Fairfield police announced Monday that the skeletal remains found over the weekend were those of a missing bio-tech engineer reported missing by a San Francisco sheriff’s lieutenant who has yet to be ruled out as a suspect in what investigators now consider a probable homicide.
“Saturday, we announced that remains were discovered. Those remains have been turned over to the county coroner. Today, we were able to announce that those remains were identified as that of Zach Rose,” said Lt. Jausiah Jacobsen of the Fairfield police.
Zachery Rose, then 28, was reported missing back in February 2018 by his on-and-off boyfriend, Phil Lasater, who is now a lieutenant in the San Francisco county sheriff’s department.
Authorities said a drone flying in the area spotted clothing and remains in a field off Cement Hill and Peabody roads, about a mile from where Rose had parked his white pickup truck in front of Lasater’s home on Shorey Way in Fairfield.
Lasater, now a 50-year-old San Francisco sheriff’s department supervisor, called 911 to report Rose had walked out of his home, leaving the front door open, at 10 p.m. on Feb. 3, the weekend of the Super Bowl.
Family members described Rose as quiet, punctual and dedicated to his work as a biotech engineer – not someone who would just vanish.
They said it was especially puzzling because Rose left his cellphone, wallet, keys and his truck behind. “He doesn’t go anywhere without his cellphone,” his mother, Robyn Rose, said in an interview in 2018 with the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit.
Rose left his work at Bio-Rad in Hercules at 5:37 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, after telling a coworker he planned to spend Super Bowl weekend playing piano, according to investigators. Police say they have security footage and bridge-crossing photos that confirm he drove his pickup from Bio-Rad to Fairfield, where Lasater was living.
The two had met online, and in 2015, Rose left his native Arkansas to move in with Lasater, according to Robyn Rose. But by the time Rose disappeared, he had leased his own apartment in Hercules.
Investigators say Lasater reported Rose missing 17 hours after he said he last saw him at 10 p.m. Feb. 3. In a dispatch call obtained by NBC Bay Area, an emotional Lasater is heard telling a dispatcher how Rose had left the house the night before, leaving behind his parked truck and all his personal belongings, and had not returned. He said he wasn’t aware of anyone with whom Rose might have left.
As police began to probe Rose’s disappearance, they were reminded of the 2012 unsolved death of Lasater’s husband of 15 years. Bill Volkl, 41, died unexpectedly, apparently in his sleep. But the Solano County medical examiner was not able to determine what caused his death.
Volkl was obese and had a history of heart problems but also suffered an unexplained neck injury. “Our office cannot rule out foul play,” in light of that injury, the report noted.
In the case of Volkl, the autopsy report describes an emergency room visit two months before he died. Volkl was treated at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.
Doctors there suspected he had suffered injuries as the result of domestic violence and notified police. But investigators were unable to pursue the matter after both Volkl and Lasater refused to cooperate, according to the report.
Investigators repeatedly questioned Lasater as a potential person of interest related to both Volkl’s death and Rose’s disappearance. Fairfield police said in 2018 that they could not rule out the San Francisco sheriff’s lieutenant as a suspect.
Lasater, who has retained an attorney, said in a telephone interview in 2018 that he’s been unjustly targeted by homophobic Fairfield police. In a webpage to raise money for Rose’s search, Lasater wrote: “Zach is a sweet, friendly and a humble young man.”
In the 2018 story, Lt. Jacobsen dismissed any notion that his department is homophobic, insisting investigators only wanted to be able to rule out Lasater as a suspect.
Having repeatedly searched the Shorey Way home and surrounding area with helicopters and cadaver dogs and coming up empty, police started to post a billboard along the freeway asking for the public’s help.