Northern California

New Hampshire man convicted in Mendocino County cannabis-farm killing

A New Hampshire man has been found guilty of beating to death with a baseball bat a fellow pot grower at a remote Mendocino County property where they were both paid laborers.

Joshua Ruoff, 32, will be sentenced Friday for first-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of Timothy Sweeting, 27, of Rohnert Park, Mendocino County District Attorney officials said. Ruoff faces 26 years to life in state prison and will be sentenced by Judge John Behnke.

Sweeting was killed May 18, 2016, at a property along the Charlie Hurt Highway in Covelo in the remote Round Valley.

Ruoff and Sweeting attended the same New Hampshire high school, and it was connections from that state that brought both men to a property owned by a New Hampshire family to work alongside a group of itinerant marijuana laborers, Mendocino County sheriff’s officials said.

But the men did not get along, and Ruoff had complained about Sweeting, claiming he was lazy, messy and didn’t take proper care of his dog, according to a witness, fellow laborer Tyler Marschok, who testified in the trial.

The night of the attack, Ruoff was agitated after drinking about 12 beers, and woke Sweeting, who was asleep on a couch. Marschok testified he could hear the thuds from Ruoff beating Sweeting with a bat. Marschok claimed he begged Ruoff to stop and that Sweeting never stood up or fought back, only raised his arms in an attempt to protect his face and head.

Marschok said he feared for his life and fled, and he last saw Sweeting bloodied on the ground.

He reported the beating the next morning from Grass Valley. Sheriff’s deputies found a bloody scene but no body or suspect.

Ruoff had fled Covelo in a rented U-haul, and detectives arrested him five days later in New Hampshire.

Sweeting’s body was found about two weeks later in a shallow grave at the property.

A Mendocino County jury returned the guilty verdict June 29 after a 10-day trial.

Sweeting grew up in the Finger Lakes area in central New York and also lived in New Hampshire. He moved with his mother to Sonoma County in 2013.

© 2018 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.). Visit The Press Democrat at www.pressdemocrat.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.