Homicide Investigation Leads to Body Found in Burnt Ranch

A photo of Rael sits behind a candlelit alter at his friend’s house during the second week of his disappearance./Photo by Allie Hostler, TRT.

By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

WRITERS NOTE: On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 the TRT learned that the body found in Burnt Ranch is that of Adrian Rael. According to a detective on the case, finger prints were used to identify the body. The investigation continues. Look for more updates in the TRT.

Even though law enforcement agencies have yet to confirm it, friends of Adrian Rael believe he is dead.

Rael has been missing since Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, the same day a call was made to the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. The caller told deputies he was contacted by a woman, Donna (pronounced Doona) Huebsch, who claimed to have shot and killed Rael earlier that night and needed help moving the body.

That same night, deputies questioned Huebsch and searched her residence and the surrounding area, according to a statement issued by the Sheriff’s Office. They said they were unable to find a body or evidence of a shooting at that time.

A group of Rael’s friends became makeshift detectives, writing down all of the pieces of information they could gather from sources they consider to be reliable. A range of scenarios resulted but they believed the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fit.

They called the Sheriff’s Office repeatedly demanding a more thorough investigation, and at one point threatened to make calls to the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional representatives to complain about what they feel is a lack of effort to investigate their friend’s case.

Six days later, on August 21, after dozens more rumors ran rampant throughout Willow Creek, Salyer, Burnt Ranch and Hawkins Bar, deputies served a search warrant at Huebsch’s home. Sure enough, a body was located near Huebsch’s property in Burnt Ranch. She was arrested and booked for murder.

“Detectives at that time located a body down the hillside from Huebsch’s residence in a heavily wooded area with underlying brush,” a statement issued by Trinity County Sheriff’s Office read.

Later, Fall Julian Jackson was booked on murder charges, but on Thursday, August 23 those charges were dropped and he was released.

“We know it’s Adrian,” a friend of Rael’s said during an interview with the TRT. “He may not have any biological family, but he has a big family here. I don’t think they realize that.”

The same group of friends, with help from the Willow Creek Community Resource Center, created a missing person flyer with a photo of Rael and the number to the Sheriff’s Office for people to call should they have information that could be valuable in the case. The flyers were systematically removed from bulletin boards.

“We put the flyers up three times in the course of three days,” Rael’s friend said. “Each time, they were taken down.”

The TRT searched Willow Creek bulletin boards on the evening of Wednesday, August 22 and could not locate any flyers.

Although the body was found a week ago it has not yet been identified as Rael. The Trinity County Sheriff’s Office said an autopsy was scheduled for Friday, but the doctor that usually conducts the procedure is out, forcing them to send the body to Yolo County, five counties south.

On Thursday, the TRT learned that a detective by the name of Bill Baber was assigned to the case. After failed attempts to reach Baber, the TRT was told that he is a part-time volunteer—a retired detective that the Sheriff’s Office calls for help occasionally.

On Friday, the TRT learned that two additional detectives had since been assigned and that Sheriff Haney was also working the case. None of the detectives were available for comment because they were in the field working the case, according to staff at the Sheriff’s Office.

Friends of Rael said he had been booked in Humboldt County Jail and had accident two years prior when he was hit by a car in downtown Willow Creek—events his friends believe would produce records that could be used to identify his body. They were also willing to provide photos of Rael’s tattoos to the detectives.

“They [sheriff’s office] didn’t even want to look at the photos. They didn’t even have any photos of him” one friend said. “Up until the day before they found his body, they said it was all just rumors.”

The TRT was also told by the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office that the incident was only a rumor one day prior to the location of the body.

Rael is of Hispanic descent and was known to be a heavy drinker. He lived and worked odd jobs in the Willow Creek, Salyer, Hawkins Bar and Burnt Ranch areas. He frequented the local bars and had friends that looked out for him at each of them.

“Nobody’s going to do anything for a drunk with brown skin,” one friend said. “It’s a race thing. They don’t care about this person and all of the wonderful things he had to offer. His biological family has been in the U.S. for five generations. He was a valiant guy. He had morality, spirituality, never stole, never lied. He had integrity and he was respectful to everybody.”

A memorial was held for Rael on Sunday, August 26 at Simon LeGrees Roadhouse Saloon in Hawkins Bar. The homicide investigation continues under the direction of the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. Anybody with information is asked to call Brian Ward at the Trinitiy County Sheriff’s Office at (530) 623-8128. Results from the autopsy are expected this week.

4 to “Homicide Investigation Leads to Body Found in Burnt Ranch”


  1. Antoinette says:

    My Brother Adrian Lee Rael was a kind, gentle man. We missed him very much, but he chose to stay in California. He loved the area he was in. Each time we asked if he was ready to come home to Colorado, he would tell us to give him a little more time to finish projects he had started for his friends. His remains are still in the custody of the State of California, waiting for the Department of Justice paperwork to be complete. This has been a long process for my family, my Mom, my Brother, his Daughter, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and many friends. My brother Adrian touched many hearts, he never cared for material things, he loved helping others. He was talented as he could do anything from fixing cars to installing carpet and tile. He lived the way he wanted a free spirit, and always told my Mom that he was okay. We miss my Little Brother and I know that his “California Family” misses him too. Once his remains are released he will be returned to Colorado for his funeral services.

  2. helena luna says:

    Our souls are hurt. Why? Why Adrian?

  3. Sherie Will says:

    A whole month since this horrible thing happened to my Adrian, I pray his family be able to have closure soon. I shall continue to talk to him thru prayer …. I love him

  4. Irene says:

    To my cousin Adrian
    KIND – LOVING – CARING
    With a smile that makes you smile :) I will miss you cousin:(
    I LOVE YOU

    Irene :)



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