10.17.2012

Jason Anthony Warren. A History of Violence

A History of Violence - By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

Jason Anthony Warren./Photo courtesy of Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office

Editor’s Note: Jason Anthony Warren has not been charged with any crimes in connection with the killing of Dorothy Ulrich and Suzanne Seemann. He remains a person of interest and is currently in custody on a prior conviction.

Who is Jason Anthony Warren?

Even before the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office announced last Tuesday, October 2, 2012 that Warren was a person of interest in connection with the brutal killing of Dorothy Ulrich in Hoopa and the hit and run death of Suzanne Seemann in Eureka, the family of Ulrich began to search for information about the 28 year-old male.

Coincidentally, while at the Humboldt County Courthouse researching public records last Monday, Oct. 1, Ulrich’s mother learned that Warren was scheduled for a court appearance after he was arrested on a bench warrant.
She went.

“I wanted to see what this man looked like,” she said.

Warren appeared that day before Superior Court Judge, Timothy Cissna, for what, according to case minutes, appeared to be the seventh time on the same case. He was scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday, Oct. 3 for a violent crime he had already pleaded guilty to in late August.

News Channel Three was allowed to bring camera equipment inside the courtroom, an unusual occurrence and privilege that can, under special circumstances be granted by the judge. And, several reporters from various publications were in the audience taking notes.

The newsworthiness of Warren’s sentencing bumped up a notch due to the circumstances of his warrant arrest on Thursday, Sept. 27.

Although he was wanted for 20 days prior to his arrest, the search for Warren was kicked into high gear following the killing of Ulrich and the fatal hit and run that took Seemann’s life and critically injured two women.

“He should have never been released,” Ulrich’s mother said.

Warren had been released from custody on Aug. 24, 2012 on a Cruz waiver, somewhat of a get-out-of-jail-free arrangement that allows people who agree to return for sentencing and prison commitment to go home and get their affairs in order.

He was charged with second degree robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm in April of 2012 for a crime that occurred on March 28, 2012 in Hoopa. He was incarcerated at Humboldt County Jail for approximately five months until he pleaded guilty and was granted the Cruz waiver on August 24, 2012.

Warren was due back in court on Sept. 7 to be handed down a six-year prison sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Under his agreement, if he abided by the waiver, the other charges would disappear.
According to court documents, normally, the felon in possession of a firearm charge would warrant a three-year sentence, but since Warren already had a strike on his record, the sentence was doubled.

If he did not abide, a sentence of nine years, four months would be handed down, and it was by Cissna, last Wednesday, Oct. 3.

A court transcript of the felony plea and Cruz waiver acceptance was obtained. In the transcript, it is clear that the prosecuting district attorney was given an opportunity to explain on the record his reasons for not opposing Warren’s release under the waiver. The prosecuting district attorney, Zach Curtis declined to do so.

Before proceedings concluded, Cissna clarified the terms and asked Warren if he understood. Warren responded with a “yes.”

“The Court: Just to make sure you understand: If you abide by the Cruz waiver, the assault with a deadly weapon will go away. If you do not abide by it, you violate it in any respect, then that charge remains; and you are going to receive by agreement nine years four months in prison,” the court transcript reads. “Do you understand and agree to all that? DEFENDANT: Yes.”

Backing up a moment, the incident Warren was sentenced for occurred in Hoopa on March 28, 2012. Warren reportedly robbed a young man at knife point for $20 cash. He also was in possession of a firearm, a handgun. Having been convicted of a felony—attempted murder—in 2001, Warren was forbidden to possess a firearm.

Rewind to 2011

In 2011 Warren was arrested on charges of battery. On July 27, 2011 he was accused of using force and violence upon a young woman. He spent approximately one month in jail before the charges were dropped by the District Attorney’s Office.

The police report to the court stated that the victim said she was struck in the right cheek by Warren.

“She did not have visible traumatic injury,” the report reads. “But, she stated that her cheek was still hurt and swollen.”

The same report noted that Warren was on parole at that time.

Warren pleaded no contest to a charge of disturbing the peace.

Rewind to 2007

According to court documents, on June 10, 2007 Warren was arrested on charges of willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and maliciously discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling.

The dwelling happened to be P&J Billiards, a bar located on Highway 299 in Willow Creek.

He was also charged with unlawful firearm activity, the only charge that stuck. Warren was subsequently sentenced to 32 months in state prison, a doubled term because again, the state’s three strikes law requires the standard sentences be doubled.

The police report to the court stated that the responding deputy located three bullet holes upon arrival at P&J Billiards at about 2:30am; one bullet hole in the window and two in the wall.

“HVTP (Hoopa Valley Tribal Police) officers located the suspect vehicle at the Hoopa Vista Point with two .22 caliber rifles (loaded) in the back seat,” the report reads. “Jason Warren, the driver of the car, stated passenger Gary Blacksmith fired the shots. Warren had numerous .22 bullets in his pocket and admitted to firing the gun while hunting. Warren is on parole.”

Rewind to 2001

According to court documents Warren was convicted of attempted murder in April of 2001. He was 16 years old. The conviction, his first strike under the state’s three strikes law landed him a sentence in the California Youth Authority system. He was also convicted of carjacking and force with a deadly weapon that was not a firearm, causing great bodily injury.

Details on Warren’s 2001 arrest and subsequent court proceedings are not as easily obtained due to the fact that they are juvenile records.

A comment from ‘Tra’ on a local web news source, the Lost Coast Outpost reads, “If it’s common practice in Humboldt County to allow people who are pleading guilty to serious violent crimes to roam free…until their sentencing, that practice needs to be changed immediately. If it’s not common practice, but was allowed in this case for some reason, well then I’d like to hear the reason. It had better be good.”

Ulrich’s family shares similar sentiments.


A memorial alter sits positioned in front of a tree at a celebration of life held for Dorothy Ulrich, the 47-year-old who was found killed in her home in Hoopa on Thursday, September 27, 2012./Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune

Look for continued coverage in the TRT or at www.tworiverstribune.com

10.15.2012

Murder, hit and run 'person of interest' named; Jason Warren is in custody on warrant

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The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday named Jason Anthony Warren as a person of interest in the murder of a Hoopa woman and last week's hit and run that killed a mother of two and severely injured two others on Myrtle Avenue.

”We decided it was time today to come forward and put as much of that guess work to rest as possible,” Sheriff Mike Downey said. “Our main goal right now is not jeopardizing the case at hand.”

Warren, 28, has not been charged in the two cases. At the time of the murder and hit and run, he was wanted for failing to show up to his sentencing on an assault charge. Warren was arrested in Eureka on a warrant Thursday, the same afternoon as the early morning hit and run.

Downey said the sheriff's office is working to build “a strong nexus” between the two incidents in order to bring a prosecutable case before the District Attorney's Office.

HSU geography instructor Suzanne Seemann -- the mother of two young children and wife of Humboldt County official Hank Seemann -- was struck in the hit-and-run crash and died at the scene. Eureka residents Jessica Hunt, 41, and Terri Vroman-Little, 50, were severely injured.

St. Joseph Hospital spokeswoman Leslie Broomall said Vroman-Little was in stable and good condition and Hunt remained in stable condition.

The hit and run investigation led the CHP to Hoopa resident Dorothy Ulrich, 47, who was found dead in her residence later Thursday morning. She had borrowed the 2005 Kia Spectra from its owner and was seen with Warren last Wednesday, according to her sister-in-law Maria Ulrich, who said she found Dorothy Ulrich's body.

Maria Ulrich, who lives across the street, said the CHP and Hoopa Valley Tribal Police were already at the house when she opened the door.

The time and cause of Dorothy Ulrich's death have not been released. The sheriff's office declined to comment on any connection between Ulrich and Warren or a motive for her killing.

Warren failed to show up for a Sept. 7 court date after entering into a plea deal to serve six years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon after he was arrested in April for robbery.

He was released on a Cruz waiver, which is part of a plea agreement that has a defendant agree to have a greater sentence imposed for failing to appear at sentencing. Warren faced nine years for failing to appear.

”He was released prior to sentencing on the Cruz waiver, pursuant to the plea agreement,” said Deputy District Attorney Zachary Curtis in an email. “It is fairly common to release a defendant with something over his head to try to encourage good behavior, usually with probation cases.”

Warren had a previous felony that counted as a strike on his record. He also has a juvenile criminal record.

Downey said there is no opportunity for Warren to be released anytime soon.

”That is another reason we felt confident not releasing any other information,” he said. “We felt there was no jeopardy to the community.”

Downey said the sheriff's office is not seeking any other suspects.

Maria Ulrich said Dorothy Ulrich was a housewife. Her husband is a truck driver.

”She wasn't feeling that great lately,” Maria Ulrich said. “She's worked odd jobs. They live across the street from me. She wasn't trying to cause any trouble.”

Dorothy Ulrich moved to Hoopa in 1998 and is the mother of a son, according to her Facebook page.

Luke Ramseth contributed to this report.

Warren sentenced on charges unrelated to murder, hit-and-run; DA: Pre-sentencing release 'right decision for that time'

Warren sentenced on charges unrelated to murder, hit-and-run; DA: Pre-sentencing release 'right decision for that time'

The man considered a “person of interest” in the death of a Hoopa woman and a hit-and-run crash that killed a Humboldt State University instructor was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon, after failing to show for his sentencing in September.

Jason Anthony Warren, 28, was arrested on a warrant related to his failure to appear hours after the Sept. 27 hit-and-run that led to the discovery of Dorothy Ulrich's body in her Hoopa home.

He was released from custody in late August on a Cruz waiver, part of a plea agreement that had him facing six years in prison with the stipulation that the assault change would be dropped if he showed up for his Sept. 7 sentencing.

For failing to appear, he was sentenced for the assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm and admitting to a previous strike on his record.

Warren has not been charged in the homicide or the hit-and-run. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has referred to Warren as a “person of interest” in Ulrich's death and the hit-and-run.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel said that following Wednesday's sentencing, Warren will begin the normal process of transferring to state custody.

HSU geography instructor Suzanne Seemann -- the mother of two young children and wife of Humboldt County official Hank Seemann -- died at the scene of the hit-and-run. Her running partners, Eureka residents Jessica Hunt, 41, and Terri Vroman-Little, 50, were severely injured.

The hit-and-run investigation led the CHP to Ulrich, a 47-year-old mother of three. She had borrowed the 2005 Kia Spectra that struck the women joggers on Myrtle Avenue. Ulrich was seen with Warren last Wednesday, according to her sister-in-law Maria Ulrich. The cause and time of her death have not been released.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos said his office can oppose or recommend a Cruz waiver release -- investigators may want an informant released to gather more information, for example -- but it is ultimately up to the court.

”Those separations of power are in place for a reason,” Gallegos said. “The system puts an inherent distrust in everyone.”

Deputy District Attorney Zachary Curtis did not oppose the Cruz waiver approved by Judge Timothy Cissna in Warren's case. Gallegos said the Cruz waiver is seen as a disincentive to commit further crimes and an encouragement to appear for sentencing.

The Times-Standard was unable to contact Cissna or Curtis by press deadline.

”I don't question the decision that was made,” Gallegos said. “It was the right decision for that time.”

”With the benefit of hindsight, I wish to God we had opposed it, and I wish the judge hadn't released him,” Gallegos said. “That, of course, presumes that (Warren) is guilty. I would remind people -- and it's my duty to do so -- Mr. Warren is presumed innocent.”

Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane said Cruz waivers are not unusual when it is clear that a defendant will not be incarcerated.

It's less common when a defendant is facing prison time. Keane said a defendant would usually have to convince the judge that he or she had to get their affairs in order before serving a sentence. Those affairs typically involve finding care for young children or elderly parents, Keane said.

”Some sort of real 'hearts and flowers' type thing,” he said.

Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham said his officers arrested Warren after staking out a residence on California and Sonoma streets in Eureka, a few blocks from where the Kia Spectra was abandoned. The officers spotted Warren entering a pickup truck with another individual at about 4:30 p.m. last Thursday, and performed a traffic stop.

He said he sees the situation as the most recent example of how the state's public safety realignment plan is failing California counties.

”Again, this was another parole who had been sentenced to six years in prison, but was allowed to be released to take care of business,” Harpham said. ”When everything comes out on that, I think people are going to be as upset about this parole situation as I am. Because when the whole story comes out, it's going to be pretty tragic and it will show how unavoidable that situation was. This was a person who should not have been released.”

Gallegos said this was an opportunity to review communication between the courts, district attorney's office and various law enforcement agencies in the county. He stressed that the blame for the homicide and hit-and-run rests on the person who committed the crimes.

”Are there checks that can be placed along the way that can prevent reoccurrence?” Gallegos asked. “Maybe.”

”I can tell you my office is going to take a different look toward Cruz waivers,” Gallegos said. “We certainly don't want this to happen again.”

At a glance: Cruz waiver

A Cruz waiver is part of a plea agreement that has a defendant agree to have a greater sentence imposed for failing to appear at sentencing. In the case of Jason Warren, he faced nine years for failing to appear.

Grant Scott-Goforth can be reached at 441-0514 or gscott-goforth@times-standard.com.