Property owners shocked by crime

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A Groveland couple say they were as shocked as anyone to learn about the gruesome finding of a dismembered body on their property last week.

Phillip and Jenny Beckett live on 15 acres of land off Bairds Road, where authorities located a Stockton homicide suspect and the remains of his presumed victim late Thursday night.

Bryan Scott Cook, 38, a former Mi-Wuk Village resident, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of homicide.

Earlier that day, Stockton police had received an anonymous tip and discovered a bloody scene at a house on the 4500 block of Mist Trail Drive in the Weston Ranch area of the city. The investigation led them to develop information that Cook could be staying at the Bairds Road property in Groveland.

Stockton police said investigators found a human torso in a campfire at the Groveland scene, along with other pieces of the body in Cook's car.

Cook was later booked into San Joaquin County Jail.

A second suspect, Valentina Ann Paz, 49, was arrested Friday after being interviewed at a Stockton police station. She was booked into San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of homicide and conspiracy.

The victim, Michael Shane Jones, 48, formerly of Long Barn, had been living at the Mist Trail Drive house with both suspects prior to his death, authorities said. Officers at the crime scene in Stockton noted that it appeared the tenants had moved out of the residence.

Jenny Beckett said Cook was in the process of moving, and, to her knowledge, had been staying in a trailer on their property for the past couple weeks.

Beckett said Cook was the boyfriend of her sister, Teresa Holt.

Both Becketts said they didn't know Cook personally, but were letting him temporarily live in the trailer on the property at Holt's request.

Stockton detectives interviewed Holt on Friday but did not implicate her in any crimes and released her.

"All I know is that my sister was not involved at all," Jenny Beckett said.

The Becketts were away from their home most of Thursday night, Phillip Beckett said. He noticed lights from emergency vehicles down the road from his house when they returned between 9 and 10 p.m., but didn't think much of it at the time and went straight to bed.

Jenny Beckett said it wasn't until the next day that police talked to her and she found out about the body and Cook's arrest.

"It was a total shock," she said.

Cook's trailer, which actually belongs to Holt, was out of sight from the couple's home and they had no contact with him, Jenny Beckett said. She added that Cook originally planned to leave around the beginning of this month.

Though he was mostly "a stranger" to the Becketts, Cook had previously worked for a construction company in Tuolumne County owned by Jenny Beckett's brother and was considered "one of the best hands he had," Phillip Beckett said.

"Everyone who knew him (Cook) said they couldn't believe it," Phillip Beckett said.

Tuolumne County Sheriff's detectives assisted Stockton police with the search for Cook and were the first to locate him. However, the Sheriff's Office has declined to comment on the case and referred all questions to the Stockton Police Department.

"Basically, it's Stockton's case," said Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele. "They contacted us and we assisted them in their needs."

Mele added that the San Joaquin County Coroner will be handling the autopsy. Authorities have yet to release an exact cause of death.

Stockton police spokesman Joe Silva said detectives are also investigating different theories on a possible motive but had no new information to release Monday afternoon.

Paz and Cook remained in custody without bail at San Joaquin County Jail.

The San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office said formal charges have yet to be filed against either suspect, though that was expected to happen sometime today.

Paz's first appearance in San Joaquin County Superior Court was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today, while a hearing for Cook was set at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Both hearings will be held at the Stockton Courthouse, 222 E. Weber Ave., in Department Z.

The Union Democrat
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