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August 15, 2014
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Grand jury indicts 2 in murder case

Two brothers arrested and charged in connection with the brutal murder of Brian Spalding on front of his residence in mid-April have been indicted by a criminal grand jury.

“Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, the specially impaneled grand jury found an indictment for Scott Thomas Hollingshead and Christopher Michael Nix for murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle,” said Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell in a prepared statement.

The indictment also found special allegations for “lying in wait,” “aiding murder” and “discharge of a firearm causing death,” Newell added.

Nix and Hollingshead will be arraigned on the indictment at 2:30 p.m. Monday.

A no-bail warrant was issued, even though a Nevada County Superior Court judge previously had denied bail.

Judge Candace Heidelberger had previously ruled the issue could be revisited after a preliminary hearing into the evidence against them, which had been set for July 10 and then postponed.

Nix and Hollingshead reportedly had gone to Spalding’s residence in the 11000 block of Forest View Drive at about 11:15 p.m., April 14, wearing dark clothing and something covering their faces to conceal their identities, beat him severely and shot him several times in the upper torso.

Spalding was pronounced dead at the scene, and the official cause of death was ruled to be multiple blunt-force trauma.

Both suspects’ DNA reportedly was present at the crime scene, and a handgun that was recovered from Gracie Road several days later also has been linked to the homicide by ballistics and DNA.

Hollingshead, 24, who is being represented by a court-appointed attorney, Stephen Munkelt, was indicted Friday on a charge of murder with special allegations of lying in wait, intentional discharge of a firearm causing death or great bodily injury, and that a principal was armed with a firearm during the commission of the crime.

He also was indicted on one count of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, with special allegations of intentional discharge of a firearm causing death or great bodily injury and that a principal was armed with a firearm during the commission of the crime.

Nix, 20, is being represented by Nevada County Deputy Public Defender Keri Klein. He faces a charge of murder with special allegations of lying in wait, aiding murder and that a principal was armed with a firearm during the commission of the crime, and a charge of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, with a special allegation that a principal was armed with a firearm during the commission of the crime.

Criminal cases in Nevada County very rarely go to a grand jury; the most recent notable case locally that did go that route was the Gold Country Lenders fraud case, with an indictment against Phil Lester and Susan Laferte in January 2013.

Sometimes, the prosecutor will opt to take that course as a way to fast-forward around a preliminary examination into the evidence, Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson told The Union at the time of the Gold Country Lenders indictment.

If a prosecutor opts to convene a criminal grand jury, the defense attorneys are not present, and there is no discovery, Ferguson said. The prosecutor is required to present any exculpatory evidence that might prove the defendant’s innocence; the defendant can opt to provide the prosecutor that information or not.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ow is the prosecutor in the Spalding homicide case; she did not return calls for comment this week.

In California, the grand jury system consists of 58 separate grand juries, one in each county, that are convened on an annual basis by the Superior Court to carry out three functions: investigating and reporting on the operations of local government, which is a civil, rather than criminal function; issuing criminal indictments to require defendants to go to trial on felony charges; and investigating allegations of a public official’s corrupt or willful misconduct in office and, when warranted, filing an accusation against that official to remove him or her from office.

According to Newell, the Grand Jury system is for investigation into county matters of civil concern and is rarely used to indict on criminal matters due to the selection process of its members. The court may empanel an additional Grand Jury at the D.A.’s or attorney general’s (or court’s) request in criminal matters. The indictment of the two defendants on Friday was such a specifically impaneled criminal Grand Jury.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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The Union Updated Aug 25, 2014 10:58AM Published Aug 16, 2014 01:01AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.