3.28.2010

Daniel Mintz article on Allison Jackson

In this week's Arcata Eye, McKinleyville Press and Garberville's The Independent

Allison Jackson: ‘The community deserves something better’

HUMBOLDT – Former County Prosecutor Allison Jackson says she has a wide-ranging base of support that’s united in the belief that the District Attorney’s Office needs to change for the better.

“I would liken it to the Titanic with the bow up in the water and the band hanging from the railings – there’s no leadership and there’s really no administration of the office,” she said.

Jackson’s emergence as a candidate is no surprise, as it’s been rumored for months. But she said it was not an easy decision, as she’s enjoying a civil law career with the Harland Law Firm.

“The tote board was real heavy on the ‘don’t do this side,’” she said. “But on the ‘do this’ side was the knowledge of what needs to be done and the leadership to do it, and thinking that there’s about 129,000 people – every child, every woman, every man -- that deserves something better.”

What they deserve is the assurance that those who commit crimes will be appropriately held accountable and that the rights of defendants will be preserved, she continued. Those aspects are being undercut by incumbent District Attorney Paul Gallegos’ “almost complete inability” to hire and maintain mid- to senior-level prosecutors, said Jackson.

She added that she’s not the only one who’s noticed that lack of case preparation is resulting in day-of-trial plea bargains that leave crime victims and their families feeling short-changed. Over-charging of defendants is also happening, Jackson continued, for the same reasons.

“These things are occurring so frequently, it’s almost mind-boggling,” she said.

Jackson’s bid to replace Gallegos is part of a power struggle that began shortly after the DA was first elected. He survived a 2004 recall attempt which saw then-Prosecutor Worth Dikeman as a candidate. Jackson supported Dikeman when he challenged Gallegos again in the 2006 election.

Gallegos’ supporters see Jackson as a conservative who would reverse the change the DA has fought for and delivered. She rejects that view.

“I’m interested in forward progress,” said Jackson. “Some things have to change because they’re simply not working and what’s needed is a return to what’s thought of in the profession as an acceptable and appropriate way of prosecuting certain crimes.”

Vertical prosecution – specialization in crime categories like child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault – only exists superficially now, she continued. “That really has to be fixed, I don’t believe in accepting mediocrity, you need to strive for excellence.”

Nor does Jackson view herself as a conservative candidate. “I’m a fourth generation Democrat,” she said. “Holding people accountable for their crimes, protecting defendants’ rights and honoring victims’ rights – that’s not a conservative/liberal thing, that’s the one thing that actually unites us all.”

Jackson described how she would lead, saying that the “sole, primary function of the DA is to be the administrator of the office” – which contrasts Gallegos’ stance that the community expects a DA to try cases personally.

“When you give up your administrative function just to go and play in a courtroom, you’re letting the community down and that’s what’s occurred here,” Jackson said. She added that if she’s elected, she’ll probably have to try some cases due to a shortage of senior deputies but her plan is to rebuild the office so that’s not necessary.

Marijuana prosecution, particularly of medical cases, is an important election issue. Jackson said she grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains, a haven of hippie culture, which “gives me a different perspective than other people might have.”

She said she will guard the legal right to use marijuana medically but she also wants to guard against exploitation of the community. “What we in Humboldt are owning, because of our tolerance, has been the greed of people who come here from out of the area,” Jackson continued. “They’ve come up here and they’ve exploited our tolerance and that’s resulted in some pretty horrific things in grow houses and in neighborhoods, and some pretty significant environmental damage.”

Asked what her guidelines for medical marijuana will be, Jackson declined to quantify growing area or plant numbers. She said the totality of evidence has to be considered to determine if the concept of medical cultivation is being capitalized on at the community’s expense.

“I’m really looking at going after and enforcing prohibitions against large scale, clearly commercial grows,” she continued. “And I can guarantee you, if you’ve got cancer or if you have MS or acute back pain, you’ve got nothing to worry about from me.”

And like the other candidates, Jackson is in favor of marijuana legalization in the state and she wants it on a federal level too. “If you know you’ve got this many people that are using it – and we do – you’ve just created a black market that has made a lot of people very wealthy at the same time has created huge burdens, at least for this community.”

Marijuana prosecution isn’t something Jackson is known for. In her 10 years as a county prosecutor, she specialized in cases involving crimes against children and women. But she believes her involvement in prosecuting a marijuana case led to her exit from the office.

Gallegos fired her in 2004, shortly after the recall election, a move that intensified an already bitter political clash between those who support the DA and those who believe he’s done harm to the office.

Jackson has said that her complaint against marijuana defense attorney Ed Denson—who is a Gallegos supporter -- is the reason why the DA fired her. And when asked about the circumstances of her firing,
she reiterated that it was because she reported that Denson knowingly submitted a client’s altered medical marijuana documentation as evidence.

“It was never investigated, it was buried and the underlying cases were dismissed and I was fired – and I wear that as badge of honor,” she continued.

Gallegos has said that Jackson’s firing was not because of the complaint or anything related to it and Denson has firmly denied the allegation. Jackson’s candidacy is likely to re-ignite politically-related speculation about why she was fired.

Replacing one’s boss is probably the best revenge for having been fired but Jackson said it has nothing to do with her decision to run. “My decision to run is solely based on the fact that we have people that are not being held fully accountable for what they’ve done to others, we have victims and victims’ families that have been hurt and are not getting their justice and as a community, we are being diminished because of that,” she said.

Jackson’s belief in those principles is long-held and she said decided she wanted to be a prosecutor when she was 21 years old. In that year of her life, her mother, her step-father and her family’s dog were killed in a car crash.

The driver of the other car was charged with DUI but Jackson didn’t feel well-served by the system when the case was resolved.

“I really do empathize with victims and I understand, really to my core, why it’s important to build a case and to prove it,” she said.

Daniel Mintz
Eye Correspondent

3.27.2010

TS - One man sentenced for Cutten man's death, other contests his plea

One man sentenced for Cutten man's death, other contests his plea

The family and friends of shooting victim Garrett Benson filled a Humboldt County courtroom Friday to witness the sentencing of one man for his death while a second defendant in the case moved to contest his plea.

Jason Leon Belles, 31, and Jonathan Henry Watson, 30, were scheduled to be sentenced after each pleaded no contest to charges related to the death of Benson during a home invasion robbery on Dec. 3, 2008.

Belles was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison, minus time already served, with a three year parole term upon release, as agreed to in his plea deal. He will also have to pay a $1,400 restitution fine. With good behavior, he could be released in about six and a half years.

Watson initially accepted a plea deal Aug. 11 from Deputy District Attorney Max Cardoza for first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement and an agreed-upon prison term of 50 years to life. On Friday, he contested his previous plea.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Benson was in his Cutten home when one man forced his way into the residence. The two struggled, and Benson was shot three times and died hours later in a hospital. Officials said there was a significant amount of marijuana being grown and processed in the home.

Benson's family and his girlfriend appeared at the sentencing and spoke to the defendants and the court before the judge announced Belles' sentence.

Randy Benson, the victim's father, told the court that he and his family were devastated by the loss of his son.

”My world is changed. My beliefs aren't the same anymore ...,” he said. “I've been silenced by disgust and have been since the murder of my son Garrett.”

He fought back tears as he told the court that Garrett Benson was a “man of integrity.” He had worked in the National Guard for nine years and then with UPS for seven. He described his son as motivated, hilarious, responsible, loyal, intelligent, kind and patriotic.

Addressing Belles and Watson directly, Randy Benson said he could never forgive them, although others had advised him to try.
”My God and I will have to wrestle with this one,” he said.

Belles appeared to be visibly upset and crying while the victim's family addressed the court, often closing his eyes and looking down. Watson watched the speakers but remained expressionless.

Garrett Benson's mother described him as a caring son that was the head of his own household and also hers, often coming over to chop firewood for her and sending her bouquets of flowers when she was distressed over the death of a pet.
Garrett Benson also was a bit of a prankster.

”If you ever saw a vehicle covered in UPS Post-its, you knew Garrett had struck again,” she said.

Rachel Wold, Benson's girlfriend, also had a short statement for the court. Wold was with Benson when he was shot in their home.

”Garrett saved my life,” she said. “I sat with him and had to watch the life fade from his eyes.”

She told the defendants that she hoped one day they would understand the gravity of what they had done.
Watson is scheduled to contest his plea on Monday in a closed hearing.

Allison White can be reached at 441-0506 or awhite@times-standard.com.

Allison White/The Times-Standard
Posted: 08/22/2009 01:27:15 AM PDT

3.26.2010

A flurry of press releases out of the D.A.'s Office all of a sudden

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2010
CONTACT: District Attorney, Paul Gallegos
PHONE: (707)268-2568
On March 25, 2010, a jury convicted Richard Lee Sovereign, Jr., 54, of possession of methamphetamine for sale. The bifurcated portion of the trial concluded on March 26, 2010, at which time the Honorable Dale A. Reinholtsen found to be true alleged special allegations relating to Mr. Sovereign's 2003 convictions for transportation of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine for sale. Sentencing is set for April 22, 2010, at which time Mr. Sovereign faces up to nine years in prison, six years of which are mandatory, due to the prior convictions.
***

Date: March 26, 2010 9:58:57 AM PDT
Subject: Press Conference today, Friday, 3/25 @ 1:00PM
You are all invited to a Press Conference at our D.A.’s Law Library, 825 5th St., 4th Floor, with regards to the Chad Larsen case.

Thank you.
***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2010
CONTACT: District Attorney, Paul Gallegos
PHONE: (707)268-2554
CHAD ANDREW LARSEN
District Attorney Paul Gallegos announced today that Chad Andrew Larsen, age 30, from Fortuna, was found guilty of Conspiring to Commit Murder and Solicitation for Murder, after a 6 week jury trial before the Honorable Timothy Cissna in the Superior Court of Humboldt County.

Chad Andrew Larsen was on probation for having unlawful intercourse with a minor when he committed new felony offenses of the same nature. While the new case was pending, Chad Andrew Larsen began plotting the death of the juvenile victim to prevent her from testifying against him. Larsen began recruiting other inmates to help him have the victim killed. One of those inmates contacted the District Attorney's office when released from custody.

TS - Money flows into local races in Humboldt County

Money flows into local races in Humboldt County

In a 10-week period, more than $200,000 in contributions were pumped into the campaigns of locals running for four county offices, according to disclosure forms filed with the Humboldt County Elections Office this week.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission requires that candidates for office who will raise or spend $1,000 or more in a calendar year file Form 460s with their local elections office, detailing exactly how much they've raised from whom, what nonmonetary donations they've received and where they've spent their campaign money. The forms are public, meaning anyone can walk into the Elections Office and request copies.

Forms filed Monday detail candidates' campaign activity from Jan. 1 to March 17, and indicate that running for county office -- at least a high-profile one -- is generally not a cheap endeavor.

The following is a look at campaign disclosure filings for the four highest-profile races in Humboldt County. The numbers are based entirely on the candidates' Form 460s filed with the Elections Office this week.

4th District supervisor

The race to become Humboldt County's next 4th District supervisor is quickly shaping up as the most expensive on the North Coast, as three candidates vying for the seat combined to raise more than $70,000 in the disclosure period.

Incumbent Bonnie Neely -- who has held the 4th District seat for 24 years -- led all candidates for the filing period, raising $43,259 in donations.

Neely, who ended the last filing period with $25,348 in cash on hand, reported hauling in $22,634 in cash contributions in this filing period to go with a $5,000 loan from her husband Terry Farmer and $15,625 in nonmonetary donations.

In total, Neely reported receiving 32 donations of $100 or more, 15 donations of $250 or more and six donations of $1,000 or more. She reported receiving a total of $834 in contributions of less than $100 from an undisclosed number of donors.

The incumbent's biggest reported contributors for the filing period were Blue Lake Rancheria, which contributed $10,000; Steven Blank, a commissioner on the California Coastal Commission, which Neely chairs, who contributed $2,000; Zach Zwerdling, an Arcata attorney, who contributed $1,300; Michael Atkins of McKinleyville, who contributed $1,000; Eureka attorney Neal Sanders, who contributed $1,000; and Humboldt Redwood Company, which contributed $1,000.

Neely reported spending $13,832 during the filing period, and ended with $39,149 in cash on hand.

Challenger Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass reported raising a total of $24,315 in the filing period, with $22,152 in cash contributions and $2,163 in nonmonetary contributions.

Bass, who reported starting the filing period with $52,767 in campaign cash on hand, reported receiving 47 donations of $100 or more, 22 donations of $250 or more and six donations of $1,000 or more. She also reported receiving $4,289 in donations of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

The Eureka mayor's biggest reported contributors for the filing period were Harvey M. Harper Co., which contributed $2,000; Shaw and Peterson Insurance Co., which contributed $1,700; and C&K Johnson Industries, Eureka developer Steve Strombeck, and Don's Rent-All, each of which contributed $1,500 in the filing period.

Bass reported spending a total of $21,775 in the filing period, and ended with $33,154 in cash on hand.

Challenger Eureka City Councilman Jeff Leonard trailed the pack in fundraising, and reported raising a total of $2,728 in the filing period, with $2,444 in cash contributions and $284 in nonmonetary donations.

Leonard, who reported beginning the period with $4,838 in cash on hand, reported receiving four donations of $100 or more, two donations of $250 or more and zero donations of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $1,594 in contributions of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

The councilman's biggest reported contributors for the filing period were Bayside's Ruth Robertson, who donated $400; Kramer Investment Corp., which contributed $250; and Allpoints, Inc., and Eureka's Richard Whitaker, who each contributed $100 in the filing period.

Leonard reported spending a total of $6,728 in the filing period, and ended with $838 in cash on hand.
5th District supervisor

Four candidates in the race to become the county's next 5th District supervisor reported raising a combined $39,601 in campaign donations for the filing period.

Lost Coast Communications President Patrick Cleary reported leading the pack in fundraising, bringing in a total of $20,357 in campaign contributions. Cleary, who began the period with no money in his cash-on-hand piggy bank, reported receiving $15,057 in cash contributions, $300 in nonmonetary donations and loaning his campaign $5,000.

In total, Cleary reported receiving 45 donations of $100 or more, 15 donations of $250 or more and two donations of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $1,131 in donations of less than $100 from an undisclosed number of donors.

Cleary's biggest reported contributors for the filing period were Blue Lake Rancheria, which donated $5,000, and McKinleyville's Victor Koshkin, who donated $1,000.

Cleary reported spending $5,849 in the filing period, and ended with $14,427 in cash on hand.

McKinleyville resident Ryan Sundberg reported raising $14,567 in the filing period. Sundberg, who began the period with $41,500 in cash on hand, reported receiving $14,750 in cash contributions and $17 in nonmonetary contributions.

In total, Sundberg reported receiving 16 donations of $100 or more, nine donations of $250 or more and seven donations of $1,000 or more. He reported receiving $0 in donations of $100 or less.

Sundberg's biggest reported contributors for the filing period were Blue Lake Rancheria, which contributed $5,000; Shaw & Peterson Insurance Co., C&K Johnson Industries, Eureka developer Steve Strombeck and Don's Rent-All, all of which contributed $1,500; and Humboldt Redwood Co. and Arcata Realtor Justin Porteous, both of which contributed $1,000.
Sundberg reported spending $26,255 during the filing period, and ended with $31,630 in cash on hand.

Fifth Division Harbor District Commissioner Patrick Higgins reported raising a total of $5,244 in the filing period. He reported receiving no loans or nonmonetary donations, and raised all the funds in cash donations.

In total, Higgins reported receiving 12 donations of $100 or more, six donations of $250 or more and two donations of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $144 in donations of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

Higgins' biggest reported contributors were Blue Lake self-employed consultant Wiliam Kier, who contributed $1,000, and Patrick and Diane Higgins, who contributed $1,000.

Higgins reported spending $4,254 in the filing period, and ended with $989 in cash on hand.

McKinleyville resident Jeffrey Lytle reported receiving no donations of any kind and receiving a $50 loan from J.L. Construction. He reported spending $2,084 during the filing period and ending with $0 in cash on hand. Lytle filled out many of the Form 460s with “N/A,” seeming to signify “not applicable,” so it's unclear if he began the filing period with any cash on hand.

Humboldt County sheriff

The two candidates vying to become the county's next sheriff combined to raise $48,595 in the filing period.

Humboldt County Undersheriff Mike Downey led the two candidates, and reported raising $27,033 in the period. Downey, who entered the period with $1,905 in cash on hand, reported bringing in $24,491 in cash contributions and $2,542 in nonmonetary donations.

In total, Downey reported receiving 50 donations of $100 or more, 30 donations of $250 or more and three donations of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $6,509 in contributions of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

Downey's biggest reported contributors were Humboldt County Correctional Peace Officers, which contributed $1,500; Travis Campbell/TAP Ventures, LLC, in Bayside and Carlsbad plumber William Beeson, both of whom contributed $1,000.

Downey reported spending $25,543 during the period, and ended with $3,658 in cash on hand.

Humboldt County District Attorney's Office Chief Investigator Mike Hislop reported receiving $21,562 in donations during the period. Hislop, who entered the filing period with $0 in cash on hand, reported bringing in $14,739 in cash contributions and $6,823 in nonmonetary donations.

In total, Hislop reported receiving 32 donations of $100 or more, 16 donations of $250 or more and two donations of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $4,949 in contributions of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

Hislop's biggest reported contributors were Arcata's Pat Murphy, who is self-employed, and Bill Davidson, of Eureka's Bill Davidson Bail Bonds, both of whom contributed $1,000 during the filing period.

Hislop reported spending $7,960 during the period, and ended with $6,778 in cash on hand.

Humboldt County district attorney

Four candidates racing to become the county's next top law enforcement official combined to report raising almost $65,000 over the last couple of months.

Incumbent District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who has held the post since 2002, led the way, reporting a total of $27,093 in donations during the period. Gallegos, who entered the filing period with $0 in cash on hand, reported receiving $7,093 in cash contributions, $0 in nonmonetary donations and a $20,000 loan from David Gallegos of Weston, Fla.

In total, Gallegos reported receiving five donations of $100 or more, four donations of $250 or more and one donation of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $693 in donations of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.
Gallegos' biggest reported contributors were David Gallegos, who contributed $5,000; McKinleyville's Ken Miller, who contributed $500; and Eureka's Zwerdling Dibble, LLP, which contributed $500.

Gallegos reported spending $16,197 in the filing period, and ended with $10,895 in cash on hand.

Challenger Allison Jackson, who entered the filing period with $0 in cash on hand, reported raising $13,674 in the filing period, entirely through cash donations.

In total, Jackson reported receiving 32 donations of $100 or more, 26 donations of $250 or more and one donation of $1,000 or more. She also reported raising $423 in donations of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

Jackson's biggest reported contributors were Harland Law Firm, which contributed $1,000; and Eureka developer Steve Strombeck, Barnum Timber Co., Eureka Oxygen, Kramer Investment Corp. and 15 others, each of which contributed $500.
Jackson reported spending $11,838 in the filing period, and ending with $1,835 in cash on hand.

Another challenger, Paul Hagen, entered the filing period with $0 in cash on hand, but reported raising $10,347 in the period. Hagen reported receiving $2,780 in cash donations, $167 in nonmonetary donations and receiving a combined $7,400 in loans, $5,200 from himself and $2,200 from Eureka's Margaret Herbelin.

In total, Hagen reported receiving nine donations of $100 or more, four donations of $250 or more and no donations of $1,000 or more. He also reported receiving $167 in contributions of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

Hagen's biggest reported contributors were Chicago attorney Darren Watts, who contributed $700; Eureka's Margaret Herbelin, who donated $500; and Bayside's Loren and Linda Azevedo, who contributed $300.

Hagen reported spending $4,537 in the filing period, and ended with $5,642 in cash on hand.

Kathleen Bryson, who also entered the filing period with $0 in cash on hand, reported raising a total of $13,750, with $8,750 in cash contributions and $5,000 in a loan from herself to the campaign.

In total, Bryson reported receiving three donations of $100 or more, and no donations larger than that. She also reported receiving $8,450 in contributions of $100 or less from an undisclosed number of donors.

Bryson's biggest reported contributors were Senior Resource Director Margaret Kraft, Humboldt County Law Librarian Richard Edgar and lawyer Eleanor Kraft, each of whom contributed $100.

Bryson reported spending $18,208 during the period, and ended with $1,241 in cash on hand with an outstanding debt of $10,700.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 03/25/2010 02:10:35 AM PDT

3.20.2010


Fourth arrest made in Sanders slaying
An alleged fourth perpetrator in the February killing of a McKinleyville man was arrested on a $1 million murder warrant in Crescent City Tuesday.

Tracy Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka, was arrested without incident by Crescent City police at 2:30 p.m. on suspicion of murder at an A Street apartment there. She was booked into Humboldt County jail Tuesday night.

Humboldt County District Attorney and Sheriff's Office investigators issued a warrant for Williams' arrest early this month. Williams was allegedly among four people who were involved in killing 30-year-old Ezra Sanders at his residence in the Widow White Creek RV Park in McKinleyville.

Investigators believe Williams acted as a lookout as her three male companions went to Sanders' trailer to allegedly rob him of money and drugs on Feb. 24. Sanders was shot once in the chest and died of his injuries.

The three other suspects are still in custody on suspicion of murder. Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 33, of Ukiah and Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Arcata, are in Humboldt County jail on suspicion of murder and attempted armed robbery. The three have each pleaded not guilty to the charges.

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or
jdriscoll@times-standard.com.

TS - Fourth suspect sought for Sanders killing

Fourth suspect sought for Sanders killing
Investigators are looking for another suspect believed to be involved in the Feb. 24 slaying of Ezra Sanders in McKinleyville.
After announcing it had three suspects in custody over the weekend, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office said today that it is seeking Tracy Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka, a fourth suspect who is still at large and alleged to have been involved in Sanders' killing. Williams stands about 5 feet 1 inch tall, with blue eyes and blonde hair, weighing about 120 pounds.

An arrest warrant for murder has been issued in Williams' name.

Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka, is alleged to have killed Sanders, but Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, and Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, join him in facing a Tracey Williams (Courtesy of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office)
murder charge in the case, which a legal expert said is common.

Sanders, a 30-year-old McKinleyville man, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24 lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park, dead of a single gunshot wound. Witnesses told investigators they heard a vehicle pull up to Sanders' trailer before hearing a gunshot, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

Appearing in Humboldt Superior Court for a Wednesday arraignment, Burgess pleaded not guilty to murder, with special allegations that the murder was committed during the course of an attempted armed robbery and that he discharged a firearm, killing Sanders. Burgess also pleaded not guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a handgun.

At the same hearing, Peredia pleaded not guilty to murder, and a special allegation that the murder was committed in the course of an attempted armed robbery.

Mace's arraignment was continued to today.

Garey said investigators have reason to believe that Burgess, Peredia, Mace and Williams traveled from Eureka to McKinleyville in a stolen truck, armed with a handgun and a knife, with the intent of robbing their acquaintance Sanders for cash and drugs.

After arriving at the trailer park, Peredia, Burgess and Mace allegedly attempted to rob Sanders while Williams remained in the truck as a lookout, according to Garey.

When Sanders resisted the robbery, raising his fists to fight, Burgess allegedly shot him in the chest and the suspects fled the scene without taking anything. Garey said a large sum of money and a small amount of illicit drugs were found in Sanders' possession.

Even though Burgess allegedly fired the fatal shot, Peredia and Mace are also currently facing murder charges and, if taken into custody, Williams is expected to face the same.

University of California Hastings School of Law professor David Levine said it doesn't matter who pulled the trigger, killing Sanders, if all of the suspects knew they were participating in an attempted armed robbery.

”It's called felony murder, and the idea is that if you participate in a felony, and a killing results, than you are as responsible as anyone else for the killing,” Levine said. “Once you start down the road of participating in a felony, you are responsible for whatever results ... . The chain of causation just gets started, and you are responsible for getting it rolling.”

After Wednesday's arraignment, Burgess, Peredia and Mace were returned to Humboldt County jail where they each remain held on $1 million bail. As of the Times-Standard's deadline, Williams remained at large.

Garey said he believes Williams was still in the area as of Tuesday night. Anyone with information regarding Williams is asked to call Garey at 268-3643 or Dunn at 445-7411.

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or

TS - Three in custody in Sanders case

Three in custody in Sanders case
Thirty-nine days after Ezra Sanders was gunned down in his McKinleyville trailer, three suspects are in custody and suspected of committing his murder.

Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 33, of Ukiah and Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Arcata, were all booked into Humboldt County jail Friday on suspicion of murder and attempted armed robbery, according to investigators on the case.

Sanders, a 30-year-old McKinleyville man, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24 lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park, dead of a single gunshot wound. Witnesses told investigators they heard a vehicle pull up to Sanders' trailer before hearing a single gunshot fired, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

Early in the case, investigators looked into the possibility that Sanders' alleged ties to a motorcycle gang may have had something to do with the shooting, but investigators said Saturday that proved not to be the case. Humboldt County Sheriff's detective Troy Garey, the primary investigator on the case, and District Attorney's Office investigator Steve Dunn said Saturday that, after more than 40 interviews, they have determined that Sander's death was the result of an attempted robbery gone wrong.

”Through the interviews, we found three primary suspects involved who conspired to contact (Sanders) and rob him for cash and drugs,” Dunn said. “In the course of that robbery, (Sanders) was shot once n the upper torso, which led to his death.”

Both the Sheriffs Office and the District Attorney's Office poured massive amounts of manpower and resources into the case, according to Dunn and Garey, with the District Attorney's Office even assigning Dunn to assist with the investigation.
”It's been kind of a tag-team effort between both agencies,” Dunn said.

A detective familiar with the case referred to it early on as a “stone-cold whodunit” with no obvious suspects or leads. Garey and Dunn said Saturday that they spent the 39 days after Sanders' murder talking to dozens of witnesses, fielding anonymous tips and chasing down countless leads.

”We have worked on this case every day, and it's been part of our lives for the last 39 days,” said Dunn.

Garey said, in recent weeks, he's lost sleep over the case, waking up in the middle of the night to mull over leads.
”It was a tough one -- one of those ground-and-pounds, where you just take it day by day,” he said.

Dunn said he and Garey initially broke the case down into portions, one for each of Sanders' groups of friends and acquaintances.

”We basically had four scenarios and lots of potential suspects because (Sanders) knew a bunch of people and had a lot of enemies,” he said, adding that he and Garey simply worked the case one scenario at a time.

Early on, the investigators said they received a pair of anonymous calls saying that Burgess had been involved in Sanders' killing, and had used a stolen truck. Garey and Dunn then turned to the California Highway Patrol for help in sifting through stolen vehicle reports.

The case caught a break late last month when the Fortuna Police Department recovered a stolen green GMC truck. When Garey and Dunn looked through the stolen/embezzled vehicle report from CHP, they found Burgess listed as the primary suspect.

Mace and Peredia were both taken into custody in March on unrelated cases.

On March 13, Garey and Dunn served a search warrant on a home on Eureka's Lewis Avenue for the Sanders case, and took Mace into custody on an unrelated outstanding warrant.

Similarly, Peredia was taken into custody March 1, after he was involved in a car crash on Kneeland Heights Road that led to his arrest on two outstanding felony warrants, and suspicion of theft. In relation to the Sanders case, investigators also served a search warrant on Peredia's Higgins Street home in Eureka.

Then, this past Friday, after re-interviewing a number of witnesses, Dunn and Garey had Burgess come in for an interview, and they said the picture began to become clear.

”That interview led to his arrest for being the primary person involved (in Sanders' murder),” Dunn said, adding that after Burgess' arrest, Peredia and Mace, both already in custody, were also booked on suspicion of attempted robbery and murder for the Sanders case.

The story that Dunn and Garey have pieced together is that Mace, Ruben and Burgess allegedly conspired to drive from Eureka to McKinleyville in order to use a gun and a knife to rob Sanders, whom they knew, for drugs and money. When Sanders resisted, raising his fists to fight the three men, they allegedly shot him and fled the scene in a panic without taking anything.

Throughout the case, Dunn and Garey said they conducted surveillance on Peredia and Burgess, served several search warrants and eventually uncovered evidence leading to three other, unrelated, felony arrests for possession of stolen property and drug possession.

Both Dunn and Garey said assistance from a variety of agencies -- including CHP, the Arcata Police Department, the Trinidad Police Department, the Eureka Police Department, the Fortuna Police Department and the Department of Justice -- was integral in making the case.

But, the investigation is ongoing.

Dunn and Garey have recovered the truck allegedly used in the murder, which they said is awaiting forensic testing by the Department of Justice, but the search continues for the murder weapon.

Despite having spent countless hours over the last 39 days working the case from all angles, Garey said nothing fancy led to Mace, Peredia and Burgess' booking.

”It just boils down to ordinary, good cop work: Talk to people, hit the streets and work long hours,” Garey said. “We said from the beginning that one piece of information would come in and it was going to be a domino effect, and that's pretty much what happened.”

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

TS - Two suspects in February murder headed to trial

Two suspects in February murder headed to trial
Jeffrey Allan Burgess and Tracey Joleen Williams, suspects in the February shooting death of Ezra Sanders, 30, of McKinleyville, are likely headed to trial later this fall.

On Monday, Burgess, 39, and Williams, 35, both of Eureka, reaffirmed their not guilty pleas before Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson, and were assured the continued service of public defenders after confirming their incomes had not changed.

Both have been charged with Sanders' murder, while Burgess is also charged with a special allegation of firing the bullet that killed Sanders.

Burgess' trial is set to begin Nov. 30 at 8:30 a.m., with a trial readiness conference scheduled for Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. Codefendant Williams' trial is set for Oct. 19 at 8:30 a.m. with a trial conference scheduled for Oct. 5.

Two other defendants in the shooting -- Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka and Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans -- have entered into plea deals.

Peredia was sentenced to 13 years, four months, in state prison last week. Mace pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in early August and agreed to testify against his co-defendants. He faces a maximum of six years in prison.

On Feb. 24, just after 1 a.m., Sanders was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park off of McKinleyville's Murray Road.

Since accepting the plea deal's provision to testify against his co-defendants, Mace has told the court he heard a single gunshot at the scene that he believed to have been fired by Burgess.

Both Burgess and Williams face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder.

TS - (Lukus Mace) Suspect pleads in McKinleyville murder case

Suspect pleads in McKinleyville murder case
One of the four suspects accused of murdering a McKinleyville man in February has reached a plea deal and agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case.

Late Wednesday, Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, agreed to plead guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the Feb. 24 killing of Ezra Sanders and agreed to testify against the other three defendants in the case, according to prosecutor Ben McLaughlin.

”Mr. Mace will be testifying as a witness of the people against the remaining co-defendants,” McLaughlin said, adding that, if he follows through with his part of the deal, Mace faces up to six years in prison.

Mace's attorney, Marek Reavis, did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Sanders, 30, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24, lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Witnesses told investigators they heard a vehicle pull up to Sanders' trailer before hearing a gunshot, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

In April, Mace, Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka; and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35 of Eureka, were arrested and charged with Sanders' murder. Burgess, Peredia and Williams have all pleaded not guilty.

Investigators have said Sanders was found with $3,000 in cash and a small amount of drugs in his possession, and that they believe the murder was the result of an attempted robbery gone bad. Testimony at a preliminary hearing Thursday supported that belief.

Sandra Adams testified that she met Williams while the two were in custody at the Humboldt County jail. Adams said that, over the span of a couple of weeks, Williams told her about the Sanders case.

”She started volunteering information,” Adams testified about her conversations with Williams. “She pretty much said that it was her idea and that she set the whole thing up.”

Adams testified that Williams said she noticed a large amount of money in Sanders' wallet when he was at her house Feb. 23 looking to buy some methamphetamine. She said Williams told her she thought Sanders would be an easy target.

Adams said Williams told her she stayed in the car as a lookout while the three men she was with approached Sanders' trailer, armed with a knife and a gun, to rob him. From the truck, Adams said Williams told her that she heard some arguing and someone yelling “shoot him” before the three men came running back to the car.

”(Williams') comment (to the men) was, 'Did you get anything out of it?' and they said 'no,'” Adams testified. “And, her comment was, 'You guys can't do anything right.'”

Adams testified that Williams told her she returned to Sanders' home later that night with the hopes of following through with the robbery, but police were on scene when she arrived. She also testified that Williams told her that she and Sanders had a sexual relationship, and that they had had sex the morning of Feb. 23, less than 24 hours before Sanders was found dead.
At points, Adams' testimony was inconsistent with that of other witnesses in the case.

She testified that Williams told her the suspects drove two different cars to Sanders' home, while other testimony indicated the four suspects drove to the scene in a stolen truck. Similarly, she testified that Williams told her she was present when Sanders purchased an ounce and a half of methamphetamine the day before he died. Other witness accounts stated that Williams was not present, and that Sanders only purchased an ounce of the drug.

While she had been in custody for violating her probation by possessing speed, Adams testified that the District Attorney's Office agreed to reduce that charge to a misdemeanor and release her for time served in exchange for truthful testimony in this case.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Detective Richard Schlesiger also took the stand Thursday, testifying about an interview of Burgess he conducted with Detective Troy Garey in April. Schlesiger testified that he and Burgess had been friends in high school, and that he thought Burgess would be honest with him.

Shortly after McLaughlin began questioning Schlesiger about the interview, Burgess' attorney, Neal Sanders, objected, saying that, even though his client was not under arrest, he did not feel free to leave the interview and that he had been coerced into making statements that day.

While being questioned by Neal Sanders, Schlesiger testified that at one point during the interview, he and Burgess went outside during a break. While outside, Schlesiger testified that he asked Burgess if he shot Ezra Sanders, to which he said Burgess responded: “What if I said yes?”

After that, Schlesiger testified that he asked Burgess if he shot the .45-caliber handgun and that Burgess said he did.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna said, at that point, Burgess should have been read his Miranda rights. Because Garey and Schlesiger did not read Burgess his rights until later in the interview, Cissna ruled that everything in the interview that came after Burgess' admission that he shot the .45-caliber handgun be excluded from court.

Burgess was taken into custody immediately following the interview with the detectives.

After court Thursday, McLaughlin indicated he intends to challenge Cissna's ruling regarding the admissibility of Burgess' statements.

The preliminary hearing, which is being held to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold the defendants to stand trial, is expected to continue today.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

TS - Testimony dives into tangled web of drugs and sex in Sanders' case


Testimony dives into tangled web of drugs and sex in Sanders' case

A friend of 30-year-old McKinleyville man Ezra Sanders, who was shot and killed on Feb. 24, testified that she began to believe that her roommates were behind his death when investigators raided her Eureka house looking for stolen goods weeks later.

Ana Rooney said that during the search, investigators asked her if she knew Sanders, and she recalled hearing her “best friend” Jeffrey Alan Burgess talking about burning his clothes the day of the killing. Rooney testified that she began to feel responsible for Sanders' death because, if it weren't for her, he would not have become acquainted with her roommates and friends who investigators claim killed Sanders.

”I was sick to my stomach,” Rooney said in tears. “I wanted to die ... . I am not a monster and I do not believe this was right.”

Rooney said she had stayed at the Lewis Street house after Sanders' death because she didn't want to believe her friend Burgess was involved in the killing. She testified Wednesday that she moved out of the house after the search.

Sanders was found dead of a single gunshot wound outside his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park in McKinleyville around 1 a.m. Feb. 24. Investigators say the murder was a botched robbery, as Sanders' body was found with large amounts of money and some drugs.

Burgess, 39, of Eureka, is charged with Sanders' murder, along with Lukas Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka. The four have pleaded not guilty.

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Rooney said that the day before the killing, she had sold Sanders an ounce of methamphetamine for $1,400, and that he repaid a long outstanding debt of $300 to her, and loaned her $1,200 to pay off a drug debt. Rooney said that Sanders had been quoted a higher price for an ounce of meth by Williams, after which he came to Rooney for a better deal. Rooney said that Williams may have felt slighted by the transaction.

Rooney also testified that Sanders wasn't treated well at the Lewis Street house, where he showed up to buy and use drugs, and meet with Williams. She described Williams as flaunting herself and engaging in sex to secure drugs from a number of men.

Rooney said that she never told anyone at the Lewis Street house that Sanders was carrying a large amount of money, because she was afraid he might become a target.

”He liked (Williams), but he didn't trust her,” Rooney said, “and he had very good reason not to.”

Attorneys for the defendants on Wednesday questioned Rooney about her memory of the events leading up to Sanders' killing.

Under cross-examination, Rooney repeatedly said Mace was a nice guy who'd begun to stay at the Lewis Street house before the shooting, though she could not recall exactly how long he'd been there. She also said that she believed Mace was merely “caught in the crossfire” of the crime, and that he was likely unaware of the intent of Burgess, Peredia and Williams when they picked him up and drove to Sanders' trailer on Feb. 24.

Defense attorneys also asked Rooney about why she left a volunteer position as a resident advisor at a halfway house before she moved into the Lewis Street residence in December.

Rooney said she left after she broke the rules of the program by allowing a friend of hers to hang out at the house, and decided to resign. Rooney, who is on felony probation, said she began using and dealing drugs when she moved into the Lewis Street house. Rooney also testified that she'd helped Williams' mother bail Williams out of jail after her arrest. When Williams returned to the house, Rooney confronted her about property she believed Williams had stolen from her.

”I came back and I socked her right in the lip,” Rooney said, “yes I did.”

The preliminary hearing continues today.

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com.

TS - Preliminary hearing gets under way in Sanders case

Preliminary hearing gets under way in Sanders case
Ezra Sanders allegedly had a large amount of cash on him and had purchased an ounce of methamphetamine the day he was shot and killed in front of his McKinleyville home, a friend of his testified at a preliminary hearing Monday.

Sanders, 30, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24 in sweat pants and a T-shirt, lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park dead of a single gunshot wound in what investigators have described as a robbery attempt gone wrong.

Witnesses told investigators they heard a vehicle pull up to Sanders' trailer before hearing a gunshot, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

Back in April, four suspects were arrested in the case and charged with Sanders' murder: Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka; and Tracy Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Investigators believe the four suspects traveled from Eureka to McKinleyville in a stolen truck, armed with a handgun and a knife and with plans to rob their acquaintance Sanders of cash and drugs. After arriving at the trailer park, Peredia, Burgess and Mace allegedly attempted to rob Sanders while Williams remained in the truck as a lookout, according to Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Detective Troy Garey.

When Sanders resisted the robbery, reportedly raising his fists to fight, Burgess allegedly shot him in the chest and the suspects fled the scene without taking anything, according to investigators. Garey said a large sum of money and a small amount of illicit drugs were found in Sanders' possession.

Monday, Ana Rooney, who described herself as a friend of Sanders' and Burgess', as well as a housemate of Williams', said she saw Sanders early in the morning of Feb. 23 when the two got high together, and that Sanders had a lot of cash on him at the time. Rooney testified that she also acted as a middle man, helping Sanders buy an ounce of methamphetamine for $1,400 that day. After meeting Sanders to give him the methamphetamine around 10 a.m. on Feb. 23, Rooney said she never saw Sanders again, telling the court she learned he had been shot and killed the next day when told by a friend.

While on the stand, Rooney also testified that Williams and Sanders were involved in a relationship together around the time of his death.

”Their relationship was of a sexual nature,” Rooney testified.

After testifying at length about drug use and sales, under cross-examination Rooney accepted an offer from Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna to appoint her an attorney with whom she could discuss her rights. Patrik Griego was then appointed to represent Rooney, who is expected to retake the stand this morning.

Garey also took the stand briefly Monday, testifying about arriving at the crime scene in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, and of his initial interviews with Burgess and Williams. He is also expected to retake the stand today.

Even though Burgess allegedly fired the fatal shot, there is nothing unusual about Peredia, Mace and Williams also facing murder charges, according to University of California Hastings School of Law professor David Levine. He said it doesn't matter who fired the shot that killed Sanders, if all the suspects knew they were participating in an armed robbery.

”It's called felony murder, and the idea is that if you participate in a felony, and a killing results, then you are as responsible as anyone else for the killing,” Levine said in a previous interview with the Times-Standard. “Once you start down the road of participating in a felony, you are responsible for whatever results.”

The preliminary hearing, which is held for a judge to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial, is scheduled to continue today.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

TS - Friend testifies against McKinleyville murder suspect

Friend testifies against McKinleyville murder suspect
One of the suspects accused of murdering a McKinleyville man in February during a botched robbery attempt allegedly returned to the scene of the crime hours later looking to steal what was missed in the first attempt, a friend of hers testified Friday.

Ezra Sanders, 30, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24, lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Investigators have said they believe Sanders' death was the result of an attempted robbery gone bad.

In April, four suspects were arrested and charged with Sanders' murder: Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka; and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka.

Thursday, the prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin, announced that Mace had reached a plea deal with the District Attorney's Office, under which he agreed to testify against his co-defendants and to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. If he follows through with his part of the deal, Mace faces up to six years in prison, according to McLaughlin.
Burgess, Williams and Peredia have all pleaded not guilty to the charges facing them.

Friday, Anthony Pratt Jr. testified that Williams called him in the hours shortly after Sanders was shot, and confessed to being involved in the crime.

Pratt, who appeared in court after being taken into custody because he failed to appear to testify Thursday, said he could tell by Williams' voice that something was wrong, and agreed to meet her to talk about it.

When the two met, Pratt testified that Williams appeared “confused” and “scared,” and that she told him Sanders had been shot during an attempted robbery, and that she had been involved. He said she did not know at the time whether Sanders had survived the shooting.

Further, Pratt said that Williams told him she intended to “go back (to Sanders' trailer) and get what they didn't get the first time.”

Pratt testified that Williams later told him that when she returned to Sanders' RV park, police were on the scene and she left.
Over the ensuing days, Pratt said Williams further confided in him that Burgess and Peredia were involved in the shooting, but Pratt had a hard time remembering when Williams told him of Mace's involvement.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Detective Troy Garey testified Friday that he was called after Pratt was arrested for possessing methamphetamine in April, and told that Pratt had information regarding the Sanders case. Garey said that in exchange for the information, Pratt wanted to be released from custody and to have the charges against him dropped.

Garey said he made no promises, and that Pratt told him of his conversations with Williams during an interview.

Garey also testified Friday about what he found when he arrived on scene at Sanders' body in the early morning hours of Feb. 24.

When he arrived on scene, Garey testified that he found Sanders body lying about seven feet from his trailer door, lying on his back with his fists raised and clenched. Garey said a pool of blood was found inside the trailer, indicating that Sanders likely was shot inside the trailer and fell to the ground before getting up, exiting the trailer and collapsing where he was found.

Garey also testified that no fingerprints were found in the stolen truck believed to have been used in the crime that matched any of the four defendants. Other items from the truck were sent to the state Department of Justice for forensic testing, Garey said.

Garey said he and District Attorney investigator Steve Dunn re-interviewed Mace Thursday night.

At the conclusion of Friday's proceedings, McLaughlin said he may call Mace to testify Monday, when the preliminary hearing -- held to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the defendants to stand trial -- is scheduled to continue.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

TS - Witness: Sanders' alleged killers involved in meth

Witness: Sanders' alleged killers involved in meth
One of the four suspects accused of killing a 30-year-old McKinleyville man described in detail to law enforcement the events leading up to the February shooting, an investigator testified Tuesday.

Ezra Sanders was found shortly after 1 p.m. Feb. 24, lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park dead of a single gunshot wound. Witnesses told investigators they heard a vehicle pull up to Sanders' trailer before hearing a gunshot, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

Investigators have said they believe the murder was the result of an attempted robbery gone bad, and that Sanders was found with a large sum of money and a small amount of illicit drugs in his possession.

In April, four suspects were arrested and charged with Sanders' murder: Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka; and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday, the second day of the case's preliminary hearing, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Detective Troy Garey retook the stand, testifying about an April 9 interview with Mace. He said he'd already interviewed Mace, who was in custody for an unrelated matter, but that Mace contacted him saying he had additional information regarding Sanders' death.

Garey testified that, during the interview, Mace told him that he'd accompanied Burgess, Peredia and Williams to Sanders' trailer park in the early morning ours of Feb. 24. Garey said Mace told him that after entering the park, Peredia exited the vehicle they were riding in to dismantle a streetlight in the park, before they made their way to Sanders' trailer.

Garey said Mace told him that Burgess, who was driving, cut the lights on the truck before pulling up to Sanders' trailer, at which point he, Mace and Peredia got out of the vehicle to approach Sanders' trailer, leaving Williams in the truck as a lookout.

Prosecutor Ben McLaughlin didn't continue with this line of questioning Tuesday, but investigators have previously said they believe that when Mace, Burgess and Peredia allegedly attempted to rob Sanders, he resisted, raising his hands to fight. Burgess then allegedly shot Sanders once in the chest, according to investigators.

Garey also testified Tuesday that, during the investigation, a number of items were seized from Sanders' trailer, including $3,000 in cash, Sanders' cell phone, a spent .45-caliber shell casing, a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Sanders' friend Ana Rooney, who also lived with Burgess and Williams, also retook the stand Tuesday, testifying about the world of methamphetamine that surrounded Sanders, and the suspects in the case.

Rooney said she moved into a house on Eureka's Lewis Avenue where she lived with Burgess and Williams from December 2008 until shortly after Sanders' death. She testified that both she and Williams sold methamphetamine at the house. Injecting, smoking and snorting methamphetamine were common occurrences there, she testified, and the house was frequently full of people coming and going, many of them looking to get high.

Rooney testified that she saw Sanders the morning before he was killed, and that he had a lot of cash on him at the time. She testified that on the morning of Feb. 23, she sold Sanders an ounce of methamphetamine for $1,400, and that he repaid her $300 she'd lent him and that he loaned her an additional $1,200 to help her pay off a drug debt.

Previously, Sanders had never bought more than $20 of methamphetamine at a time, Rooney testified, adding that Sanders told her he was buying the ounce to give to a woman who owed him money with the hope that she could sell it, repay him and also earn some extra money to provide for her children.

The morning that Sanders was shot, Rooney testified that she noticed Peredia, Mace and Williams return to the house, noticed them stripping off clothing and overheard Burgess say they had to burn what they had been wearing. Rooney said she initially thought Burgess was joking.

”I was in my room doing drugs and I wasn't too into what everyone else was doing,” Rooney said.

Rooney said she moved out of the Lewis Avenue home shortly after Sanders was killed and started to get clean.

”I left and went to (Narcotics Anonymous),” she said. “I got my head out of my a--.”

The preliminary hearing, which is being held to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant the suspects' standing trial, is scheduled to continue today with Rooney retaking the witness stand.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com

TS - Suspect pleads in McKinleyville murder case

Suspect pleads in McKinleyville murder case
A second of the four suspects accused of murdering a McKinleyville man in February has reached a plea deal with the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office.

Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, was sentenced to serve 13 years and four months in state prison Friday, after pleading guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and burglary, with a special enhancement for being armed during his role in the shooting death of 30-year-old Ezra Sanders.

Sanders was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24 lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park, dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Investigators have said they believe Sanders' killing was the result of a botched attempted armed robbery.

In April, four suspects were charged with Sanders' murder: Peredia, Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans and Jeffrey Allan Burgess, 39, of Eureka. Burgess is also charged with a special allegation of firing the bullet that killed Sanders.

Mace reached a plea deal earlier this month, pleading guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter and agreeing to testify against his co-defendants. Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said Mace faces a maximum of six years in prison if he complies with his part of the deal.

Burgess and Williams have pleaded not guilty, and have been held to stand trial on charges of murder.

Peredia's plea deal will leave him with two strikes on his record, meaning he will serve a minimum of 85 percent of his sentence, according to his attorney Jeffrey Schwartz.

”I think there was significant enough evidence that he felt it was too big of a risk for him to go to trial and look at life without parole,” Schwartz said of Peredia's decision to accept the plea deal. “He just had to balance the risk. ... Several witnesses placed him there. When you assess that evidence, it was a risk he didn't want to take.”

But unlike Mace's deal, Schwartz said, Peredia has no obligation to assist the prosecution's case against the remaining defendants.

”He's sentenced, gone and absolutely doesn't have to say one thing to anybody,” Schwartz said.

During the preliminary hearing, Mace testified that he, Williams, Peredia and Burgess traveled from Eureka to McKinleyville intending to rob Sanders of cash and drugs. When Sanders resisted the robbery attempt, and appeared to reach for something in his trailer, Mace testified that Peredia yelled “shoot him.” At that point, Mace testified, he heard a single gunshot he believed to have been fired by Burgess.

Williams and Burgess are scheduled to be re-arraigned Monday. Both face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Times-Standard staff writer Allison White contributed to this report.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com
Three to answer for murder in Sanders' case
Three suspects in the shooting death of 30-year-old Ezra Sanders will stand trial for his February murder during a botched robbery.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna ruled today that there is sufficient evidence to hold Jeffrey Allan Burgess, 39; Tracey Joleen Williams, 35; and Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, all of Eureka on charges of first-degree murder. The three have pleaded not guilty.

The fourth suspect, Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last week as part of a deal that will have him face a maximum of six years in prison. Mace completed his testimony today, reiterating that he believed it was Burgess that shot Sanders at his trailer in a McKinleyville RV park at around 1 a.m. on Feb. 24, as part of an attempted robbery.

Investigators say that Burgess, Williams, Peredia and Mace went to rob Sanders of cash and drugs. Williams remained in a truck while the other three approached Sanders' trailer, they say.

Mace testified that Peredia knocked on the door, and when Sanders opened it, Mace was shoved from behind by either Peredia or Burgess. Mace said he then stepped out of the way. Peredia threatened Sanders with a large knife, Mace said.

When Sanders appeared to reach for something, someone yelled, “Shoot him, shoot him,” and then Mace said he heard a gunshot. The three retreated to the truck and sped off, he testified.

Mace said he later witnessed Burgess cleaning handgun at his Lewis Avenue house in Eureka.

Mace testified that he didn't know the group was going to rob anyone until they pulled into the RV park that February night. He also said that when he asked Burgess to go along for a ride, Burgess told him to ask Peredia, since it was “Ruben's deal.”

Parts of Mace's testimony ran counter to that of another key witness for the prosecution, Ana Rooney, who lived at the Eureka house where investigators say the plan to rob Sanders was hatched. Rooney had testified that Mace had begun hanging around the Lewis Avenue house days or a week or so before the shooting.

Mace, though, testified he'd just showed up for the first time that day to get some heroin from another acquaintance.

An arraignment for Burgess, Williams and Peredia is set for Aug. 31. They face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Burgess will also stand trial for additional special allegations that the murder was committed in the course of an attempted armed robbery and that he discharged a firearm, killing Sanders. He will also face a charge of being a felon in possession of a handgun. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

TS - 'Shoot him, shoot him': Murder suspect describes robbery attempt gone awry

'Shoot him, shoot him': Murder suspect describes robbery attempt gone awry
One of the four suspects accused of murdering a McKinleyville man in February took the witness stand Monday, describing in detail the botched robbery attempt that allegedly led to the shooting.

Having accepted a plea bargain, Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, fingered Jeffrey Allan Burgess, 39, of Eureka, as the man who likely shot Ezra Sanders, 30, at Sanders' home.

Sanders was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24 lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park, dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Humboldt County District Attorney Investigator Steve Dunn testified Monday that a witness told him she was awakened by a loud bang that morning, and looked out her window in time to see a pickup truck speeding from the scene.

In April, Burgess and Mace were arrested and charged with Sanders' murder along with two other suspects: Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, and Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, both of Eureka. Mace reached a plea deal last week in which he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to testify against his codefendants. Under the deal, Mace faces a maximum of six years in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin.

Williams, Burgess and Peredia have all pleaded not guilty.

During a preliminary hearing Monday, Mace described in detail the events that led him to Sanders' trailer in the early morning hours of Feb. 24.

Mace said he first met Burgess 15 or 16 years ago, but didn't see him again until the evening of Feb. 23, when a friend brought him to Burgess' Lewis Avenue home in Eureka looking to buy heroin. Mace said he met Peredia and Williams that night.

Informed there was no heroin for sale at the house, Mace said Burgess agreed to drive him and his friend to a house where the friend believed she could purchase heroin. His friend left Burgess and Mace waiting in the car and entered the house with $40 or $60 of Mace's money, Mace said. His friend didn't return to the car and, eventually, he and Burgess left to return to the Lewis Avenue house, he said.

Mace testified that after he spent some time at the house, and ingested methamphetamine, Burgess, Peredia and Williams prepared to leave. Not wanting to be left in a house he didn't know and not knowing where the group was headed, Mace said he asked Burgess if he could come with them.

”Burgess said: 'You need to ask Ruben. It's Ruben's deal,'” Mace testified, adding that when he asked Peredia if he could come along, Peredia asked him what he wanted out of the deal. “He said, 'What do you want, a couple of hundred bucks out of the deal?' I said, 'No, I just want to get out of the house.'”

Mace said he thought the three were going to “take some wheels or something,” but did not know what their plans were when he left the house. He said all four of them got into a bluish-green, four-door Chevrolet pickup truck and started heading north to McKinleyville.

Peredia was driving the truck, Mace testified, until Jacobs Avenue, where he pulled over to let Burgess drive, saying he was tired.

Mace said it wasn't until they got to the McKinleyville trailer park, and Peredia disabled the dome light in the cab of the truck, that he asked what was going on.

He testified that one of his cohorts then told him they were going to rob someone.

Mace testified that Burgess then pulled the truck up next to Sanders' trailer, and Mace, Burgess and Peredia got out, leaving Williams alone in the truck. Mace said he approached Sanders' trailer with the two men, and Peredia knocked on the door.

When Sanders answered, Mace said Peredia set foot on the trailer's steps, threatening Sanders with a knife, at which point Sanders stepped back into the trailer and appeared to reach for something.

”That's when Ruben stepped back and said, 'Shoot him, shoot him,'” Mace testified, adding that he then heard a gunshot go off behind him, from where Burgess was standing, and saw Sanders fall back into the trailer and out of sight. “Jeff and Ruben took off running and I kind of stood there in awe. Then, I started running right behind them.”

In the truck on the drive back down to the Lewis Avenue home in Eureka, Mace said Williams said she was going to return to the scene.

”On the way back down she said she's going to go back,” Mace testified.

”For what?” McLaughlin asked.

”To rob him or to try to rob him,” Mace answered.

After arriving back at the Lewis Avenue home, Mace said Peredia left to take the truck somewhere and that Williams left to return to McKinleyville, leaving him and Burgess behind. He said Burgess dismantled and cleaned the .45-caliber handgun that Mace believed he'd used to shoot Sanders.

Mace's testimony conflicted slightly with that of Ana Rooney, who testified earlier in the preliminary hearing that she was friends with Sanders and lived with Burgess and Williams. Rooney testified that Mace began to stay at the Lewis Avenue home before the shooting. Mace testified that he'd never been to the house until Feb. 23, when he was brought there by his friend.

”She just simply brought me there to buy some drugs,” Mace testified.

Mace is expected to retake the stand this morning when the preliminary hearing -- held to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the defendants to stand trial -- is scheduled to continue.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

TS - Burgess sentenced to 30 years in Sanders killing

Burgess sentenced to 30 years in Sanders killing
Another person believed to have taken part in the killing of Ezra Sanders outside his McKinleyville home last February has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin confirmed that Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka, was sentenced Tuesday.

Burgess agreed to the 30-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery with special allegations that include acting in concert with two or more persons and personally discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony last month.

Last summer, Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, and Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, entered guilty pleas to voluntary manslaughter. Peredia was sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison. Mace made a plea agreement to testify against his codefendants, and, after all the cases are finished, he will be sentenced to six years in prison.

A fourth suspect, Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka, has a trial confirmation hearing scheduled for Feb. 24.
The killing is believed to be the result of a marijuana deal gone wrong.

TS - Eleven died at the hands of others in Humboldt County in 2009

Eleven died at the hands of others in Humboldt County in 2009
Homicides in Humboldt County were up in 2009, nearly doubling last year's total, tallying enough to become the highest since 2002.

There were 11 people killed by others in the county this year, with six last year.

”We're seeing it in all different walks and all different ages,” said Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris.

Parris said a possible reason for the rise in killings might be the state of the economy and nation.

”There's a lot of stress in life right now,” Parris said.

In 2007 there were five homicides, eight in 2006 and four in 2005. The highest number of homicides in recent history was 14 in 1999.

Four of this year's killings have no arrests or suspects named and in only one case has there been any convictions.
In two of the cases, the suspect was arrested while driving the victim's vehicle.

On Feb. 6, Andrew Pease, 26, was allegedly killed by John Lewis Way, 30, and James Robert Stanko, 26, at the conclusion of their alleged attempted robbery spree. They are accused of five attempted robberies in less than a half hour and stabbing Pease to death in the Ray's Food Place parking lot on Broadway. Both men have trials scheduled to start in 2010 -- Way in March and Stanko in February.

On Feb. 24, Ezra Sanders was the victim of a botched robbery and was found dead of a single gunshot wound in his driveway shortly after 1 a.m. A total of four people were arrested in connection to Sanders' killing.

In August, Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, and Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, entered guilty pleas to voluntary manslaughter. Peredia was sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison. Mace made a plea agreement to testify against his codefendants and after all the cases are adjudicated will be sentenced to six years in prison.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery with special allegations that include acting in concert with two or more persons and personally discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony. He faces 30 years in prison when he's sentenced Jan. 12. Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka, has a trial scheduled to start Jan. 4.

The next killing apparently occurred as the result of a marijuana deal that went wrong.

David Fields, 21, was allegedly killed by his robbery partner when the two crashed while being pursued by deputies and officers who they allegedly fired at on May 12.

Brian Fiore, 19, of Antioch, reportedly tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the head after he allegedly killed Fields.

The two men met a group of six others at an intersection in McKinleyville and reportedly pulled out guns and robbed the men of 14 pounds of marijuana. The chase then began, ending with the crash on State Route 299. Fiore is scheduled to be in court Jan. 27 for an intervention hearing.

On June 16, a quarrel between brothers turned deadly when Roy Lee Stevens, 60, allegedly shot and killed Ted Kilston Stevens, 49, at the older brother's Indianola home. Roy Lee Stevens, who was arrested at the scene, is scheduled to be in court Jan. 25 for a pretrial hearing.

Less than a week later, Brad Masten, 45, was seen in an altercation with several people on the side of Broadway. When officers responded they found Masten with head injuries, but he denied being in a fight. He was taken to the hospital and then transferred to Redding, where he died June 23.

Parris, Humboldt County's coroner, said this week that investigators have yet to find any suspects.

The remains of a woman last seen in 2007 were found on property near Hookton and Old Indianola roads Aug. 30.

Stephanie Fowler, 34, of Loleta, was a mother of six and was last seen getting into a white car on Eel River Drive in Loleta. Her remains were taken to Los Angeles where they were examined by a forensic anthropologist. A cause of death was determined after the examination, but because the case is still being investigated, the Sheriff's Office is not releasing the cause.

”The detectives are still actively and aggressively pursuing leads and are confident that they will have a positive conclusion to this case,” said Humboldt County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brenda Godsey.

About a week after Fowler's remains were found, William John Lundy, 59, was found dead in his Trinidad home.

Donny Ray Best, 52, was arrested Sept. 5, the same day the body was found, after he led Kansas police on a high-speed chase in Lundy's car. Lundy's cause of death was a gunshot wound.

Best was returned to Humboldt County and will next be in court Jan. 13 for a trial confirmation hearing.

The man accused of killing 30-year-old Nicholas Montoya, whose body was found Sept. 10 on property near Red Rock Road in Hoopa, is next scheduled to be in court for an intervention hearing Jan. 14. Rodney Allen Donahue Jr., 23, of Hoopa, was found driving Montoya's pickup truck.

Donahue was initially arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft, impersonating another person, giving false identification to a peace officer and driving on a suspended license. He was eventually also charged with murder, personally discharging a firearm resulting in the death of another and murder committed in the commission of flight following a robbery.

The body of Michael Anthony Borcalli, aka Michael Dragon, 44, was found by someone walking their dog near a trail in the greenbelt at M Street between 15th and 17th streets on Oct. 11. William Harold Wright, 24, turned himself in to the Eureka Police Department the next day and has since been charged with manslaughter. Borcalli was found dead from multiple stab wounds. Wright will next be in court Jan. 12 for an intervention hearing.

Robert Van Alstine, 30, died from stab wounds he received in Fields Landing Nov. 17. In the early morning he arrived at the door of a local business asking for help with obvious signs that he was injured. When medical personnel arrived, he was slumped over in the doorway and died at the hospital a short time later. Godsey said detectives have two suspects in the case, though they have yet to identify them publicly. Surveillance footage from the area has been examined, Godsey said, and warrants on items like cell phones have also been served.

On Dec. 13, passersby found the body of David Earl Sanford, 47, on a bar along the Mad River.

The transient was believed to have been living in a nearby tent and investigators are looking for anyone with information on his death.

TS - Third suspects arraigned in Sanders case

Third suspects arraigned in Sanders case
Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder Thursday in relation to the February shooting of Ezra Sanders.

Two other suspects in the case, Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka, and Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, were arraigned Wednesday on a charge of murder and also pleaded not guilty.

Investigators in the case also announced Wednesday that they are seeking a fourth suspect, 35-year-old Tracy Joleen Williams of Eureka, who is described as standing 5 feet 1 inch tall, with blue eyes and blond hair, weighing about 120 pounds.

Sanders, a 30-year-old McKinleyville man, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24 lying in front of his trailer, dead of a single gunshot. Investigators have said that Mace, Peredia, Burgess and Williams allegedly killed Sanders in the course of an armed robbery gone wrong.

Anyone with information regarding Williams is asked to call Humboldt County Sheriff's Detective Troy Garey at 268-3642 or District Attorney's Office investigator Steve Dunn at 445-7411.

TS - Two more arrests in jail contraband case

Two more arrests in jail contraband case
Two more suspects have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy charges in connection with the recently arrested correctional officer.

Taryn Nicole Mabe, 20, of Willow Creek, and Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, were arrested on five conspiracy charges, according to a press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.

Officials said the investigation into the conspiracy has been on going for a month and revealed that Peredia allegedly arranged for his girlfriend, Mabe, to drop off narcotics, tobacco and marijuana to a location outside of the jail. Correctional Officer Benjamen Edward Jentry-Rakestraw, who was arrested July 3, would allegedly pick up the contraband and attempt to bring it in the facility for Peredia, according to the press release.

Jentry-Rakestraw posted his $50,000 bail Wednesday night and was released from custody. Mabe turned herself in Wednesday night and she also posted bail of $20,000 and was released.

Peredia has been in custody since March 1 on suspicion of murdering Ezra Sanders and was booked for the conspiracy charges Thursday afternoon.

No other arrests in the case are anticipated. Arraignments for Peredia and Mabe and Jentry-Rakestraw's intervention are scheduled for next week.


See Also: Ezra Sanders, under labels

TS - Guard arrested for allegedly bringing drugs into jail

Guard arrested for allegedly bringing drugs into jail
A correctional officer from the Humboldt County jail was arrested while on duty after a month-long investigation into reports that a guard was possibly smuggling contraband into the facility, officials said Monday.

Officer Benjamen Jentry-Rakestraw, 20, of Fortuna, was stopped at 9:30 p.m. Friday as he allegedly attempted to bring 4.3 grams of heroin and small amounts of tobacco and marijuana into the Humboldt County jail, according to a press release.

The investigation began about one month ago when sheriff's investigators and correctional staff received information that there was an officer possibly bringing contraband into the jail.

Jentry-Rakestraw has been with the department since September 2007, said Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp, adding much of department is surprised by the arrest.

”Pretty much across the board everyone is feeling shocked and kind of betrayed,” Philp said.

Background checks and training are extensive for correctional officers and so it is “especially surprising” when a trusted officer is arrested, Philp said.

Jentry-Rakestraw is young for his position but it's not atypical for a 20-year-old to be a correctional officer, Philp said.
”But most of our officers are older,” he added.

In a press release, Philp stated, “The type of incident is a complete anomaly for us and is frankly a gross violation of trust to us as well as the public we serve and will never be tolerated.”

Three search warrants were served and surveillance was used during the investigation, according to the release. More arrests are expected but no other officers are suspects.

Jentry-Rakestraw was booked on suspicion of bringing a narcotic controlled substance into a correctional facility, bringing contraband into a correctional facility and possession of a narcotic controlled substance, all of which are felonies, according to the release. He was also booked on suspicion of misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Although the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office may later add charges to the case, Philp said his office will not suggest any more charges.

His bail was set at $20,000 and he is expected to be arraigned by Wednesday.
Contact Allison White at 441-0506 or awhite@times-standard.com.

Bail increased, charges changed for officer

Bail increased, charges changed for officer
The correctional officer arrested earlier this week on suspicion of bringing drugs into the county jail now faces four charges and is being held on $50,000 bail.

Benjamen Edward Jentry-Rakestraw, 20, of Fortuna, is charged with possession of heroin, conspiracy to furnish heroin and two counts of bringing narcotics into a jail, according to the county District Attorney's Office.

He will also be transported to a different jail facility.

Jentry-Rakestraw's lawyer, Michael Robinson, asked the court to allow the defendant to be let out of jail until the trial because he was not a flight risk nor a danger to society. Jentry-Rakestraw's pastor had offered to house him.

Robinson said his client was not a violent criminal but he had allegedly been used by others.

”He allowed himself to be used and manipulated by the people he was set out to guard and crossed the line allegedly, and perhaps in some sense, absolutely,” Robinson told the judge.

Jentry-Rakestraw has no prior criminal record, Robinson said.

”I've learned that he is a bright light in a family with a history of law enforcement conflict,” he said.

Deputy District Attorney Arnie Klein argued the defendant was a danger to people in the community and he accused Jentry-Rakestraw of selling heroin solely for profit and for getting the drug for 32-year-old Ruben Anthony Peredia. Peredia is currently in jail and on trial for the murder of Ezra Sanders.

Robinson stated Klein's reasoning was “ridiculous” and it had no bearing on whether bail should be lifted.

Judge Marilyn B. Miles kept the defendant's bail requirement because of the public safety risk and left it at $50,000 from Tuesday's arraignment. The charges held a maximum bail of $100,000.

His preliminary hearing was set for July 17.

Jentry-Rakestraw's arrest was the result of a one-month-long investigation when sheriff's investigators and correctional staff received information that an officer may be bringing contraband into the jail, Sheriff Gary Philp said.

Search warrants were served for Jentry-Rakestraw's phone records, vehicles and residence, Philp said. Surveillance was also used in the investigation at his home and work.

More arrests are expected for others involved in the conspiracy charge to furnish heroin but no other officers are suspects, Philp said.

Within the sheriff's office, employees are coping with the shock of Jentry-Rakestraw's arrest and the feeling of betrayal that came along with it, Philp said.

”It's a difficult situation but we have a group of very professional people and their dealing with it as best they can,” Philp said. “We'll all get past this.”

Contact Allison White at 441-0506 or awhite@times-standard.com.

TS - Case against county correctional officer delayed

Case against county correctional officer delayed

A correctional officer accused of bringing drugs into the Humboldt County jail had his case delayed Wednesday due to misplaced copies of evidence materials intended for his defense attorney.

Benjamen Edward Jentry-Rakestraw, 20, of Fortuna, is accused of attempting to bring heroin, marijuana and tobacco into the jail on July 3. He was also accused of allegedly providing prisoner Ruben Anthony Peredia with the drugs, according to court documents.

Peredia is currently in jail on charges connected to the murder of Ezra Sanders. Neither Peredia nor Taryn Nicole Mabe, who allegedly brought the drugs to Jentry-Rakestraw, have been officially charged by the District Attorney's Office for the incident.

The DA's office was supposed to provide a copy of Jentry-Rakestraw's statement to police for his defense attorney, Michael Robinson. Robinson told the court Wednesday that he had requested the information from the DA's office multiple times with no success.

He said with some humor that he “resisted going Tasmanian devil” on Deputy District Attorney Arnie Klein for not providing the documents in a timely manner.

”... I need to know what my client said,” Robinson told the court.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Marilyn B. Miles agreed that Klein should have furnished the report much earlier, even without requests from Robinson.

Robinson said he received a data disc Wednesday morning that should have had the statement on it. But when he opened it on his computer, the disc was blank.

Klein told the court that there was a second, now missing disc with the correct data on it. He said his staff would send it to Robinson as soon as they located it.

”We will get Mr. Robinson everything he's entitled to,” Klein said.

Jentry-Rakestraw's next court date is an intervention hearing set for Oct. 7.

Allison White can be reached at 441-0506 or awhite@times-standard.com.
Allison White/The Times-Standard
Posted: 08/20/2009 01:25:16 AM PDT

TS - 'I could have been killed so quickly'; Thursday shootings in Eureka believed to be linked

'I could have been killed so quickly'; Thursday shootings in Eureka believed to be linked

Authorities now believe that the Eureka man killed in an officer-involved shooting Thursday was on the run, having just fired two shots at an acquaintance in an apartment complex parking lot about a block away from the fatal shooting.

David Sequoia, 25, also known as David Gabriel Barger, was shot and killed by Eureka police officers Thursday morning during a struggle in a carport in an ally off Summer Street. Just minutes before the shooting, there was a report of two shots fired on California Street.

Eureka Police Chief Garr Nielsen said Friday that authorities now believe Sequoia was involved in an argument with an acquaintance of his, when he fired two shots before fleeing the California Street scene on foot, and eventually trying to take refuge in the carport.

”Allegedly, (Sequoia) had stolen some money from this person and there was a dispute over that theft,” Nielsen said, adding that the theft was allegedly in excess of $1,500 and that Sequoia was chased from the scene while still armed with a handgun. “Someone was pursuing him on foot. ... One witness saw the pursuit, and actually called out to the man chasing Sequoia and asked why he was chasing someone with a gun.”

Nielsen said he believes Sequoia was attempting to hide from his pursuer when he ducked into the carport off of Summer Street, which is owned by Kris Coon.

In an interview Friday, Coon said he heard a rustling in his carport and -- thinking someone was again attempting to steal his tools -- came out of his house to confront the man. He said he then found Sequoia, who looked scared and was wearing a backpack.

”I was fighting him, thinking he was stealing from my carport,” Coon said. “But, once I slammed him to the ground, I saw him reaching for the gun.”

A deadly struggle ensued.

Coon said he grabbed the barrel of the gun in Sequoia's hand, desperately trying to keep it pointed away from him and his house, where his 12-year-old daughter and wife were inside. Coon's wife quickly dialed 911.

The two struggled in the carport for about 30 seconds before police -- already en route to the scene of the California Street shooting -- arrived. Coon said the police initially didn't know the particulars of the struggle and attempted to separate Coon and Sequoia, using their knees and arms to try to pry the two men apart.

Once the officers saw the gun, which was still in Sequoia's hands, Coon said they instantly began yelling at Sequoia to drop the weapon. Nielsen said officers issued numerous verbal commands, and also attempted to physically wrestle the weapon from Sequoia.
Finally, Coon said, his grip on the barrel of the weapon began to weaken, and he felt the gun turning toward him.

”The cop made a split-second decision,” Coon said, his voice trailing off. “The barrel of that gun was getting closer and closer to being pointed at me. They saw that I was about to be shot, and they took (Sequoia's) life trying to save mine. That's all there was to it. They did a damn good job.”

Coon said he saw one shot to Sequoia's head, and then Sequoia slumped to the ground.
Nielsen said Friday that officers fired two shots in the exchange, but declined to comment on whether both rounds were fired by one officer or whether two officers discharged their weapons. The shots, Nielsen said, were fired “one very quickly after the other.” He said the officers involved were scheduled to be interviewed by the California Department of Justice on Friday, and that more information would likely be available early next week.

Nielsen said it's Eureka Police Department policy to have the Department of Justice investigate any deadly force incidents. The chief declined to identify the officers involved in the shooting, saying it's department policy to not release the names of officers involved in deadly force incidents for several days.

”While I think it's important that the identities of the officers be released, I also think it's fair to give them some time to deal with the situation privately first,” Nielsen said, adding that he thinks it's right to give the officers a chance to notify their families, including extended family living outside the area, before their names are made public.

Nielsen said the officers have been placed on administrative leave, where they will stay until they feel ready to return to duty. At that time, he said they will have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before returning to work. Deadly force incidents generally take a huge toll on the officers involved, Nielsen said, adding that he spoke to the two officers involved in this shooting a short time afterward.

”When I talked to them, I think they were both still in a state of shock, but clearly they were upset about what had happened,” Nielsen said.

Coon, who said he saw the gun go off “about 12 inches” from his face, said the whole thing has been like a dream.

”I could have been killed so quickly,” he said. “If it wasn't for those cops making a split-second decision to shoot this guy in the head, I would have been shot. Eureka PD did a damn great job, and I'll stand up and tell that to anyone.”

Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Charlie Comer said his office is not releasing any details about the shooting, but said a forensic autopsy is scheduled to take place on Sequoia's remains Tuesday morning in Shasta County.

This isn't the first time Sequoia has been in the public eye for a firearm-related incident. He was acquitted by a Humboldt County jury in October 2008 of a murder charge, stemming from the 2003 shooting death of Rex Shinn. Standing trial under the name of Barger, Sequoia was accused of shooting Shinn twice in the head and once in the neck with a .357 revolver at point blank range on the premises of a Southern Humboldt marijuana growing operation.

The jury acquitted Sequoia of a charge of first-degree murder, but hung on the lesser included offense of second-degree murder. In November 2008, Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Max Cardoza announced that he had decided not to re-try Sequoia on the second-degree murder charge, saying jurors in the case told him that they were concerned about credibility issues with some of the prosecution's key witnesses, many of whom had felony criminal records and were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony in the case.

According to court records, Sequoia also faced two other attempted murder charges and two allegations of felony assault in relation to a 2004 incident in which an alleged attempt to trade firearms for drugs went awry. One of the attempted murder charges was thrown out due to insufficient evidence in 2006, and it's unclear what came of the other charges. A call placed to the prosecutor handling the case was not immediately returned by the Times-Standard's deadline.

As the dust began to settle from Thursday's shooting and DOJ investigators continued their work, Nielsen said that based on the information currently available, he believes his officers acted appropriately in the face of a grave threat.

”Were it not for the actions of the officers in this case, I think either (Coon) or one of my officers would have been shot,” Nielsen said. “Sequoia had already demonstrated he was not afraid to use his gun.”

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or
tgreenson@times-standard.com.
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 03/20/2010 01:32:25 AM PDT