Law enforcement officials say they have identified the person believed to be responsible for the fatal shooting of longtime West Tisbury town moderator Francis (“Pat”) Gregory nearly 10 years ago.
Gregory was hiking along a remote trail in Northern California on the morning of May 16, 2014, when he was robbed at gunpoint, shot, and left for dead. A companion who was hiking with him was wounded.
The two men were found by another hiker hours later, who contacted emergency responders. Gregory died at the scene from his injuries. He was 69 years old.
The news of Pat Gregory’s tragic death shocked the Vineyard. Those who knew him described the former West Tisbury School math teacher, local business owner, and town moderator as a highly respected and much-loved member of the Island community.
According to the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, the person believed to have killed Gregory and wounded his friend — a then-76-year-old, unnamed Manton, Calif., resident — has yet to be taken into custody, as investigators work to finalize details on the case.
Officials anticipate issuing an arrest warrant in the near future. As of now, investigators say, they are actively aware of the suspect’s whereabouts.
“We know exactly where he’s at, [and] we do believe we are very close,” Sgt. Dustin Maria with the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office told The Times in a recent phone call. “Our investigators feel confident that we have identified the individual responsible for this homicide.”
Maria says it is “absolutely” the closest officials have ever been to solving the case, which has haunted Islanders for nearly a decade.
In the days following Gregory’s death, which occurred on the Iron Canyon Trail near the town of Red Bluff, Calif., police released a composite sketch to the public, based on descriptions provided by Gregory’s hiking companion.
A reward of $1,500 initially offered by the Tehama County Secret Witness Program to anyone who could provide information leading to an arrest of the perpetrator was later raised to $5,000, after pushback from Islanders who claimed the reward amount was too low.
In 2019, law enforcement officials hoped to reinvigorate the investigation by releasing to the public a new composite sketch of the then-unknown assailant.
Those efforts proved unsuccessful.
It wasn’t until about two years ago when Tehama County had some leads develop that “really advanced the investigation,” Sgt. Maria said.
Since then, the multi-agency investigation, which included the Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Justice, has worked to zero in on a single suspect.
The sheriff’s office has not yet released the name of said suspect.
Meanwhile, over the past six years, the case has stuck with West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone, who’s quietly been working with California investigators to help solve one of the Island’s biggest mysteries.
Through regular correspondence, Mincone has kept up-to-date on the case, mainly through Bureau of Land Management Special Agent Curtis Hubanks, who has worked the case since 2018, and traveled to the Vineyard that same year to meet with Gregory’s widow.
In a call with The Times, Hubanks declined to speak on particulars of the investigation, but shared that he’s always been taken by Gregory’s case, and had felt an obligation to return to Gregory’s family with answers.
“He hasn’t let it rest,” Mincone said of Hubanks.
Of Mincone, Hubanks has called him a “huge asset” to the investigation. Both men tell The Times that they’ve long awaited being able to bring closure to Gregory’s loved ones.
At the time of his death, Gregory was survived by his wife Dorothy, daughter Shannon, and son Timothy. Dorothy (Lacombe) Gregory passed away in 2021 at the age of 71; Shannon Gregory Carbon died just last month.
Though disappointed and saddened that Gregory’s wife and daughter won’t get to see the case solved, Mincone says he hopes that an arrest and conviction of the person responsible for killing Gregory may offer some healing for the rest of his family, and the greater Island community who were devastated by his loss.