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Arson puzzle in shooting case

Eileen JoyceFamily and friends of Ezra Clow light candles at a wreath placed where he died six months ago at Pine Grove Cemetery in Nevada City Thursday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The date has landed on four weekdays and a weekend.

The 26th of this month was Thursday, and Ronald Clow and Tamara Lee Childs were back at Pine Grove Cemetery. They and 30-plus friends and relatives held vigil for Clow’s son, Ezra Clow, who died six months ago.

Hovered under a large fir tree, they chatted and shrugged off the drizzle and cold wind. Some sipped beer while others struggled to keep their candles lit. In all, they reflected.



“Ron’s done a lot of good for this community,” said Dawn Sherman, who attended with her three children and has been to three such monthly vigils. “Ezra was a good kid, and this is just backwards. Ezra was killed for no reason.”

The shooting site bears a newly painted white cross which replaced another that was stolen.




On June 26 – at age 26 – Ezra Clow was fatally shot at the Nevada City area cemetery by Nevada County Sheriff’s Detective Don Clark.

The District Attorney’s Office cleared Clark, saying he used justifiable deadly force.

Clow’s father and stepmother believe otherwise, that Clark had nonlethal options and killed Ezra Clow in cold blood.

This back-and-forth is nothing new.

Still in the balance, however, is a truck arson that led to the shooting. Investigative reports in hand, the District Attorney’s Office has neither filed charges nor decided whether to file any.

“I haven’t made a filing decision,” Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson said, declining to elaborate.

But no one has disagreed on how Ezra Clow and Detective Clark came to be at the cemetery simultaneously.

The truck belonged to the father of Peter Paulus, who was with friend Charlie Burr, a deputy’s son, when the truck broke down on the Greenhorn Creek bed. It was later found torched.

Clark learned Clow phoned Paulus about returning compact discs and a checkbook that were in the truck. Clow and Paulus later met at cemetery on Red Dog Road, but Clow didn’t anticipate Clark showing up.

The next sequence occurred quickly and remains subject for debate.

A Sheriff’s Office report says Clow, upset Clark was there, hastily reversed his pickup as Clark reached inside the vehicle before getting knocked to the ground.

Next, believing Clow sped toward him, Clark shot Clow twice, in the head and neck, the Sheriff’s Office says.

A later toxicology report said Clow had methamphetamine levels in his system that could have supported violent or irrational behavior.

Clow’s family still disputes such claims.

Ezra Clow wasn’t violent and wasn’t on drugs, his father says.

And he merely tried to return items he found near the destroyed truck, according to Childs: “He was doing a good deed.”

The couple has since hired a San Luis Obispo-area lawyer and says a federal lawsuit against the county is pending.

“All we want is the truth because we can never get Ezra back. We want some answers,” Childs said.

The family’s lawyer, William Gamble, was out of his office Thursday and Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

County Counsel Charles McKee on Friday acknowledged receiving from Gamble’s office a claim for damages, a requirement before filing a lawsuit. The document names Clark, the Sheriff’s Office and county as defendants as those who caused the alleged damages.

Clow’s death abruptly ended the Sheriff’s Office’s arson investigation.

Instead, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection investigator took over and blamed the fire on Paulus and Burr, who was seriously burned by flames that destroyed the truck, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Paulus’ father, Steve Paulus, said he’s hired Nevada City lawyer Barbara Coffman, who on Friday couldn’t be reached for comment.

Clow case

time line

June 23: A Toyota pickup truck is set on fire in the Greenhorn Creek bed, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The truck owner’s son, Peter Paulus, is there when his friend, Charlie Burr, suffers first- and second-degree burns to his face, ears and right arm, CDF reports.

June 26: Ezra Clow meets Paulus at Pine Grove Cemetery east of Nevada City regarding compact discs and a checkbook belonging to Paulus, according to CDF. Sheriff1s Detective Don Clark, the arson investigator, is also there. During a confrontation, Clark fatally shoots Clow.

June 27: A CDF investigator examines the truck and concludes the fire was intentionally set.

Nov. 8: The county receives a notice of claim, which precedes a lawsuit, from the Clow family1s lawyer.

Dec. 26: Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson says he hasn1t made a filing decision in the arson case.


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