MADERA COUNTY – A Search & Rescue mission launched Monday at noon took a tragic turn just before midnight that night, when SAR volunteers located the body of a 17-year-old Simi Valley girl.
Her two male companions are now behind bars facing felony charges.
Scott Jacob Mason, 20, of Simi Valley, and Jacob Patrick Banaga, 18, of Visalia, were booked into Madera County Department of Corrections at around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 17, on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child. Their bail set at $10,000.
Late Monday night, the body of Tara Shannon Maguire, 17, 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 about 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, deputies and SAR volunteers caught up with two males, identified as Banaga and Mason, and learned that a female, later identified as Tara Maguire, had disappeared some 24 hours earlier.
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, and wait for daylight to resume the recovery operation.
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.