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NorCal man arrested after deadly ax rampage

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POSTED February 29, 2012 8:07 p.m.

MOUNTAIN GATE  (AP) — A man who apparently became upset when he thought someone was stealing his medication went on a gruesome rampage with an ax, killing two people, authorities said Wednesday.

Thomas McDonald, 35, was being held without bail for investigation of murder, assault and a parole violation after the Tuesday attacks in the town of Mountain Gate in Shasta County.

McDonald lived in a house with four roommates and believed someone was stealing from him, according to sheriff's Detective Sgt. Steve Grashoff. When a roommate and another man tried to calm him down, McDonald stabbed them in the face with a fork, Grashoff said.

McDonald then left the house and attacked two random men with a splitting maul, a long ax used to split logs, authorities said.

"They had nothing to do with the house where this disturbance took place," Grashoff said.

The exact motive for the attacks remained under investigation.

"We're still doing interviews with him," said Grashoff, who couldn't confirm if the suspect was mentally ill.

Victim Ralph Torberg lived three doors down from McDonald's house and was working in his front yard at the time. He was beaten with the ax and had his face crushed and hand cut off, according to sheriff's officials.

The second victim was Karl Bradshaw, 54, who was sitting in his truck nearby during a break from his job at a houseboat repair shop. Officials said Bradshaw tried to escape a beating by driving away but crashed into a parked boat.

McDonald later told investigators that he tossed a lit cigarette into flammable liquid that was draining from the crashed vehicle, causing an explosion and fire that trapped the victim, officials said.

Deputies responding to reports of the initial stabbings said they found McDonald covered in blood. He was taken into custody without incident.

McDonald was recently released from prison following convictions for theft, minor assaults and drugs, authorities said.

The home where McDonald lived has been the subject of several disturbance calls in the past involving narcotics and noise complaints, the detective said.

McDonald was due in court Thursday, when he was expected to be assigned a lawyer and arraigned.

The victims in the fork stabbings, Captain Ricks, 35, and Gary St. Pierre, 53, were treated at a hospital for minor injuries, according to authorities.


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