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Hoopa stabbing revealed on video, Sotolongo Preliminary Hearing

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EUREKA - The man accused of murdering 30-year-old Rodger Allan Yale at the Hoopa Mini Mart this past February had his preliminary hearing Thursday at the Humboldt County Courthouse.

Gearold Sotolongo, also known as Roldo Pratt, was linked to the crime just two days after it occurred. Pratt was then on the run for three weeks before being arrested on March 9th by the Sheriff’s SWAT Team and the Humboldt County Drug Task Force at a residence on Tish Tang Road in Hoopa. At the preliminary hearing it became apparent why Sotolongo is the prime suspect.

Gearold Sotolongo has pled not guilty to the murder of Rodger Yale and denied the special allegation of using a deadly weapon. He is being represented by defense attorney Kevin Robinson, Humboldt County D.A.’s Office Attorney Jackie Pizzo is prosecuting the case and Judge John Feeney presiding. 

Thursday Pizzo brought forth two witnesses, Deputy Thomas O'Roarke and Investigator Todd Fulton, both from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. During the testimonies Pizzo played several clips taken from the Hoopa Mini Mart surveillance cameras, which both O’Roake and Fulton had seen.

In the videos five individuals are seen wandering around the mini mart property. Rodger Yale, noted with reddish hair and light skin, was alone, wearing a backpack and holding a stick. Four individuals approach Yale in what appears to quickly escalate into an altercation. Yale then proceeds to the side of the mini mart and attempted to sit down when a large man wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt with a pony tail attacked Yale with aggressive force, placing his hands on Yale's chest and pushing him.

Seen in the video, blood begins to project from Yale's body onto the concrete and he falls to the ground. The attacker and all individuals flee the scene. Yale manages to get up and enter the market, grabbing his chest. Deputy O'Roake says when he arrived Yale was conscious in the ambulance but unable to speak and that "he looked at me, then slumped his head to the side and stopped breathing.” 

As for the cause of death, a stab wound to the heart. Investigator Fulton said he was present for the autopsy performed by Dr. Mark Super and that the stab wound was “3.5 inches in depth, between the fourth and fifth rib, and went in the heart puncturing the left ventricle.”

After investigation interviews with store employees and help from Hoopa Tribal Police, Sotolongo was identified in the video as the attacker. Fulton said, employees knew the group of individuals because “they frequented the store,” and at first employees did not want to identify the group out of “fear.”

Defense Attorney Robinson tried to argue the special allegation of using a deadly weapon because the murder weapon has not been recovered. However Pizzo said quote "the evidence is clear" that an object had to be used to make the puncture. Judge John Feeney agreed. Sotolongo's next day in court is April 27th at 2 p.m. for an arraignment  

By: Sierra Jenkins