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Human skull is linked to grisly guillotine death in Santa Rosa

A map of Santa Rosa showing where a decapitated body was found inside a home

A human skull found in a Santa Rosa garden has been linked to a grisly guillotine death and an alleged squatter accused of tampering with human remains, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

The case unfolded after a woman in the Luther Burbank neighborhood found the skull in her bushes this year.

The skull was confirmed to be that of Robert Enger, a longtime resident of the area who lived in an unassuming house on Hendley Street. Enger was last seen in July 2019, when he was 62.

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Police determined that Enger — who was described in the Press Democrat as a friendly, helpful person who suffered from mental health issues — had killed himself using a makeshift guillotine.

Instead of a sliding blade, the device had a large metal spike, about 10 inches long, which he used to impale himself, police said.

A man in a mug shot
Robert Melvin Ross III is facing criminal charges of tampering with human remains.
(Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office)

After his death, the house sat dark and abandoned until Robert Melvin Ross III, 25, moved in toward the end of 2020, authorities said.

Ross allegedly spent months living with Enger’s remains — on occasion inviting others to the house to party and take methamphetamine.

“It was just absolutely filthy and just filled with debris, trash, foods, piles of stuff,” Santa Rosa Police Det. Anthony Turner told the Press Democrat. “There were buckets of urine and feces inside the house.”

Police were called to the house multiple times beginning in late 2020, mostly by neighbors reporting the squatters. The house, which sits behind a white wooden fence, was becoming increasingly run-down and overgrown.

Santa Rosa Police Department spokesman Chris Mahurin said officials never had cause to enter the home, and no one knew that Enger’s body was lying inside beneath a pile of debris.

But one person who had attended a party at the house later told police that he had seen the decomposing remains and that Ross had at one point “proceeded to remove the skull” from the body and scrape it with a knife, according to the Press Democrat.

By the time the skull was discovered in the neighbor’s garden, Ross was already in custody on separate charges, Mahurin said.

During an interview with police, Ross described the guillotine and how he had found Enger’s body. An examination of the device was consistent with his description.

“Robert Enger placed himself under that contraption, manipulated it, was killed, and then his body was manipulated later by Robert Ross and others,” Turner said.

Ross was charged with unlawful handling of human remains, removal or possession of a memento from human remains and unauthorized entry into a dwelling, according to the Sonoma County district attorney’s office.

An attorney for Ross did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

A court-ordered psychological exam this year found that Ross was mentally competent, according to court records.

In November, he pleaded no contest to possession of a memento from human remains, but he later asked to rescind his plea. He is scheduled to appear for sentencing and a hearing to withdraw his plea Dec. 20.

Ross remains in custody in lieu of $30,000 bail, according to Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office records.

The cause of Enger’s death is still listed in the coroner’s report as “undetermined,” officials said.


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