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‘It Was Lonely’

William Evers, known as the Redbearded Burglar, is a 40-year-old man who knows what awaits him in the coming months. After nearly a year in the wilds of Mendocino County burglarizing rural homes, fleeing from law enforcement, and avoiding human contact, he now sits in the county jail awaiting trial and expecting state prison in his future. In the most comprehensive interview yet with Evers, for the first time, he reveals the trials and tribulations of living off the land and the perpetual loneliness experienced by a man whose sole goal was avoiding human contact for as long as possible.

The Beginnings

Evers told us he was raised in Redding, California after being born six weeks premature and flown down to University of California, Davis for treatment. He was raised by both parents who are still married. Evers’s father has installed flooring for 30 years and his mother has worked a series of jobs throughout his life including making pizza, serving drinks as a barista, and treating animals as a veterinarian technician. 

High school was “fun” for Evers. Freshman year was “tough” he said, but as soon as he got his footing and got to know everyone, he “had a great time.” He competed in track and field but found he was not “super motivated” academically, struggling with grades “unless I concentrated on my work.”

Since his arrest, Evers has not spoken to his mom or dad, nor anyone outside of fellow inmates and two local reporters. He said the last time he was locked up, his grandmother told him she wouldn’t be happy with him if he got arrested again and “I’d be lucky if she talked to me.”

After high school, Evers dabbled in community college taking film editing and environmental horticulture. He described himself as an adept farmer hailing from a long line of farmers able to “grow almost anything.” Evers said he has always had a garden growing cannabis to vegetables wherever he went.

Alcohol addiction has been the root of Evers’s criminal conduct throughout his life and he tells us he has been addicted to it throughout the years. The years of county jails and prison stints blend together in his retelling, but some poignant moments included going to jail at 18, getting caught burglarizing a trailer in Humboldt County, and being sentenced to San Quentin after being wanted on felony probation. 

Redbeard Fights Fires

One of the times in his life Evers looks most proudly upon is between 1999-2005 when he worked as a wildland firefighter. He described one of the first fires he fought was New Mexico’s Barrego Fire in the early summer of 2002. He remembered the end of a grueling 36-hour shift when a helicopter flew in McDonalds breakfast sandwiches for the crew. As he ate the McMuffin, he looked around the “moonscape” and told his supervisor, “This is awesome.” For those years, he was “dedicated” to his role as a wildland firefighter. But, once again, alcohol and drugs including methamphetamine reared their heads and he was fired from his role as a wildland firefighter. 

Reflecting on his time in wildland firefighting, Evers described his professional life as successful, but his personal life “unstable” fueled by drugs and alcohol. He said “I’ve never been a violent person.” Showing a surprising amount of self-awareness, he noted, “In society, you can’t just run around drunk or high doing whatever you want.”

After approximately two months on the lam in Mendocino County, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office identified Evers and reported he was on active parole for a previous charge of criminal threats. He told us these threats were the reason he spent time in San Quentin and occurred when he was running from law enforcement. He was “whacked out on drugs” when he tried to flee law enforcement by swimming across the Sacramento River. When he arrived on the intended shore, he found a police officer standing over him with a taser. He told the police officer, “I’m going to slice your throat.” (Evers made sure to note that he did not in fact have a knife when he uttered the threat). Officers proceeded to subdue and detain him causing Evers to pass out and land in prison.

Noting a pattern of evading law enforcement, Evers said the majority of the time he has run from cops, “I got caught. I was mostly just trying to get away.” While on the lam in Mendocino County, Evers said, “I knew that if I get caught, I am going to jail because I was on parole. It’s either run or go to jail.” Evers felt as if he had an advantage because “I can hike better than most people. I knew if I could not get caught physically, I could most likely run from everybody.”

The wilds of Mendocino County called to Evers in the winter of 2020/2021. He found himself staying with a friend in Flagstaff, Arizona who had promised him a place to stay and to show him around town. Instead, his host was socked in with work and the town was shuttered due to COVID-19. 

Feeling stir crazy, the waves and wilderness of Mendocino County called to him. He knew there he could find a spot near the sea where he could fish and dine and live off the land and escape his troubles. He was running from parole violations and he knew time in civilization would end with him getting caught. 

So, one day, Evers got on a bus and headed for Mendo.

Becoming A Mendocino County Wildman

Having spent nine months navigating the wilderness of Mendocino County, Evers became adept at navigating the terrain and foraging for food.

Evers said he first became knowledgeable of Mendocino County’s geography while hitchhiking Highway 1 many years ago. He has friends in the county that he has visited in the past which provided more immersion into Mendo’s topography.

The biggest contributor to his body of Mendo-knowledge stemmed from his stint working at the Chamberlin Creek Cal Fire camp along State Route 20 from 2010-2012. 

Regardless of earlier exposure, when he walked into the woods west of Ukiah on February 10, 2021, Evers “didn’t know where I was going.” 

He navigated primarily using a map and compass. He pointed out that a compass was crucial because of the heavily forested nature of the terrain did not allow navigating using the sun.

Evers said he would pick a location on the map and push towards the landmark. If he found a road, he would follow it. When navigating roadways, Evers would often travel after dark and hide anytime a vehicle was approaching. 

From Ukiah, Evers intended to push westward but often found himself navigating a mountain range generally pointed northwest forcing him to navigate south and west to make a straight line to the ocean.

Evers found that hiking along the northside of mountains proved easier because the trees grew taller in their attempts to reach sunlight. The southside of mountains were often heavily vegetated, proving harder to navigate. 

The water Evers drank during his journey was “some of the best water I’ve ever had.” He would often find small streams and follow them to their source gushing out of the bare rock of mountains. He did not experience giardia or other gastro-intestinal issues associated with unfiltered water throughout his adventure.

In terms of foraging, Evers found himself eating bay tree nuts often. He described them as bitter, but by roasting them they could become more palatable. 

He often located mushrooms at the bottom of drainages on tree trunks straddling water sources and creeks. Evers had learned from mushroom books the specific mushrooms to be avoided due to their toxicity, and would essentially eat any mushroom that was not one of the toxic ones. “The worst that happens is you puke them up,” he said.

Another plant Evers specifically mentioned eating was bleeding heart, which he said was memorable because it was intoxicating when he ingested it. Please note, this is considered poisonous and should not be ingested.

One of Evers most extended stints hoofing it across Mendocino County was his two week hike from Anderson Valley to the coast. He hiked in the woods along Highway 128 and he said he was “only eating one handful of food in the morning, one during the day, and a big dinner” after he had foraged throughout the day.

At the outset of his foray into the wilderness, Evers hoped he could “run across somebody and help them grow pot, and just live.” He wanted to sustain himself, live off the land, but after nearly a year of doing so he realized, “It’s just too hard. There ain’t no Hershey bars in the middle of the forest.”

Speaking from his heart, Evers said his time in the wilderness was lonely. “I didn’t get to talk to people” and he spent the entirety of the time trying to avoid people as much as possible. He was forced to find other ways to entertain himself by enjoying nature, working on projects, or watching the animals. 

Evers spoke to an intimacy he developed with wildlife that revealed to him the complex inner lives of the forest dwellers. “Down in the canyons, there is tons of wildlife: owls and king fishers and squirrels.” He said that when animals are barking or singing, “They’re saying words, they’re communicating. They have lives, too.”

The Man With A Rifle And A Drone In The Sky

In our conversation with Evers, we brought along a slideshow of all surveillance footage that captured him during exploits. We showed each image to Evers and he provided what remembered of the moments those images were taken. 

The first images of Evers to go public depicted him from above wearing dark clothing, lugging a blue external frame backpack, and hands full of items. MCSO reported he was found in the Low Gap Road area west of Ukiah when these photographs were taken.

Evers arrived in Ukiah on a bus on February 10, 2021 and hiked into the western hills immediately. One day in mid February he was living in a rural cabin he found empty in the hills west of Ukiah. The day before he was photographed, he was outside of that cabin, “turning soil” and adding “organic matter” to it in hopes to grow vegetables. He was interrupted when he said, “I heard someone coming down the hill saying, ‘Hello! Hello!’” 

Having been sighted, Evers set up a green tent he had away from the cabin, but on the same property. The next day, near his green tent, he heard a man say, “Knock, knock” and turned around to see him “holding a rifle.” The man asked Evers “What are you doing here?”

Evers said he responded, “Just moving through, camping through the night.”

The situation escalated for Evers when he noticed the man was wearing a hat with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office emblem. He reasoned this man was either alone, or his partner could be nearby, and knew that his time on the lam was either over, or he had to run.

Evers told the man to hold on saying “I need to grab something out of my tent.” He dove inside and stuffed his blue backpack and “stuffed as much as I could inside” and ran. 

From that point, the man with the rifle gave chase for nearly two hours. “He was on my ass for two hours,” Evers remembered. Evers finally broke away from his pursuer when he began to trudge uphill. During this pursuit, a drone followed him which Evers assumes had a camera that captured images of him that day. In a final push to lose the man with the rifle, Evers chose a densely vegetated section of the woods and went headlong through it hoping the obstacles would ward off anyone following him. Evers said he managed to evade the man and continued westward towards the coast.

A Rifle, A Crate Of Wine, A Smoked Turkey, And A Sinewy Squirrel

The next surveillance footage that captured Evers’s exploits was located at a rural hunting cabin in Philo. The images depict him sporting an entirely different outfit including a blue beanie, camouflage pants, suspenders, a two-tone blue and light-colored jacket, and one image depicts him holding a rifle.

Evers said he would avail himself of new clothing whenever available. The new clothes he was sporting in those images were recently acquired from some unsuspecting homeowner as well as the .22 single-shot rifle.

The rifle allowed Evers to start hunting small game to feed himself. He hunted small birds, squirrels, and even a wild turkey at one point.

Evers described an intricate process of smoking the wild turkey. He used an old dresser found in one of the cabins he ransacked and removed all the drawers. Replacing all the drawers with chicken wire, Evers lit a fire underneath the dresser, covered the contraption, and slowly stoked the fire throughout the day. The resourceful Evers feasted on his smoked turkey and described it as “falling off the bone” and delicious. 

In contrast, the squirrels Evers ate proved chewy and sinewy, he told us. Squirrels require marinating and tenderizing, Evers said, but would provide enough meat for a small meal.

The photographs prompted a memory Evers had of finding a crate of wine at an old winery in Anderson Valley he walked near and filled his canteen and backpack up thieving the artisan wine.

How Redbeard Burgled

Evers described multiple burglaries during his time on the lam and provided insight into how he went about choosing homes to break into and the process of breaking in.

First off, he made it clear he targeted homes that were not occupied. He recalled a memory from years ago when he was “drunk and high out of my mind” when he walked into home and had a gun pulled on him. “They could tell I wasn’t coherent,” Evers remembered. He had to ask the homeowner how to get out of the home and after they directed him, he “beat feet.”

Since then, Evers has always avoided confrontation when burglarizing. Breaking into homes “can be dangerous,” Evers admitted, and he did not want to get hurt or have to hurt anybody. He also described being cautious of dogs hoping to avoid attack and having to “shoot someone’s dog.” 

In his time burglarizing homes, Evers said he has had “some close calls” describing them as “pretty exciting.” But, in general, when Evers broke into someone’s home he hoped to nab “something to drink or some pot to smoke, something yummy to eat, or drugs.” Evers did admit that he had stolen jewelry during his stay in the Mendocino County woods and wore it temporarily until he grew tired of it and would ditch it in the wild.

Looking back at his burglary career, Evers said “after a while you get good at it. You get less cautious.” When he first began to burglarize homes, “I was scared to go up to people’s houses.” Evers said he did not stake out homes for days, but instead relied on some simple environmental markers to determine if the house was unoccupied. Some signs a home was unoccupied included empty gardens, no vehicle tracks in the driveway, leaves on that have not been driven on recently. 

Abandoned cannabis grows proved to be points of interest for Evers. He described finding different cannabis properties, some with trailers scattered on the property, others with small cabins, and he sometimes found food and other belongings left behind at the properties.  

Evers said one of the advantages in targeting homes that are not occupied often is the simple fact that it could take days, weeks, or even months before someone is aware and reports the occurrence to the police. He even said there could be cabins that he broke into on his journeys that have yet to be discovered.

‘It Was Just A Warning Shot’

The hunt for Evers intensified after the evening of May 12, 2021 when he reportedly fired upon MCSO deputies who interrupted his burglarizing of a home on the 3000 block of Cameron Road in the rural town of Elk. The officer involved shooting prompted a significant law enforcement response including the SWAT team who combed the area looking for Evers. 

Surveillance footage from the home Evers reportedly burglarized that night shows Evers dressed in all black with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol strapped across his chest and a flashlight in his hand. 

Evers at first was reluctant to speak to the events of that night. The incident is the basis for the attempted murder charge of which Evers stands accused. 

Eventually, he told us, “All I can say, I never shot at anybody. I never attempted to kill anyone basically.” 

Pressed further, Evers admitted to discharging the firearm as “just a warning shot. I never aimed my pistol at anybody.” He said deputies “were on my ass,” and as they were getting close he decided to fire one warning shot into the bushes. Evers emphasized that the shot “was not directed towards anyone.” 

Knowing he is most likely facing a 25 years to life in prison sentence as a result of these crimes, Evers said, “There is no reason for me to lie. I never aimed my pistol at anybody.”

Evers stridently disputes MCSO’s account that he exchanged gunfire with deputies. “If I was going to shoot my gun and try to kill someone, I would have.” 

After discharging his weapon, the deputies stopped their pursuit and fired three shots at Evers who heard the bullets “whizzing by me.” He was relieved when the deputies ceased their pursuit and he once again “beat feet” into the woods.

That night, Evers slunk through the darkened woods, turning on his flashlight as few times as possible, and at one point finding himself at the bottom of a canyon he had to crawl out of in the pitch black on his hands and knees.

In the aftermath of this shooting, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and large swaths of deputies conducted a multi-day search for Evers.

Evers fled to a property he had established as a homebase near Highway 1 across from Devil’s Basin. This home-away-from-home offered Evers close proximity to the ocean, a 3-4 month supply of pasta, rice, and beans and a place to plant marijuana and vegetable seeds.

In the days that followed the shooting, Evers described hunkering down in the home. He made sure to enter undetected by removing boards from the windows and then screwing the boards back on from the inside. This refuge was a couple of miles away from where the shooting occurred, Evers thought, and not once did he hear law enforcement nearby the home.

Wasted In A Bathtub, Drinking Champagne, Watching Netflix

Surveillance footage from June 13, 2021 shows Evers with his shirt unbuttoned, his face gaunt, his body fat diminishing, and a befuddled look on his face.

Evers told us when that footage was taken, he was “drinking a lot, foraging, and trying to make the food stretch.” He described becoming “really skinny.” One look at his picture and Evers said “if you look at my face, I’m completely wasted.” 

The house depicted in those photos is actually the same one depicted in the surveillance footage taken the night deputies and Evers discharged their firearms. That house, Evers explained, became his lap of luxury. He said he spent lots of time there because it offered Netflix, a room with a sauna, a big bathtub, and a full bar. He sometimes found himself streaming television, soaking in the bathtub, and sipping champagne. 

The Redbearded Burglar Becomes Br’er Rabbit

On Monday, August 30, 2021, Evers was found by a woman on Middle Ridge Road in Albion pilfering beets and onions from a garden.

Armed with recently foraged oyster mushrooms, Evers sought onions and other veggies to cook up a “good meal” when he stumbled upon that Albion garden. 

When he first arrived on the property he described encountering a “huge, golden horse” with a “puzzled expression on his face” gawking at the stranger in its midst. 

While digging for onions and beets, Evers heard from behind him a woman’s voice say, “Well, at least it’s not a bear.” 

“No bear here,” Evers replied.

Evers apologized for being in the garden and taking vegetables without her permission. He attempted to carry on a conversation but she was clearly upset and eventually told Evers, “It’s time for you to go now.”

Psychedelic Mushrooms+Burglary+Cops=Bad Trip

After being caught with beets and onion in hand, Evers went down the road and found himself at another home that night. After breaking in, he rooted around and found some rum, some food to add to his stew, and then actually located some psychedelic mushrooms.

Evers said he ate the shrooms right up on an empty stomach, and quickly the effects began to take hold. He sat on the couch, tried to work the remote, and found himself too far gone to even operate the remote. Saying “screw this,” Evers got up to make dinner when suddenly he “saw a light come through the front door.”

There were three potential sources of that light, Evers said: the cops, the neighbors, or the homeowners. 

High on psilocybin, Evers grabbed his backpack and jacket and was desperate for a solution. 

Suddenly, Evers noticed flashlights out back and he realized whoever it was, they did not know he was inside and was actually searching the premises.

Evers went to the front door, opened it, and saw squad vehicles pointing their headlights directly at the front of the home. After not seeing anyone or hearing someone yelling, he descended the stairs, “beat feet,” and “ran out of there.”

In arguably the most iconic photograph of Evers, police dashcam caught him fleeing the home wearing a cowboy hat in the glare of police headlights resembling an amalgam of the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film of Sasquatch and a leprechaun doing a jig.

The Jig Was Up

On November 4, 2021, MCSO announced that the legendary Redbearded Burglar had finally been caught. After nearly an entire year on the lam, William Evers finally was subdued by the long arm of the law. 

The day before being captured, Evers told us he was riding a stolen bike around the trails near the area known as the Donut Shop. “Like an idiot, I went towards the road,” Evers said. There, he found cops crouched by the bushes along the trail. “I said, ‘Hey! How’s it going?’” The deputies recognized him despite his efforts and immediately began pursuit.

Evers “beat feet” yet again and pedaled as quickly as he could down the logging road. He ditched his bike and made his way back to camp, which was only around five-minutes away from where they had seen him.

Knowing the noose was tightening, Evers decided it was time to pack up and move on. The following morning, he struck east expecting the SWAT team to be combing the woods for any sign of him.

Breaking loose of heavy vegetation, Evers found himself on a logging road and not ten feet from him stood three MCSO deputies and a K9. 

Evers “instantly started running” but found the K9 biting his leg and returning for more every time he kicked it.

A change came over Evers. He had bear mace in his pocket, and was thinking about spraying the K9, but “something told me not to, as bad as I wanted to get away.” In his moment of doubt, three deputies descended, wrestling him to the ground and finally handcuffing him.

And just like that, the Redbearded Burglar’s reign was over.

Evers said MCSO Lieutenant JD Cromer was “really cool” to him after he was caught, helping to deescalate the situation by telling him, “The game’s up, man. People are scared. You can’t be doing this.”

On Becoming Infamous… 

Evers thinks it is “pretty cool” that his criminal moniker has become dinner table fodder for Mendocino County residents. He remembered hearing KOZT’s radio personality Joe Regelski starting a news update with “That damn Redbeard strikes again.”

“It cracked me up, I thought it was awesome,” Evers said. “They weren’t just looking at me as a super bad guy, even though I was.”

Looking back at his burglaries, Evers said “I don’t feel good about doing that to people.” He proposed that the government, in fact, “steals stuff from people all the time? Thousands of dollars? Am I a bad guy for stealing a couple hundred bucks from people?” Answering his own question, Evers said, “In a sense, I am.”

Despite the notoriety, Evers said, “It’s not really a name I wanted to make for myself.” Now that he finds himself facing state prison once again, Evers said the fact that people have gotten a “kick out of it” is “actually pretty cool.”

An extra bonus, Evers offered, was the fact his exploits provided good training for law enforcement in which “nobody got hurt” (which is not entirely true, a deputy hurt his ankle responding to Evers at one point).

Redbeard’s Future 

In the months ahead, Evers says he will go through the court process to “see what evidence is against me.” He said he has got to be “realistic” knowing law enforcement has fingerprints, DNA, and surveillance footage of his exploits. He said emphatically he would go to court on the attempted murder charges to prove he did not do that.

As of last Wednesday, Evers has been to the Mendocino County Superior Court once where he was appointed a public defender. He has not met with the public defender and is eager to figure out all the charges he faces. 

Evers hopes to explore some creative endeavors in the future, working on his musical skills, being a lifelong drummer and trying to learn guitar. This reporter suggested a band name: Redbeard and the Burglars. Evers mentioned trying to write a book on his experience in the wild.

When asked what he wanted to tell the public directly, he said it is important to remember that addiction is real. “When something has control of your body, it has control of your mind.  You’re hurting your family, your friends, or yourself.”

He remembered the last time he was in jail he dreamed of getting out and “living a normal life.”  When he got out, he worked in Arizona with his father installing flooring seemingly doing really well professionally. But, Evers said, “behind the scenes, I was a wreck.”

Another lesson he hoped to impart on the public was our duty to take care of nature. “It’s all we got left,” he said.

Evers asked the public to forgive him and apologized “if I disappointed you.” He said, “I never attempted to kill anyone, It was never my intention to hurt anyone.” He concluded our interview saying simply, “No hard feelings. I hope you can forgive me, and wish me luck.”

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