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Haskell Man Caught In California Pot Farmer Murder, Clifton Suspect Sought

Zachary Ryan Wuester
Zachary Ryan Wuester Photo Credit: COURTESY: Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

WANAQUE, N.J. -- Authorities in California captured a Haskell man, continued their search for an accused accomplice from Clifton and announced the identities of other suspects -- including a Westchester man -- in the brutal killing of a marijuana farmer who hired them to trim his crops.

Zachary Ryan Wuester, 24, surrendered to a deputy U.S. Marshal wthout incident on a warrant charging him with murder and armed robbery, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said.

A judge set bail at $650,000.

Wuester also had drug-related "no bail" warrants for his arrest out of New Jersey and Virginia, the sheriff said.

Authorities were still searching for another New Jersey man, Frederick Gaestel, 27, of Clifton, and an alleged accomplice, 25-year-old Michael Kane of Pleasantville, N.Y., as well as four others.

They asked that poeple be on the lookout for two vehicles: a 1999 Honda Accord, California license plate #7LPN823 and a 2005 Volvo XC70, California license plate #7TVT318.

The assailants went to a remote, rural property five miles off North Highway 101 in Laytonville, CA before dawn last Thursday to rob the commercial business owner, Jeffrey Quinn Settler, according to Mendocino County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Andrew Porter.

They'd worked there for Settler, 35, as marijuana trimmers and "knew the marijuana was stored in the same structure where Settler slept," Porter said.

They beat him to death, took 100 pounds of processed marijuana and fled, he said.

Detectives found "no evidence or inference" that the marijuana-growing operation about 160 miles north of San Franciscos was for medical purposes but, instead, was intended "solely for the purpose of commercial gain," Porter said.

Recods show Gaestel was busted in 2009 with 37 other defendants after authorities found 53,270 pot plants, records show.

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