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Fugitive murder suspect eludes capture in California

Mendocino County Sheriff via AP

This Feb. 2011 photo provided by the Mendocino County (Calif.) Sheriff shows Aaron Bassler.

This is really dangerous work, and you can see it in the faces of the deputies.

AP reports:

OAKLAND, Calif — An opium-growing recluse wanted in connection with two murders exchanged gunfire with police in northern California but slipped back away into dense woods where he has hidden out for five weeks, authorities said on Friday.

No one was hurt in Thursday's shootout with Aaron Bassler, 35, near the town of Northspur, located about 150 miles north of San Francisco in the rugged coastal mountains of Mendocino County, said sheriff's department Captain Kurt Smallcomb.

But Bassler, described by his father as mentally ill and living like a virtual hermit, managed to avoid capture again in what was his closest brush with arrest since he went on the run last month.

Eric Risberg / AP

Sheriff's deputies searching for murder suspect Aaron Bassler stand on the front of the Skunk train as it pulls into Northspur, Calif., Friday, Sept. 30. Authorities say they are closing in on the murder suspect who has been the subject of the largest local manhunt in decades, as they reported he shot at a group of sheriff's deputies Thursday. Bassler, 35, is suspected of killing a city councilman on Aug. 27 and one other person several weeks before. Bassler is thought to be hiding out in the redwoods outside of Fort Bragg and is believed to have broken into several cabins to steal food and at least two other weapons.


Kent Porter / AP

An Alameda County Sheriff's deputy lets out a nervous sigh near the Northspur area of Mendocino County, Thursday Sept. 29, 2011 between Fort Bragg and Willits, Ca.

Eric Risberg / AP

Mendocino County sheriff's deputy Joey DeMarco stands watch with his patrol dog Barry alongside railroad tracks as the search for murder suspect Aaron Bassler continues in Northspur, Calif., Friday, Sept. 30.