A body found last week in the Sierra National Forest is believed to be that of Wendy Pullins, who went missing in June 2022, the Mariposa County sheriff said.
Her death, he alleged, was the result of an unexpected run-in with a man who held a grudge against her.
Sheriff’s investigators had announced in September of this year that Pullins was believed to have been killed, and on Nov. 13 a suspect was arrested in Mendocino County.
In earlier statements, investigators said Pullins, 57, had left her home in Ahwahnee on June 14, 2022, intending to drive to Mariposa, 25 miles away, and register her Jeep Cherokee at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In a press conference on Friday, Dec. 1, Sheriff Jeremy Briese gave further details of her last day alive:
Pullins was reportedly not able to complete the DMV transaction because of a paperwork issue. She contacted family members to say she would spend the night at a friend’s home on Stumpfield Mountain Road, off Highway 49 between Ahwahnee and Mariposa.
It was at that home, Briese said, that she encountered Justin Bolton, who believed she had been involved in the death of his brother in January 2021. Investigators allege Bolton beat Pullins to death at the Stumpfield Mountain Road home, then put her body in her Jeep and drove to the Sierra National Forest near Midpines. He dumped the body, they say, and abandoned the Jeep at a different site.
On June 18, Pullins was reported missing, and deputies began looking for the red Jeep.
The abandoned vehicle was reportedly found by some people who “began driving it around Mariposa County,” Briese said. When they learned it was sought in a missing-persons case, they painted it green and dumped it down an embankment along Feliciana Mountain Road, near Midpines. It was recovered by investigators on Sept. 8, 2022.
Shortly afterward, Briese said, investigators began using wiretapping and monitoring of social media to keep tabs on several people they believed were involved in Pullins’ disappearance.
More than a year later, on Oct. 22, 2023, they allegedly recorded a phone conversation in which an “escape plan” for Justin Bolton was discussed. Three days later, Bolton, 42, was publicly named as the suspect in Pullins’ murder, and on Nov. 13 he was arrested in Willits.
On Nov. 29, a team led by sheriff’s investigators found the remains believed to be those of Pullins in the national forest near Midpines.
Mariposa County District Attorney Walter Wall said Bolton has been charged with first-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.
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Author: Bay Area News Group