Wow. Another story of a squat where some (probably) meth-addicted squatters ignored or otherwise forgot about some human remains in order to occupy an empty house!
"There is a lot of methamphetamine use involved in this story," says Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Matthew Hubley, speaking to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat about a gruesome and sad tale of a Santa Rosa man who took his own life — via makeshift guillotine — only to have his remains tossed aside by some squatters.
It is not clear when 62-year-old homeowner Robert Enger actually died. As the Chronicle relays, via the Press Democrat, Enger was last seen alive by a neighbor in July 2019 when he approached that neighbor's house in need of medical help, after injuring himself and bleeding from the head. It was later determined by investigators that this was likely his first, botched suicide attempt using a guillotine contraption he'd built himself. The machine, apparently, was fitted with a "large metal spike," not a blade, and at some point thereafter, Enger got it to work, and took his own life.
Neighbors say that in years past, Enger was a pleasant neighbor who even once helped construct an addition on a neighbor's home. But they describe what sounds like a descent into mental illness — and Enger described being abused by an older Marine in his youth, an event that he detailed in a hand-written poster that he had facing out of the front window of his home at one point.
Around the fall of 2020, some meth heads found the darkened house in Santa Rosa's Luther Burbank neighborhood, and began having parties there that attracted unwanted attention from neighbors and law enforcement — beginning at least around New Year's Eve 2020. According to the Press Democrat, one neighbor who accompanied police on an inspection of the party house, saw the 20-foot contraption that turned out to be Enger's guillotine.
Enger, a contractor and craftsman by trade, had fashioned a truly macabre way to kill himself which he would later perfect — and investigators describe how he had even cut a hole into the roof of the home to accommodate this device jutting out. (And it's not a proper guillotine but a self-impalement device, and the Press Democrat has a police photo of the spike-impaled skull if you want to look.)
It wasn't until March of this year, though, that a woman called police to say she found a human skull in the bushes while working in her brother's garden, which is about a half-mile away from Enger's house.
Robert Melvin Ross III was arrested in Santa Rosa on an unrelated crime, and it was only after this that he told police in an interview how he'd come to find Enger's remains. Ross had heard about the abandoned house from others, and he posted a note to the homeowner on the door in an effort to determine if it was empty. After the note remained there for several weeks, he moved in.
This all connected back to a story told to them by another suspect, who claims to have partied with Ross at the home and seen him lift up a human skull, scrape flesh from it with a knife, and impale with wire so it could be carried around by a handle. That person also described seeing bones or a body, which was concealed under trash and debris at the base of the large device.
Santa Rosa Police violent crimes detective Anthony Turner tells the Press Democrat that Ross gave them "a description of the guillotine and how he’d found the body at the bottom of the contraption." Ross also explained that he'd physically removed the head from the device himself, using a knife.
Ross pleaded no contest in November to one count of possession of a memento from human remains, which carries a possible three-year sentence. The Press Democrat describes, via court records, how Ross subsequently tried to withdraw this plea, rambling in court about "corrupt judges, the DA and other officials," and something about his father calling in the case to the White House, and to Donald Trump. Ross will be back in court on December 20, at which point he may be sentenced and a judge will hear the motion to withdraw the plea.
Ross's mental competence has previously been in question by the court.
The biggest question in the case is why the police didn't do more between January, December 2020, when they first entered the house and found it in a disgusting state, with evidence of squatting, and March 2021, when the skull was found and more investigation occurred. Multiple police visits, spurred by neighbors, brought descriptions of buckets full of feces and urine and a situation that clearly had become a public health hazard — not to mention rotting human remains under some garbage.
The case is also oddly reminiscent of another from Las Vegas, in which a group of squatters recently confessed to finding a woman dead in her living room chair, and disposing of the body in the backyard so they could live there.
Anyway, sad! And gross!
If you are in crisis, text "BAY" to 741741 for free, 24/7, confidential crisis support from Crisis Text Line. And if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you or they should call the San Francisco Suicide Prevention crisis line at 415-781-0500.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Top image: Enger's home at 318 Hendley Street in Santa Rosa, as of March 2019, via Google Street View