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Detectives pursue leads in Forestville triple killing

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 9:53 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 7:08 a.m.

Detectives on Thursday continued on the trail of one or more suspects in the killing of three men at a home near Forestville during what appeared to be a botched marijuana deal.

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Todd Klarkowski, one of three men killed at a home near Forestville, in a photo from the Boulder County, Colo., Sheriff's Office

A team of detectives traveled to Truckee, where Sebastopol native and avid snowboarder Raleigh Butler, 24, had been living to interview those who knew him.

Butler and two men from outside the state, Richard Lewin, 46, of Huntington, N.Y., and Todd Klarkow-ski, 42, of Boulder, Colo., gathered Tuesday to buy a large quantity of marijuana at a home in rural Forestville, authorities said.

Instead, the men were shot to death. The assailant left behind no money, no weapons and only a small amount of pot.

Sonoma County Sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary late Thursday said they had no suspects in custody but that he felt confident they were on the right track.

"We have had several people call in with tips, which is assisting with our investigation," O'Leary said.

Authorities revealed nothing about what brought the men together other than the pot deal.

Lewin worked as a stock broker, according to political donation documents. He listed the now-defunct company Basic Investors Inc. as his workplace.

Even less is known about Klarkowski, who served six months in jail after his probation was revoked stemming from a 1999 drug conviction, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

Relatives of both men declined to comment.

Butler's family also said they weren't yet ready to speak about him.

On Thursday, a medical examiner conducted autopsies on two of the men and the third was expected to take place today, O'Leary said. The results were not immediately available.

A team of about 20 Sheriff's Office detectives had been literally working "around the clock," O'Leary said.

"We are working very hard to solve this case," he said.

The killings have stoked discussions about California's illegal marijuana market.

Northern California's permissive culture and high-quality product have long lured people from elsewhere who then sell it out of state, said Tommy LaNier, director of the National Marijuana Initiative, part of the national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.

A pound of pot might sell for $1,500 to $2,000 in the illegal market in California, but "you could probably get $5,000 to $6,000 in Chicago and maybe higher in New York," said LaNier.

"West Coast marijuana is high grade marijuana, that's generally what they want," LaNier said. "If you go across time zones the price goes up significantly."

In Sonoma County, authorities are grappling with the steady stream of crimes surrounding marijuana's illegal trade.

Northern California's reputation as an easy place to score illegal marijuana is "unfortunate," said sheriff's Sgt. Steve Gossett, who runs the narcotics unit. "When you turn it into a business it brings in elements . . . that are going to be problematic."

Anyone with information about the case can call the Sheriff's Office investigations bureau at 565-2185.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220, julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @jjpressdem.

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