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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quail Hollow Ranch, Blood Orange Moon

For the last two nights, I have been testing a theory about where Asha Veil might have died, murdered by Michael McClish.  Again, it's the foxtails found in her clothing, and the fact that her backpack was found a very short distance from Quail Hollow Ranch, in the brush on the right-hand side of the road as you travel towards Ben Lomond, tossed into brush over a barbed wire fence at the side of the road.

Quail Hollow Ranch is a couple of miles from Ben Lomond, and is an amazing place, with acres of grasslands, a pond, thick clusters of oaks, madrones, etc. There is a large ranch house, painted white; my kids and I used to go to presentations there: one lady brought bats that were being rehabilitated; once there was a great presentation on the moon, and then a night of stargazing with the astronomy club; there was a guy called the Rock Hound who knew EVERYTHING about local rocks and identified a fossil clam that my son found years ago.  It's a nice place.  It takes a bit of time to get down to the ranch house; the place is like a small valley.

CG and I talked at length about it last night, as he watched Thistle whilst I traipsed around murder sites (there is something very odd about that, but you can't write a book like this without immersing in the scenario).  I drove first to Quail Hollow Ranch and parked my car, got out to look around. Pitch black.  No moon, not due to rise for an hour (we had carefully checked the moon phase for the night she was killed, and its position in the sky--the Internet is a wonderful thing).  Heavy brush and trees down around the pond, the thick grasslands white, everything dry as it is this time of year.  The gate wide open, ranch house completely dark, all the expanse unoccupied (it's hard to convey how large this place is).  No houses around this part of the road.


My theory:  McClish took Asha Veil up to Quail Hollow Ranch, ostensibly to talk about the baby/child support issue.  They had a history of hanging out in odd places (Asha thought Anina was conceived in the Felton Cemetery).  Asha might have still been wearing her market apron when she was found, which seems unusual to me, but there are verified reports she was much more quiet and seemed upset that day, and given the confrontation, she probably wasn't doing things she usually did, like remove her apron at the end of a work day.

I believe they went somewhere down the road at the ranch, cut the lights, stopped the truck, and walked into the grasslands, maybe by the pond.  The pond area is the only place which has a turnout before the main ranch, and all of the road and turnout is paved and would not pick up track marks from his truck.   My theory is that he spread a tarp out for them to sit on, as she was found with tarp material all over her clothes and beneath her fingernails, as well as a sliver of her own skull under a fingernail.

I believe he killed her there, on top of the tarp, and threw the bludgeoning weapon into the pond, where it would quickly sink into silt.  The pond is also quite full now, even in drought, and would have been fuller then, in a non-drought year.

CG theorizes that particular weapon was the business end of a heavy-duty mag light, as the weapon left black epoxy on her skull.  These are very heavy flashlights, by the way, and the batteries make them even heavier. A mag light (or other flashlight) would be likely carried so they could see a little ways in the pitch black park.  She likely fell on the tarp at some point, and scratched or clutched at it somehow (her nails were described as having blue, waxy material under them. I went outside today and scratched lightly at a tarp, and came away with blue, waxy material under my nails).  She also must have scrabbled at the wound on her head and picked up the skull fragment.  If they had walked into the brushy grassland by the pond, many trees would have absorbed the noise, and the tarp would have allowed for less or no blood to fall on the ground.  In the course of the struggle or after, she would likely have picked up many foxtails even on a tarp: they grow everywhere there (I mean, field after field of them) and the foxtails get scattered at the slightest touch.

I believe McClish wrapped her in the tarp, dragged or carried her the very short distance from the pond to the turnout, got her in the truck bed, and concealed her.  She was covered in bloody foxtails at that point, and her backpack was also bloody, with foxtails stuck on it.  It was likely on her person at the time she was killed, or nearby, or tossed with her body into the truck, where blood and foxtails would transfer to it.

I belive McClish drove like a careful madman out of the ranch, probably with lights cut (you can see the white road pretty well), and then turned onto the main road going towards Ben Lomond.  There was still no moon at this point.  I believe he drove down this road to a right-side sandhill turnout on Quail Hollow Road, just after the place where the backpack was found, got out, walked a few paces, tossed the backpack out over a barbed wire fence into brush, and then got back in the truck.  Working too fast, he  also needed to take her keys out to move her car.  In the course of McClish opening her backpack and removing the keys, Asha's credit cards fell out, perhaps from a slot or pocket in the backpack (I theorize that she likely didn't keep her cards in her wallet, which was a trifold wallet; she used the backpack as a purse and these often have credit card slots in them).  The credit cards were discovered first, on the ground, and this led to finding the backpack.

Then, McClish drove down Quail Hollow to Glen Arbor, driving carefully and deliberately (sherrifs occasionally patrol this road). There is a side road (Brookside) that completely bypasses Highway 9 and the fairly well-lit town of Ben Lomond, and the market.  Brookside passes the place where Asha's car was found (Brookside and Estates), and connects directly to Love Creek Road.  It is all very dark. I think it takes probably ten minutes to get up to the actual site where he left her; then, after he disposed of her body, he went down Love Creek Road again, called his wife, and asked her if she wanted anything from the market (this was verified by his wife).  His home, on Hihn Road, took about five minutes to get to from Brookside and Estates.

All this driving would take about twenty minutes, tops,  not including the murder, and McClish was gone for just over an hour, about an hour and fifteen minutes  It would leave him with adequate time to spare to move Asha's car after he killed her; where she used to park is relatively unlit at night and he could get there quite unobtrusively. I would think he likely had a change of clothes with him.

To move the car, I believe he concealed his truck somewhere in walking distance from Brookside (lots of places to do that), walked very quickly down the dark streets behind Scarborough Lumber, Henflings, etc., but well out of sight of the market, and got across Highway Nine by the coffee place.  I believe he got in Asha's car, drove it up the road past the coffee place (the store was still open, so he would not go that way), across Highway 9 and back through the streets he had just walked, abandoned the car at Brookside and Estates, and then got in his truck and went home.  This part would have been very easily accomplished in about twenty minutes, tops, maybe less if he walked fast on the dark roads.  He was wearing a hat and dark jeans, also, so there is less chance he would have been easily seen or recognized.  Next day, he went to the dump and likely got rid of anything else related to the killing.

This is the most streamlined scenario.  The other one, that he killed her up in the vicinity of Love Creek, doesn't fly because foxtails are not abundant at all in that heavily forest-and-fern area.  It would mean that McClish would have had to drive up and down Love Creek Road, then all the way up Glen Arbor and then Quail Hollow, make an awkward left turn onto a narrow sandy turnout, then walk down the road, pitch the backpack, get back in his truck, and drive back down to Hihn, adding at least fifteen minutes to his trip, and leaving much less time to unobtrusively move the car.

I actually drove both scenarios tonight, and when I was done, and driving home past Quail Hollow Road, the moon began to rise, and it was huge, a luminous mask the color of a blood orange, watching over everything I saw.