Meth, Murder, and Bigfoot: A California Crime Saga – Part Five

A California Crime Saga

The headline in The Fresno Bee on June 19, 1987.

‘All the truth, bigger than life.’

Previously on Meth, Murder, and Bigfoot: A future serial killer sees Bigfoot in Yosemite; a teenaged girl sees a demon creature in Ghost Canyon; another teenaged girl suffers a childhood filled with abuse; and a speed freak and self-avowed Bigfoot expert in Fresno finds himself in a police interview room under a cloud of suspicion, ready to tell a whopper of a tale.

Sitting in Interview Room #3 at Fresno Police Headquarters, Russell “Skip” Welch struggled to stay calm and composed. Arrested on an outstanding DUI charge, he had really been brought in to face questioning about the recent disappearance of 16-year-old Theresa Ann Bier.

Doug Stokes, the detective investigating the case, knew Theresa had accompanied Skip to the mountains nearly 10 days prior. But what happened up there, or where Theresa was now, was a complete mystery. Detective Stokes, sitting in that sparsely appointed interview room with the 43-year-old known meth user, was determined to get some answers.

Stokes, to this day, remembers Skip’s demeanor that day in the interview room.meth murder and bigfoot

“People that use crank often are very talkative,” the detective explained. “And he was very talkative.”

But Stokes also remembers that Skip began the interview fairly composed. Then all of a sudden, when he started talking about Bigfoot, there was this weird “glare and stare in his eyes, almost like he was transformed.”meth murder and bigfoot

To quote Stokes’s written police report for June 10, 1987 (and that report will be quoted extensively here): “After our discussion of Big Feet [sic] and the communities that existed in the Sierras, I then asked him if he could tell me about Theresa Bier.”meth murder and bigfoot

Skip’s story, version 1  

Skip then insisted they refer to her as “Sam,” a nickname he had for her because she reminded him of a runaway girl in a movie he’d seen named Sam. Skip told the detective that he dropped Sam off at school after driving around with her while she told of her problems at home.

She was met by a blond girl, Skip said, who “Sam had told him was a friend that she was sure would help her hide out.” Skip said after that he stayed in Fresno and finally heard they were looking for him, thinking he’d taken the girl to the mountains.meth murder and bigfoot

Skip claimed he wouldn’t take a young girl up there, because of the dangers. The detective, knowing that his car was seen up in North Fork, easily shot down that story.

Skip’s story, versions 2 and more  

Skip then tried to sell Stokes a story that after dropping Theresa off, he did go to the mountains and that rangers and trail crew workers had seen him up there alone. Detective Stokes pointed out that both Skip’s adult children saw him with Theresa when she was supposed to be in school and that she was excited to be going to the mountains with Skip.meth murder and bigfoot

With every changing and increasingly convoluted story Skip told, the detective clearly explained why it couldn’t be true. When Skip insisted he last saw Theresa run off in the woods with another young woman and that they were able to hide and elude from Skip as he desperately searched for them, Stokes appealed to his male ego.

“I then told Welch that I understood he had been a mountain man most of his life… that he was a person of great knowledge of the mountains, and that I found it unbelievable that two young girls could evade him when he had so much knowledge about the mountains.” 

“’Ok, all the truth, bigger than life,” Skip finally said.

Stokes asked him what he meant by that.

“He wanted to tell me all of the truth and that it would be bigger than life and he knew that I or anyone else would not believe him,” Stokes documented.

On that last bit, Skip was pretty much right.

Bigfoot the bodyguard

“He then continued,” Stokes wrote in his detailed account of the interview, which is quoted verbatim and at length here, “by stating that he wanted me to know that there were super intelligent beings living in the high Sierras along with Big Foot and that Big Foot was actually the body guard for this super intelligent community of people… these people existed but he’d only made one or two sightings prior to this occasion. He stated that where Big Foot was hairy-bodied and approximately 10 to 11 feet tall, these super intelligent beings looked much more human, and were of superior intelligence.

“He then continued by stating that the missing person, Theresa Bier, had in fact run off with one of these super intelligent beings… someone who appeared to be a female with blond hair, approximately the same age and size as Theresa. I noted that during all of this conversation Welch looked me continually straight in the eye and made no emotional indications that would seem to indicate that he believed he was playing a joke or relaying information to me that he did not someway believe to be true. 

“He also then stated that these individuals would not hurt Sam [Theresa], and he stated that he knew that we would never see her again. He stated that this whole community lived under ground and that they seldom came out, but that they had such a beautiful society that once Sam was in the society that she would not want to come back, especially since she was so [redacted, but the blacked-out space would indicate the words “sexually molested” might fit and apply] in her own home that it was much better for her to remain with these people.”

It is hard to imagine why Skip would fabricate such an elaborate story, considering he was sitting in a police interrogation, the prime suspect in a young girl’s disappearance and a more believable explanation — you know, like she just ran away or got lost — might better benefit his case. But rather than offering a rational explanation, Skip continued to talk and doubled down on the woo aspect of his story. [see Part Four: “Woo” as in “woo, that’s out there!”]

Backseat driver

“Through further discussion Welch mentioned several times about his mind being messed [with] somewhat by Big Foot and the mind games that they were playing on him in regards to the incident. I asked him to explain. He then explained that he did in fact search for Sam all that first day that she was gone and was unable to find her. As he was preparing to drive through the country side, as it was getting dark, he found that his car was stuck. After trying to maneuver his car out of the rut that it was stuck in, he looked back. He then states that he observed what appeared to be a man but not really a man. I asked him to explain. He stated that this was a spirit or some type of a devil that was holding his car up off the ground. He stated that he then was able to maneuver the car and get lose from this thing that was holding his car in place, and he began to drive out of the mountain area wanting to get to the North Fork area. As he was driving along the dirt road, he stated that he was driving at an extremely high rate of speed. He then felt that there was something in his vehicle with him. Looking through his rear view mirror, he then observed what appeared to be the face of a man in the back seat of his vehicle. He became extremely upset and scared. He stated that he could feel that this was the devil in the backseat. He turned and physically began to strike at this thing that was in the back seat and states that he struck through this spirit and hit his knuckles several times on a wooden speaker that was in the back seat of his vehicle. Welch then showed me his knuckles on his right hand, and I noted that the knuckles were all scraped with small nicks and scratches. He stated that these had been much worse at one time and that they had been healing for the last few days and that he had actually cut himself on the wooden speaker as he was trying to strike through this ghost type individual that was in the back seat.”meth murder and bigfoot

Two went to the mountains, one came home

Skip then told how he was “able to overcome this evil spirit by finally rebuking it in the name of Jesus Christ” and that he drove to a friend’s residence in North Fork. He told the detective that he went back up to the mountains the next day to look for Theresa, and “was able to make a sighting of her as she was running through the trees with the blond girl,” but when he called to her she would not come to him. meth murder and bigfoot

Welch then reiterated that he thought Theresa, or Sam as he called her, was going to be happy where she was “because there would be no more [redacted] that she was receiving at her home.”

“He then stated, without any questioning on my part, that if we did in fact find her we would find that there was no evidence of any sexual abuse by him with the missing person. He then laughed, which was the first emotion that he had shown during the interview and stated that he had had plenty of opportunities to have sex with Sam [Theresa] and that she was very willing to have sex with him but that he was not going to have sex with a young girl because that was not his nature.” 

One thing Detective Stokes had no way of knowing was just how upset Skip had been when he did come down from the mountains, without Theresa. Decades later, a family member recalls that when Skip arrived at his mother’s house in Fresno’s Sunnyside neighborhood — his old Monte Carlo a mess, beat up on both sides from bouncing off the mountains — he was extremely upset and ran into his bedroom. He crawled under the covers and starting chanting. Skip’s brother, at the urging of their mother, went in to make sure the shotgun was removed from the room. Skip screamed at his brother to get out. There were demons in the room, and they were going to get him, he said.

After hearing Skip’s far-fetched version of “all the truth, bigger than life,” one questions if Skip really did believe it all. It does seem that he sincerely believed in Bigfoot. Even after a Fresno State University anthropologist gently broke to Skip, a few years earlier, that the images of Sasquatch in photo after photo were likely just shadows and shapes in the lee of trees — that the human mind can project and see what it wants, or expects, to see — Skip did not waiver in his belief. 

Till the cows come home

In fact, he doubled-down on providing supposed proof of Bigfoot, and left a bag of bones — obviously from a Sasquatch — at the university office of Roger LaJeunesse. The anthropologist never did respond to Skip concerning these bones.meth murder and bigfoot

Undoubtedly, this was evidence to Skip that the aloof professor simply could not dismiss — like he did those photos — this irrefutable, physical proof of Bigfoot’s existence. What Skip didn’t realize was that LaJeunesse, experienced in forensically identifying skeletal remains for both science and law enforcement, took one look at those bones and realized they weren’t anything close to human, or humanoid, or ape, or even from a bear. meth murder and bigfoot

The expert in forensic anthropology quickly determined they were “most likely the long bones of domesticated animals.” (Head up to the forests and meadows high in Sierra National Forest during the summer and you’ll often see cattle grazing.)

So insignificant were these bones that to this day LaJeunesse does not know what became of them. The bag was set aside and apparently misplaced when he later moved to a different office on campus.meth murder and bigfoot

In custody

Skip’s interview with Detective Stokes ended with an agreement that Skip would accompany authorities to the mountains the next day and show them the site of the camp where he last saw Theresa and the super intelligent being. By then it was late, and dinner had already been served at the Fresno Jail where Skip would be spending the night.meth murder and bigfoot

Skip was extremely hungry. He had not eaten the entire day. 

“I did in fact then purchase dinner for the suspect, and he was provided with a hamburger, fries, and a Coke at headquarters prior to being booked,” recalled Detective Stokes.

In next week’s installment, we head up to the mountains with Skip, Detective Stokes, and Madera County Sheriff’s deputies to find the camp where Theresa was last seen, and a search in earnest for the missing girl finally begins.

Meth, Murder, and Bigfoot: A California Crime Saga – Introduction


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