20 years since Campbell, Donaldson killings shocked Nevada County
July 23, 2014
— July 23, 1994: Crissy Campbell and Dawn Donaldson reportedly last seen alive at Sam Strange’s Retrac Way home.
— Aug. 2: Girls’ bodies discovered on South Ponderosa Way.
— Aug. 4-9: Nevada County sheriff’s detectives question Strange at the Sheriff’s Department and press him for details. Strange repeatedly tells them the two left his home alive to hitchhike to Grass Valley.
— Sept. 20: Search warrant served at the Strange residence. Investigators recover an ax from a nearby pond and collect traces of human blood.
— Sept. 28: Sam Strange arrested.
— Feb. 28-March 7, 1995: Strange appears at a preliminary hearing; Judge Al Dover decides prosecution evidence is strong enough to hold a trial for Strange in Superior Court.
— March 18, 1995: Ferguson announces he will not seek the death penalty if Strange is convicted.
— Dec. 5, 1995-Jan. 31, 1996: Homicide trial of Strange. In opening statements, Strange’s defense attorney tells jurors he can prove Allen Pettus and Dameon Graham murdered the girls.
— Feb. 7, 1996: Jurors convict Strange on one first-degree murder count and on one second-degree murder count.
— June 20, 1996: Strange testifies in a hearing on his motion for a new trial, claiming he witnessed Graham and Pettus kill the girls, but lied to detectives because the two threatened to kill him and his family.
— July 24, 1996: Judge John Darlington rejects the motion for a new trial, citing case law and inconsistencies in Strange’s account. However, Darlington reduces the first-degree count to second-degree murder, eliminating a sentence of life without parole.
— Sept. 20, 1996: Strange sentenced to two 15-years-to-life prison terms to be served consecutively.
— April 1997: Nevada County Citizens for Recall campaign to replace Superior Court judges Ersel Edwards and John Darlington, District Attorney Michael Ferguson and Sheriff Troy Arbaugh, in part due to Strange’s conviction.
— 1998-2003: Conviction wends its way through appeal process at state and federal levels. In 2002, a federal district court judge found that Strange should have been allowed to testify. But in 2003, a different judge ruled that his testimony would not have been sufficient to undermine confidence in the conviction.
— June 14, 2001: Sam Strange’s mother, Kathy Strange Morales, dies of cancer.
— Aug. 27, 2013: Parole hearing held; parole denied.