Robert Frost used the line “Good fences make good neighbors” in his poem “Mending Wall”, but what if a neighbor steals your fence?
The town of Caspar is a small community of about 500 people located on the Mendocino coastline, between the towns of Fort Bragg and Mendocino just north of the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. It stretches from the beach and rocky coast inland to the Mendocino Woods State Park. One of the roads leading inland from Highway 1 (the Shoreline Highway) is Caspar Orchard Road, a narrow winding path through the woods that is barely over one lane wide, and as it goes further into the forest, becomes a gravel road. It was at a home along this road that a man woke up Saturday, June 13 to find his split rail fence, built along his private driveway, had been destroyed.
The man counted 41 redwood fence rails missing, and contacted the Sheriff’s office to report the theft. According to a Sheriff’s press release, a deputy sent to the property took the victim’s description of the rails, and examined the ones that remained. The investigating deputy filed the report, and the department broadcast a description of the missing property to the other Deputy Sheriffs in the area.
Three days later, on Tuesday June 16, a patrol deputy noticed a black Dodge Durango pickup truck parked along the Shoreline Highway, north of Fort Bragg and across from MacKerricher State Park at Simpson Road. The truck was loaded with redwood split rails.
After spotting the suspected rails, the deputy stopped and spoke with the driver of the truck, John Patrick Cooley Jr.,38. A closer inspection of the cargo revealed the wood perfectly matched the description of the stolen fencing – there were even 41 of them in the truck. The man who had reported the theft was brought to the scene, and he positively identified his missing property. A further inspection of the truck revealed a small pipe with methamphetamine residue.
Cooley, who lives in the rural south part of the neighboring town of Fort Bragg, about an 8 mile drive from the victim’s property, was arrested for possession of stolen property and drug paraphernalia, and cited with a promise to appear in court. The fence rails were returned to the property owner, and the meth pipe was confiscated as evidence.
It was just a month prior, on May 14, that Cooley was arrested in Fort Bragg on charges of felony grand theft, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, and violating probation. He was also arrested in March, for trespassing at a home along Highway 1 in the town of Westport in the northern section of Mendocino County.
Seventeen years ago, when Cooley was just 21, he made the local news when he was spotted by Fort Bragg police breaking into cars. According to an archived story from the Ukiah Daily Journal, Police Sergeant John Naulty watched as Cooley parked his pickup truck at Noyo Point Road, crossed the street, and begin checking out cars parked at the Perko’s Cafe and Surrey Inn Motel (now a Super 8). As the sergeant called for assistance, he observed Cooley burglarize a convertible car, and then attempt to get into 24 other cars in the lot. He finally got into a red Subaru that belonged to a guest at the motel, and was in that car when the sergeant and two officers arrested him. He was charged with attempted burglary and prowling. He was already on probation for burglary at that time.
Read More: Ukiah Daily Journal (1997)