Benjamin Mersai, 33, of Grover Beach is the third person to be arrested in the suspected murder of Joseph Martin Govey, whose dismembered body was found in a lake at Blacklake Golf Resort in Nipomo on September 21. Mersai was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on September 28 on allegations of murder, accessory to murder, and conspiracy and was arrested “as he was recreating at the same golf course where the decedent’s remains were located,” the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office press release stated. Mersai’s LinkedIn account lists him as a bartender and “drink creator” at the golf resort in 2016.
Two other people were charged earlier in the homicide, Kimberly Machleit, 35, and Donald Anderson, 37, both of Santa Maria. All three are being held at the Santa Barbara County Jail; Machleit’s bail of $2 million was rescinded. Mersai is being held without bail.
Mersai and Anderson worked as independent contractors for Green Light Go, a company based in Garden Grove that schedules big-rig trucks, flatbeds, and drivers. In Santa Maria, they worked out of 2291 Professional Parkway. Machleit worked for Anderson and was his girlfriend, according to Carrie Allen, who is with the company’s location in McAllen, Texas. The company had severed ties with Anderson and the others in August after learning that Anderson and Machleit had been arrested for methamphetamines and guns, Allen said.
The two were arrested on August 25 with a third man, Kevin Rasmussen, 27, of Tustin, at the same Professional Parkway location. They had been released from jail without bail under Emergency Rule 4, which allows many felonies to have bail set at zero. The evidence allegedly included 605 grams of meth, 12 grams of heroin, an AR-15-style rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, and two handguns without serial numbers. The Sheriff’s Office stated they found five vehicles that had been purchased using identification belonging to other people, including birthdates and social security numbers.
Machleit and Mersai are charged with homicide in the Govey case, and Anderson is booked as an accessory. When Anderson and Machleit were arrested, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office stated the two knew Govey but would not disclose any details.
Govey had been arrested in 2001 for alleged meth charges while driving a U-Haul truck in Huntington Beach. The case apparently involved a sale of drugs to Govey by a police informant, according to the OC Weekly. According to court documents, Govey was allegedly at one time a member of the Public Enemy Number One Death Squad gang, a white supremacist group that originated in Long Beach — allegations that Govey’s lawyer had refuted.
His case got wrapped into what became a notorious use of jailhouse informants by Orange County law enforcement; six cases, including Govey’s, were thrown out of court by federal Judge Cormac Carney in 2018. Govey’s attorney Tim Scott, who called his former client “Joey,” said the prosecutor’s case fell apart after a witness, a sheriff’s deputy, declined to testify and took the Fifth to avoid incriminating himself in a murder case unrelated to Govey. The informants were the same, however, and Scott said the deputies tried to settle the score by overstating the evidence in the drug cases.
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