Deputy Jeffrey Mitchell
Several weeks ago while driving to the Jackson NCPOA meeting, my wife and I took a short detour. We were on Jackson Hwy, and turned south on Dillard Rd. to Meiss Rd. Turning East on Meiss Rd. we drove just over one mile to the location where Deputy Jeffrey Mitchell was Murdered. At the location Officer Mitchell's body was found, stands a remarkable memorial tribute to this slain officer. We were truly moved by this display in such a remote location in the county.? My wife and I were talking and we were curious as to who had been so thoughtful in erecting this outstanding memorial tribute to our fallen officer.
After checking around it was suggested that I contact Brother Roger Dixon. I contacted Roger and explained to him how moved my wife and I were when we located the Mitchell Memorial and spent some time there. I asked Rodger if he could tell me the history behind this tribute to Officer Mitchell.
The following is a letter and photos that were forwarded to me by Roger Dixon after our conversation.? I would strongly suggest that if you have not seen this memorial, that on a nice day take a drive and make the Mitchell Memorial on Meiss road your destination.
711Club President 2008
Deputy Jeffrey Mitchell Memorial
(By: Roger and Sharon Dickson)
Deputy Jeffrey Mitchell was murdered on Meiss Road in Southern Sacramento County on October 27, 2006. To date, those responsible for his death have not been caught.
As residents of Rancho Murieta we were affected in the immediate hours that followed Jeff’s death due to the large police presence that came into our community. In the days that followed that police presence didn’t seem to diminish, as there were fixed posts, automated signboards and deputies at shopping centers handing out informational flyers.
As a deputy I have been touched by the tragic deaths of other brother and sister officers. I patrolled the very same road where Deputy Mitchell died for five years when I was a Delta Officer.
As Employee Relations Officer later in my career I had the task of arranging for death and survivor benefits for officers and employee’s who died in the line of duty and from natural causes. Not a typical law enforcement assignment but one that put squarely before me the emotional impacts of losing a beloved officer and family member. When I concluded my career I was fortunate enough to have as my final assignment the position of Assistant Commander of Central Detectives. In that position I became acutely aware of public reaction to those who were murdered on the streets of Sacramento County. That’s when I really noticed that people build roadside memorials to the fallen in remembrance.
Sharon and I have very dear and close friends who live on Meiss Road. Their names are Bob and Kathy Merhten. I’ve known Bob since my days in the Delta Patrol and knew him as a cattle rancher. Later, I met him at functions and learned that he had added catering to his many talents. Sharon and I also owned a catering business and in 2003 we sold our business to Bob and Kathy.
Immediately after Jeff Mitchell’s death I called Bob and learned that Jeff had been killed on the road in front of their home. They had heard the shot but lived on the backside of their property and actually didn’t react, as random gunshots on Meiss Road seem to be the norm these days. They were shocked to learn of Jeff’s death.
In the days following the shooting, friends, family and Sheriff’s Department employees’ created a makeshift roadside memorial. Wreaths were placed, flowers left, t-shirts hung from barb wire fencing, mosaic stepping stones with Jeff’s name and a cross illuminated by a solar light installed.
In December, we had the privilege of working with Bob and Kathy Merhten on a charitable event they run every year to benefit Loaves and Fishes. We were talking about how many people could be observed coming to the makeshift memorial site on Meiss Road and how it seemed to change daily on its complexion and the mementos that people were leaving. Hand written letters were placed in Zip Lock bags and hung on the fence. Having read some of the letters we could see that they were intensely private and personal.? We had to do something that was more permanent and presentable to this young officer and his family.
One thing that concerned Bob and Kathy was that the County would send a weed eater alongside the roadway to abate the weeds in the springtime. She and Bob were concerned that anything placed at the memorial and hidden by the weeds would be destroyed. We talked about making something more permanent and how it could be done. Bob and Kathy suggested that we put the memorial on their property behind their fence line and out of the right-of-way. A plan was hatched.
We decided to build this memorial anonymously. It wasn’t about us. It was about the selfless contribution of Deputy Mitchell. Over the years in the Sheriff’s Department I learned that we planted trees in memory of fallen officers, named buildings, streets, and our shooting range after officers and supported the Verhoeven Fund. It seemed fitting to do something right there on Meiss Road. The best part was that we didn’t have to ask anyone for permission nor did we have to get anyone’s blessing. It was just something we could do quietly.
So it began. First, we secured discarded steel fencing as we needed something to keep the cows’ in. We decided that we wanted to put a concrete slab down as a permanent memorial, surround it with a low interior fence and a larger exterior fence. Although there was no water at the site we wanted to landscape it and plant both shrubs and trees which we hoped would mature and offer shade to visitors’ in the future. We admit to being a little cavalier about who was going to water the plants in the summer, but heck, that is what the Sheriff’s Department has Community Service Centers for.? Lieutenant Mike Sales and Sergeant Todd Kell didn’t know that they were going to get a call and job assignment of being landscapers, but they also had the ability to get their volunteer’s to water the site.
We dug posts holes. We made forms for concrete. We got a donation from a local concrete supplier and went to work. Bob fabricated the fencing to fit the site and welded the pieces together. We finished the slab then brought in gravel to make a walkway from the road edge to the pad. I sanded, primed and finish painted all the iron fencing.? We rescued the hand made cross from across the road and I took it home and refinished and varnished it. Bob re-installed it and our work was done. At least I thought so. We secured a donation of shrubs from Pow Nursery in Wilton and bark from the Ace Hardware on Grantline Road. It seemed that everyone wanted to be involved in helping us.
During our work I was amazed at the number of people who came by to visit the memorial site. People you know. Deputies brought their children. Neighbors brought fresh flowers. This memorial site is visited every day. Amazing! What a validation for building it. It needed to be dedicated to Officer Mitchell. It needed to be shown to his wife and child as an example of our enduring respect for this officer’s sacrifice and commitment.
We recognize that the loss of Deputy Mitchell affects many people. Those who live in the rural Southeast County and Rancho Murieta mourn his loss right along with his brothers and sisters in law enforcement.
In March 2007 we dedicated this memorial site to Officer Mitchell. It was our desire that we remain anonymous and we made it clear that this memorial site was about Deputy Jeffrey Mitchell and no one else. We still prefer it to be that way, but President Owen asked that we submit this article and photos so that you may consider driving out and making a visitation to the site. So, after you read this article forget that we did this and center your conversation and thoughts on Jeff Mitchell and his family.
Pastor Stan Davis of the Rancho Murieta Community Church and Chaplain Mindy Russell officiated at the March memorial dedication service. It attracted about 150 people including the Mitchell family and staff from the Sheriff’s Department. We conducted a prayer service for the capture of Jeff’s murder and eulogized the contributions of Jeff.
This past October, on the anniversary of Deputy Mitchell’s death, we conducted another memorial service. This event was well attended by both Sheriff’s Management and the community. A four-helicopter fly over was a highlight of the event. What was amazing to us were the numbers of people who remained at the site afterward visiting and reflecting upon Deputy Mitchell’s life and contributions.
We learned a lot from undertaking this project. It has been a privilege and an honor. We could never have experienced the love and respect that both the community and law enforcement hold for police officers had we not been involved in this. In this day and age when it appears that law enforcement has lost respect in the community it is not evident on Meiss Road. I encourage you to consider making a visitation to the memorial. I know that if you stay long enough you will meet someone else who has decided to make the trip to that special place.
It was a privilege to be involved in this memorial and remain connected to our Sheriff’s Department.