Netflix’s Murder Mountain intrigued, shocked and thrilled viewers, as it provided an in-depth look into a rather seedy part of California – known as “Murder Mountain”. The central theme of this show was the unexplained death of Garret Rodriguez, and the involvement of the marijuana industry.
His father, along with various people that knew Garret, played a central role in the show. The show was emotional, and the viewer was left wondering about Garret’s fate, and the exact circumstances behind it.
Please note that if you haven’t yet seen Murder Mountain, or are partway through the show, that spoilers are ahead.
Murder Mountain was set in Humboldt County in Northern California – it is an area renowned for being home to many marijuana farmers. Many marijuana farmers have made significant money due to their geographic position.
While some of the industry is above board and legal, a good portion is also illegal, and kept firmly away from public view. The area that farms marijuana in the county spans 10,000 square miles.
While most people would instantly expect a show that involves marijuana growing to be rather jovial, Murder Mountain is the opposite. It is somewhat ironic, that a substance that many consume in some way for its stress-relieving properties (among others), is the source of significant trouble in this show.
As the early episodes show, many teenagers/young adults visit the area, hoping to get a job in one of the many marijuana farms in the area – with the county accounting for 60% of the marijuana grown in the United States.
But it is not just the occasional death that blights the area – sex trafficking, forced labour, mass disappearances and murder are all commonly seen in the area.
Garret Rodriguez was a 29-year old man from San Diego, California. He moved to a more northern area of California – Humboldt County – in December 2012. His family had urged him not to go to the area, but he did anyway. By April 2013, his father had reported him as missing.
This report came after Garret’s father realised that no one had made contact with Garret in three-four months. While it was far from unusual to go many weeks from hearing from Garret, there was cause for concern on this occasion. Friends and family compared their notes regarding when they had last heard from him, which eventually sparked the missing person’s report.
Investigation into Garret Rodriguez’s Disappearance
The show suggested that the Police had a rather blasé reaction towards Garret’s disappearance – believing that he would show up in a few weeks. This belief was based on past experiences involving disappearances in the area. The show also showed though that a huge number of disappearances are reported in the area.
The Rodriguez family hired a Private Investigator to look into Garret’s disappearance. Chris Cook was quick to learn that those in the area thought that Garret was dead. But he discovered that the mountain range was a rather hostile place, with danger all around.
Garret was known to be working at a ranch known as Rancho Sequoia – which dated its marijuana growing practices back to the 1970s. But it also had a reputation for being a dangerous place – with the 1982 murder of Clark Stevens in the area making the news. Stevens was allegedly murdered by the serial killer duo of Michael and Suzan Carson.
But this was far from the only mysterious activity in the area, with multiple disappearances being reported. In fact, the North Coast Journal reported in 2017 that 717 people per 100,000 go missing in the county annually.
A well-publicised disappearance came in 2009, when a man who had gone to the area in search of a construction job – Robert Tennision – went missing. In 2018, there were 35 people in a California database focused on missing persons in the county.
In May 2013, a few weeks after the missing person’s report was filed, Garret’s truck was found on someone else’s property – in a rather secluded area over 20 miles from where he was working. While puzzling, there was no evidence that suggested that Garret was in any danger.
The family who owned the property where Garret’s truck was found helped investigators. But there was no sign of the person that left the truck there, nor did anyone know who had left the truck there, nor why.
The Police finally treated Garret as a missing person following the discovery of Garret’s vehicle. But tragedy would follow, as in December 2013, Garret’s body was found in a shallow grave within the county. The discovery left Garret’s family devastated, but intent on finding out the circumstances behind his death.
But, as any documentary aficionado can attest to, someone being found in a shallow grave usually suggests that something nefarious led to that moment. Another strange occurrence was that Garret’s body was found due to a phone call from a citizen – though little information has ever been given about this call.
The Murder of Neil Decker
In what at first seemed to be an unrelated case, a man imprisoned for the murder of Neil Decker – who had also died in Humboldt County, appealed his conviction. This man was named Matthew Aaron Brown. This murder was also an important part of the show.
When appealing his conviction, he stated that in November 2013, he witnessed two people – one of which was Decker – holding a blindfolded man in the back of a car. Brown allegedly asked Decker why, and Brown purportedly said that they had kidnapped the man so that he would lead them to where Garret’s body was buried.
And with that, suddenly a new strand of inquiry was added to Garret Rodriguez’s case. If Brown was telling the truth, it suggests that Garret’s death was very complex.
Soon after the discovery of Garret’s truck in May, a posse of eight men formed in Alderpoint – a town close to the area where Garret went missing. The group decided to take the investigation into their own hands, with the group looking to find out what happened to Garret.
While their motivation was unclear, they were reportedly frustrated with the slow pace that the investigation was being carried out with. The Alderpoint 8 soon confronted a man that they believed was connected to the disappearance.
They forced the man at gunpoint to take them to the location of Garret’s body. The man was later treated in hospital for non-life-threatening wounds. The body was indeed found the next day, presumably due to the Alderpoint 8’s actions in investigating their suspect.
Returning to Decker – the man who had been killed – he was a part of the Alderpoint 8. The 8-strong group had been praised by locals, who largely viewed the Police’s investigation as inept. The Police in response believed that the vigilantes had hampered their investigation, rather than helped it.
No one was arrested despite the body being found, and there appear to be no witnesses willing to come forward with information. The Police were able to deduce that Garret had been shot dead, but the murder weapon has never been found.
Court records were later unsealed, which revealed a 25-year old man named Quentin Lenig to be the man that was blindfolded and allegedly taken to show where Garret’s body was located. In the intervening months, there has mysteriously been no update regarding Lenig.
The Netflix series ended on a cliffhanger, and without any real answers. This left viewers perplexed as to further developments. It is likely that a second season will take place at some point.
But for Garret’s family, it is obviously far more than just a TV show. They are yet to have any justice for Garret’s death, and still have countless unanswered questions.
Fast forward to over six years, and no one has ever been formally charged over the death of Garret.
The investigation is still open. The Humboldt County police investigators stated that the series Murder Mountain was “highly-sensationalized”, which included presenting information “that was not credible”.
The family of Garret, and all those with missing loved ones in the area, continue to search for answers. Garret’s family have set up a GoFundMe, in an attempt to raise money to pay for further private investigations.