Sheriff John Anderson today announced a Search & Rescue mission launched Monday at noon took a tragic turn just before midnight that night, when Search & Rescue Volunteers located the body of a 17-year-old Simi Valley girl.
Her two male companions are now behind bars facing felony charges.
Twenty-year-old Scott Jacob Mason of Simi Valley and 18-year-old Jacob Patrick Banaga of Visalia were booked into Madera County Department of Corrections Tuesday morning at around 3 a.m. on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child. Their bail set at $10,000.00
Late Monday night, the body of Tara Shannon Maguire was found submerged in a stream near Rock Creek Campground in the Sierra National Forest -- located roughly an hour’s drive north of North Fork.
Shortly after noon on Monday, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a stranded motorist. The caller said they had run out of gas over the weekend, and his party was without food and water.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. (Monday) Deputies and SAR Volunteers caught up with two males (identified as Banaga and Mason) and learned that a female (later identified as Tara Maguire), who was traveling with the pair, vanished 24 hours prior.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., working in pitch black darkness, Search & Rescue Volunteers located her body. Recovery efforts were stymied due to darkness, and steep and rugged terrain. The recovery team was forced to set up camp near the river’s edge that night. The recovery operation resumed at sun-up the following day.
Meantime, Detectives questioned Mason and Banaga, who both admit to smoking Methamphetamine regularly. Mason claims to use it daily, and Banaga, every other week. Both were reportedly on a multi-day Meth binge before Tara died.
The events leading up to her alleged disappearance and death remain under investigation.
An Autopsy is scheduled to be performed later today. Results may not be available until after the New Year.
No further details can be released at this time.
** Rock Creek Campground is located close to Mammoth Pool Reservoir near the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This area is known for its jagged peaks, including 13,157-foot Mt. Ritter, and numerous lakes and streams.
Elevation is roughly 5,000 feet.
From the valley floor, drivers take Highway 41 north and turn east on Forest Road 200, and pass through North Fork to Minarets Road, and then head east for 22 miles to Rock Creek Campground.
Depending on road conditions, travel time can be as much as 2 hours.