Defendants in Shanta Olsen murder case indicted by grand jury | TheUnion.com
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Defendants in Shanta Olsen murder case indicted by grand jury

Six men who were arrested in Grass Valley last year in connection with the death of 36-year-old Shanta Olsen — one of whom faces a murder charge — have been indicted by a grand jury for multiple felonies, prosecutors say.

The six men, five of whom are from Dallas, Texas, were arrested in November 2020 for the fatal shooting of Olsen, a Nevada County woman authorities say was shot in the head after a drug deal gone wrong. They have now all been charged with one conspiracy count of transporting marijuana, one count of theft with false pretenses, and are being collectively charged with discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, according to the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office.

Gang enhancement charges have also been attached to the marijuana and theft charges, court documents show.



The defendants named in the grand jury’s indictment are Dakari Mondell Harris, 22, of Shreveport, Louisiana; Trey Rondal Richard, 23; Devon Deontae Jennings, 21; William Rynell Levise, 31; Ronney Turner, 31; and Laderrick Timothy Wynn, 20. All six defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Richard is facing additional charges of murder and a personal use of a firearm enhancement count, as prosecutors are alleging that Richard was the one who pulled the trigger in the shooting of Olsen. He has been held in the Nevada County Jail without bail since his arrest, records show.




Under the terms of the indictment, released Friday afternoon, all of the men must appear in court for an arraignment on June 7, and will subsequently be held in custody without bail, according to Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh. If any of the defendants, who are all currently out of state after making bail (with the exception of Richard) fail to appear for the arraignment, the court will then issue a warrant for their arrest, Walsh added.

RARE CASE

The 19-person criminal grand jury that issued the indictment had been meeting in Nevada County in secret since May 4, and at least one attorney involved in the case wasn’t aware of these proceedings until the District Attorney’s Office announced the indictment through its Facebook page.

Walsh noted the rarity of using a grand jury in Nevada County, with this case being only the second or third case of a grand jury indictment in county history. He said his office felt it had become necessary to use a grand jury due to the complexity and gravity of this case, as well as because of the practical difficulties associated with pursuing a trial with the five co-defendants living out of state.

Multiple preliminary hearings in the case had been canceled and rescheduled, and after numerous delays in the proceedings, prosecutors had become concerned that Olsen’s family would not receive justice in a reasonable timeline, Walsh said. By forcing the defendants to be arraigned via an indictment, the District Attorney’s Office has forced the legal process to move along quicker than would otherwise have been possible. The court will now set a trial date during the June 7 arraignment, skipping the customary preliminary hearings and greatly expediting the trial process, Walsh said.

“With the court issuing an arrest warrant without bail for all the defendants, we get them here in custody for serious crimes and there’s some urgency. Now they’ll have to address this in California, as opposed to something far away that they don’t have to pay attention to,” Walsh said. He said that having the defendants in court, as opposed to hearings only over Zoom, was important for a speedy process.

Ben Jacobs, who is Richard’s defense attorney, declined to comment on the indictment against his client except to say that he was disappointed by the decision to announce the grand jury’s decision over Facebook, instead of giving the defendants’ attorneys advance notice of the indictment.

“While you always have to be ready for this sort of thing as an attorney, you do usually expect the courtesy of the DA to inform you beforehand, rather than informing us about this via Facebook,” he said.

The indictment has not changed his client’s decision to plead not guilty, and there are no plans to pursue a negotiated settlement with the prosecution, Jacobs added.

None of the other client’s defense attorneys could be reached for comment.

HISTORY

The men were all arrested on Nov. 7 following an incident that started when the six men tried to purchase roughly 40 pounds of suspected marijuana with fake money at a residence on South Ponderosa Way, according to police. The deal turned sour and the six stole the marijuana, got into their cars, and fled the scene. Two people from the residence, including Olsen, followed the suspects in their own vehicle and a short pursuit ensued.

While in one of the fleeing cars, Richard allegedly fired several shots at the pursuing vehicle with his pistol, and Olsen was struck in the head. She suffered extensive brain injuries from the gunshot wound and later died, reports state.

Richard and the other men were allegedly in Nevada County with the intent to bring the marijuana back to Texas, which resulted in the charge of transporting narcotics out of state. All of the defendants are also purportedly a part of an organized criminal entity known in Texas as the “Bird Gang,” which led to the men being charged with gang enhancements, according to Walsh.

Walsh said Ronney Turner, who is not charged with Olsen’s murder but faces the other conspiracy and gang charges, posted a music video on YouTube the day after he made bail for the charges against the six. The video celebrates Turner’s release from jail, and makes references to his involvement in the “Bird Gang.”

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

 


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