroes in long-time farmers making an attempt to safe permits to legally develop hashish, in addition to group members devoted to discovering justice for the lacking and the lifeless.
The narrative has been trigger for controversy, with rebuttals coming from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Humboldt County residents, and the filmmakers themselves. But if there’s one factor events can agree on, it’s that Humboldt County should be a spot the place farmers can equitably make a protected and authorized dwelling. We spoke to filmmakers and topics to get a fuller image of “Murder Mountain” and what occurs subsequent.
Humboldt County’s Missing
Murder Mountain was directed by Joshua Zeman and produced by media firm Lightbox, co-founded by cousins Simon and Jonathan Chinn. Jonathan Chinn tells High Times that they have been first drawn to the county’s lacking individuals statistics, in addition to its long-standing ties to hashish—an business that lastly, at the very least in California, may supply a authorized strategy to earn a dwelling.
“From a storytelling point of view, it was kind of a perfect storm,” Chinn stated. “All these missing people [and] a community that had a rich history. The origination story of the [cannabis] industry up there is pretty fascinating, and we were going to be there literally during the transition from black to white market.”
Just how dangerous is the lacking individuals epidemic in Humboldt County? In early 2018, The North Coast Journal discovered that a mean of 717 individuals per 100,000 residents have been reported lacking per yr between 2000 and 2016, in comparison with a mean of 384 individuals all through the remainder of the state. The investigation additionally identified that some individuals are inadvertently reported lacking greater than as soon as, some are found to have gone voluntarily lacking, and lots of reappear shortly after the report is made. Rebekah Martinez, a 22-year-old California lady listed as lacking in that very same article, was shortly situated by a tipster. Where was she? Starring as a contestant on The Bachelor. Martinez had certainly gone to Humboldt County to decompress, however a scarcity of cell service had prevented her from getting ahold of her fearful mom or regulation enforcement.
For those that are so lucky to be discovered alive, the lack of cell service, the remoteness of the space, and the fixed inflow of naive, car-less “trimmigants” hoping to work for strangers are all key explanation why, in accordance with Murder Mountain. Plus, many individuals really feel uncomfortable reporting suspicious or criminality to regulation enforcement.
“There’s absolutely a tradition of people up on the mountain not wanting to come forward and it makes sense,” Chinn stated. “They’re like, ‘what do you do?’ ‘Well, I grow marijuana.’ ‘Oh, well, do you have a permit?’ You can understand why, in a community that has historically been engaged in a criminal activity, probably the last place you’d want to walk into is a police station.”
It’s a standard concern in different black market or legally grey industries, too. The deeper underground an business is pushed by persecution or prosecution, the extra unsafe it turns into for the most weak of its individuals.
Soon after arriving in Humboldt, filmmakers have been captivated by the story of Garret Rodriguez, a 29-year-old San Diego man whose father reported him lacking in 2013. Rodriguez had advised his father he was going to Humboldt County to work in the hashish business and, particularly, he was going to a spot referred to as ‘Murder Mountain.’
In the early 1980s, James “Michael Bear” and Suzan “Bear” Carson murdered at the least three individuals alongside the West Coast. Their second sufferer, Clark Stephens, labored with the couple on a hashish farm in Alderpoint. The Carsons are an enormous a part of how ‘Murder Mountain’ received its identify. So is the disappearance of Bobby Tennison, a father of 4 who went lacking after going as much as Alderpoint to work a contract development gig in 2009, and so is Rodriguez. A 2013 Huffington Post article on ‘Murder Mountain’ referenced long-time homesteaders who complained that the so-called Green Rush had attracted hustlers out for straightforward cash, who introduced with them exhausting medicine and transients.
Several months after Rodriguez disappeared, a gaggle of eight vigilantes often known as the Alderpoint eight confronted the man they believed to be accountable at gunpoint. He would finally cause them to the place Rodriguez’s physique had been buried, however nobody has been arrested. A confession at gunpoint could possibly be thought-about coercion. Witnesses have been obfuscated or killed. Rodriguez was shot, however the homicide weapon hasn’t been discovered. While many individuals are satisfied they know who the killer is, formally, Rodriguez’s homicide stays unsolved.
In the wake of Murder Mountain, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office discovered themselves inundated with inquiries from viewers who additionally needed justice for Rodriguez. In response, HCSO issued a press release calling Murder Mountain “one side of a highly sensationalized story,” and emphasised that they might not deliver a case towards somebody on “hearsay” alone. The assertion additionally corroborated some extent made in the documentary: some residents stay reluctant or unwilling to speak to regulation enforcement.
Bonnie Taylor, Garrett Rodriguez’s aunt, fired again, saying she felt the collection’ depiction was correct and it was “clear to me that [HCSO] only sought to discredit the documentary because it exposes their incompetence in the case.”
Chinn stated he has nothing however respect for the HCSO, however stands by the collection.
“I guess the decision they made was to sort of write it off as a Hollywood fantasy,” Chinn stated. “But I don’t think that aligns with what a lot of other people in Humboldt are saying which is, ‘yeah, we’ve got a real problem here, in that there is not enough trust between law enforcement and the growing community and that needs to improve if the county is going to move in the direction that I think everybody wants.’”
The Rest of Humboldt County
Other characters the documentary adopted supply a key dichotomy: these hashish farmers who need to be authorized and people who both can’t afford it or preferring “outlaw culture.” One grower, recognized solely as ‘Austin,’ needs nothing to do with a authorized operation. He engages in dangerous conduct and offers with authorized and different troubles due to it.
Meanwhile, Marion Collamer is a voice of cause in the documentary. She got here to Humboldt 20 years in the past to work on a farm and has by no means left. She now raises her household together with her husband, Greg, whom she met as a trimmigrant and later married. She stated as quickly as authorized rising was an choice, they jumped on it. The various, she stated, is “a horrible way to live.”
Collamer stated she initially agreed to be in the collection to speak about hashish legalization and the way it was affecting Humboldt’s OGs and was stunned at the present’s true-crime focus. And whereas she felt like the illustration of regulation enforcement, Humboldt’s OG growers, and the plight of small farmers was correct, she needs individuals to know Humboldt isn’t a scary place. For one factor, Humboldt is massive: it’s the second largest county in California, and her personal farm is over a three-hour drive from Alderpoint.
“There’s one part [in the film] where this guy is saying there’s a dark energy here,” Collamer stated. “There’s not a dark energy here. The Humboldt that I know is light and beautiful, and this county has given so many people so much. Yes, there are old-school farms and outlaws, but there are also a lot of people who are trying to bring new technology and the latest laws and the latest packaging—anything we can do to make our county able to fight with the Coke and Pepsis of weed that are coming in.”
In one scene in Murder Mountain, residents converse at a council assembly about the wrestle of small farmers making an attempt to turn out to be authorized. Collamer says the tears and frustration captured by cameras have been actual. She personally believes that legalization ought to supply totally different requirements for various tiers in order that small farmers can get a break. To climate the storm till then, Collamer is a founding farmer with The Humboldt Sun Growers Guild and the model True Humboldt, which is comprised of sun-grown hashish from farms throughout the space. This approach, small farms can band collectively and hopefully keep afloat regardless of the excessive prices of legalization.
Collamer additionally disagrees with a quote from Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal suggesting that there’s nothing about Humboldt County that makes it a very good place to develop hashish besides that its distant woodiness makes it straightforward to cover.
“That’s one hundred percent wrong,” Collamer stated. “It is the land, the terroir, the pollinates—Humboldt County is more than just a place where weed is grown; it’s a place where it’s part of the culture and people are very passionate about making it work here.”
Further, Collamer hopes that the collection doesn’t dissuade anybody interested in the space or business from visiting.
“I would encourage anyone who was shocked or scared by Murder Mountain to come here and find out for themselves,” Collamer stated. “I came here and never left. There is something special here.”
Will Garret’s Family Ever Receive Justice?
In early February, KFMB News eight in San Diego used courtroom data to determine the man confronted by the Alderpoint eight, one thing the documentary didn’t do. (As Chinn famous, “People are innocent until proven guilty in this country, and we believe in that.”) Humboldt County’s District Attorney has to date opted to not file felony costs, however all is not misplaced for Rodriguez’s household. The investigation stays open, and there could also be some hope in an alleged confederate who might present witness testimony and in a few of the statements offered by interview topics in Murder Mountain. Rodriguez’s household is presently accepting donations by way of GoFundMe to proceed to pay personal investigators to remain on the case, a price they’ve already shouldered themselves for six years.
Chinn stated that whereas there is no agenda to make a sequel, they do really feel as if they know what occurred to Rodriguez and can be focused on returning to Humboldt if the case have been to maneuver ahead.
“My desire would be that the Humboldt County law enforcement takes another look at this case and if they do, and it moves forward, and we have an opportunity to pick up the story and try to bring it to a more satisfying conclusion for the family, we’d love to do it,” Chinn stated. “But we have no plans right now to do that. It’s really up to the family members and law enforcement to figure out the next step.”
If something, filmmakers hope that Murder Mountain results in additional dialogue. And, judging from the response, it’s definitely executed that.