by Marty Carlson


A recent event related to Mariposa County has brought more attention to an area that seems to have its share of problems.

But first a bit of history

The last circle by Carol Marshall was a book about the deputies of the Mariposa Sheriff’s Department and an incident that occurred around June 1980.

Deputy Ron Van Meter had drowned on a alleged boating accident on Lake McClure.

Mariposa County had three divers looking for the missing deputy but had refused any type of outside help.

That help offered also include a mini submarine. Again, that was denied.

From March 5, 1983

Part I

part II

In the shallow waters of Lake McClure, Van Meters meters body was not recovered until 10 years later in September 1990.

His torso was wrapped in a fishnet and weighted down by various objects including a fire extinguisher.

The body had washed ashore just a few hundred yards where one of the other deputy’s houseboat was moored.

Deputy Van Meter had told others that he had discovered and or observed illegal activities going on with the deputies in this Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department.

There were also accusations of sexual assaults by deputies, and one of the victims claimed she was coerced by members of the Sheriff’s Department into not filing charges.

Some of those activities included drug dealing, and the handling of stolen property in exchange for drugs.


During that time in 1980 Deputy Van meter had made a request from the Atty. Gen.’s office and Department of Justice in Sacramento for them to open investigation of the department.

Deputy Van Meter had driven to Sacramento in person to talk to the officials in both agencies.

To his surprise when he returned back to Mariposa County he received a phone call from then current sheriff, Paul Paige, asking him why he had gone to Sacramento.

The sheriff had been immediately contacted by those agencies that Deputy Van Meter had contacted.

So much for an investigation.

Deputy Van Meter had become aware of a drug trail and Mariposa County deputies were loading and unloading packages from planes in the middle the night at the Mariposa airport.

This was also investigated by a retired outside officer, Orb Hatton, as he was brought in by sheriff Matthys to investigate. (see video)

Investigator Hatton had made undercover drug buys from Mariposa deputies in a downtown bar.

The dealing did not appear to be concealed or in a clandestine manner, as the drugs were just kept in a refrigerator behind the bar, in the open.

There had been complaints from the residents of the area, mostly on the reservation,

That deputies have been using Sarah priest land allotment to grow marijuana and operate methamphetamine labs.

Deputy Ron Van Meter had also been photographing and journalizing drug activity by deputies at Lake McClure.

He was part of the California State abatement program which involved harvesting and eradicating marijuana fields in the 70 national Park and adjacent areas.

The harvest is marijuana was being stored in abandoned cars and towed out of town by a local wrecker under contract with the sheriff department.

It was also being distributed at a hidden cove at Lake McClure.

On June 24, 1980 frustrated with the Atty. Gen.’s office for their betrayal, Van meter had borrowed a boat was on his way to arrest the deputies at Lake McClure himself.

He never returned from that attempt to arrest.

And his body was recovered 10 years later wrapped in a weighted down fishing net close to where that suspect deputies boat was moored.

As you see in the video above there many other instances of strange happenings in Mariposa County and that all seems to be wrapped around sheriff Paige.

There was also an incident during the Queen of England visit to Mariposa County.

Deputy Sinclair was running high speed in the opposite direction of the motorcade and went head on into a Secret Service vehicle killing three Secret Service agents.

In Deputy Sinclair’s vehicle was a bomb and some other automatic type weapons.

He was also discovered to be under the influence of prescription medications like Percodan among others.

No type of discipline was ever given to Deputy Sinclair.

In fact he was promoted up to commander within the department a short time later.

The next sheriff of Mariposa County, Ken Matthys had tried to expose and eliminate much of the corruption going on in the county and stated that he was having problems with cooperation from other county officials and state agencies.

Sheriff Matthys had a short tenure as the stress of the situation took a heavy toll and he ended up retiring for health reasons at the insistence of his doctor.

In my next report I will discuss the Frank Carson/Mariposa County connection.