Les Crane, 39, owner of Mendo Spiritual Remedies in Laytonville and Hemp Plus Ministry in Ukiah, was shot to death at his Laytonville home early Friday morning.
Mendocino County Sheriffs Detective Commander D.J. Miller said Crane was killed about 2:30 a.m. in the home invasion. The investigation has disclosed it appears to be robbery motivated. An undisclosed amount of currency and processed marijuana was stolen, Miller said.
(BuzzNote: Chalk up another death to Prohibition!)
Yellow tape surrounded the Road 307 residence Friday, where investigators from the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office, evidence technicians and members of the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team could be seen taking photographs and measurements, and periodically carrying armfuls of marijuana from a building.
Law enforcement at the scene would not disclose any more information, but a sign in the driveway spoke volumes: Mendo Spiritual Remedies. In God we trust, Rev. Les Crane. God Gave it to us and no one can take it away. Welcome to our church.
In the midst of all the activity, a man drove up and said to one of the sheriffs officers: I just came by to see Les, but maybe this is a bad time.
A visit later in the day to the Hemp Plus Ministry revealed the darkest details of what happened to Crane.
Reverend Crane was killed last night; I was there, said a visibly shaken Jennifer Drewry, as she sat inside the cannabis distribution center Friday afternoon, cradling her left arm, which was broken and in a sling from the beating she took during the ordeal.
I was there while they were killing him, Drewry, Cranes financee said, before recounting the ordeal, which could be described as nothing less than horrific.
Les was in bed sleeping. I was sleeping in another bedroom, she said, noting she woke up to the sound of footsteps. Four to six guys … they were wearing all black with black masks. … They busted down the door and all you could hear them saying was This is a raid, this is a raid, this is a raid, she said, noting the voices sounded young.
First, one of the men walked in and beat another of the homes residents, 20-year-old Sean Dirlamalso known as The Countwhile he slept, she said.
Then she said she opened her door and one of the menthis one not wearing a maskhit her over the head. The men in the masks stayed with Les, killing him and taking his medical marijuana and his money.
I was on my hands and knees praying to God, too loud I guess, so the one guy told him to shoot me, but he missed, and then I heard five or six other gunshots. I was too scared to look up after that, so I waited until it was quiet and then I ran into Less room.
He was lying there; he could still talk. There was a lot of blood. The Count was hiding, talking to 911. …. It had to be 15 minutes before anyone showed up. It was a long time … I was out of my mind.
They wouldnt let me sit with him, she said referring to emergency personnel. I told them they are torturing me; hes dying … I knew I only had a couple minutes; he was dying, she said, noting Crane was shot in the back of the head, in an arm and in his abdomen. There was so much blood I couldnt see all the holes, she said.
He just asked me to marry him two weeks ago. I was planning a wedding; now I have to plan a funeral, Drewry said. They ruined my life and took my dreams away from meall for money and greed, she said, by this time sobbing.
Crane supplied medical marijuana to more than 1,000 people in Mendocino County. Mendo Spiritual Remedies serves more than 800 people in the Laytonville area and Hemp Plus Ministry, which opened about two months ago in Ukiah, already has 350 clients, according to those who worked there.
Christina Bagbywho referred to herself, Crane and his friend, Ukiah Morrison, as reverendsworks at the Ukiah ministry.
We believe that cannabis is the tree of life. In the Bible it does say the tree of life will be called upon to heal the nation. We believe that tree is cannabis. We promote hemp awareness.
Morrison also works there, and like Bagby, spoke nothing but kind words about Crane.
He was very thankful to be alive and to help the community. That was his only objective in lifeto help others, Morrison said of the man he called his best friend. He spent $7,000 of his own money to buy 350 turkeys both for Ukiah Food Bank and Laytonville Food Bank, he added.
Quoting from the Bible, Morrison said: Greater work than I have done, shall you do. Les Crane embodied that and he helped uplift the community. … He was definitely my super hero and mentor. He was like a father to most of us.
Laytonville residents The Daily Journal spoke with Friday said Crane did indeed do some good in the community: His teen center was clean and sober and the teens did use it. He also gave to charities.
Other residents said Crane hung out with what some perceived as undesirablesfor instance other large scale pot growers. Some described him as loud and boisterous and said he had his share of scrapes with the law … that he was courting trouble.
In October, District Attorney Norm Vroman brought cultivation of marijuana charges against Crane, who adamantly proclaimed his innocence.
Anyone that is a patient that would like to stand up, please join me and stand up against the tyranny, Crane said at the time. It isnt a controlled substance to me. This is a medicine and those laws do not apply to patients.
Morrison and Drewry both believe Cranes killer was somebody he knew.
As he was breathing … after he had been shot several times, I asked him, Who did this to you? and he said, They came to see The Count today, Drewry said, adding, They came to rob the marijuana there and a safe. They took it all.
He always told Hemp Ministry workers Dont hesitate to open the safe; its not worth a life, Morrison said, noting Crane was trusting because the money was irrelevant to his cause. Cranes door was probably unlocked, Morrison said. However, Morrison added, He was not an idiot; he knew his work was risky.
Crane came to Mendocino County several years ago with $100 and a dog after selling his tie-dye business in Florida. He had heard Mendocino County had passed Measure G supporting legalization of marijuana in the county for personal use. He turned the $100 into a sizable profit that harvest year and took that nest egg and started the dispensary and then opened a youth center in Laytonville.
He was a true American. I dont want him to be forgotten. I just heard him say the other day, The more you give out, the more you receive to give out the next day, Morrison said.
Law enforcement officials are seeing more violence sparked by marijuana.
This time of the year there is always the potential for violence in marijuana grows due to the quantity of marijuana and the large sums of money that are exchanged, Miller said.