Burke to face murder, arson charges
Accused of bludgeoning another man to death with a crowbar, David A. Burke II is likely headed to trial after the evidence against him was ruled sufficient to support murder and arson charges.
Judge John Darlington made his ruling Wednesday in Nevada County Superior Court after hearing just more than a day of preliminary hearing testimony. The judge set arraignment for Jan. 6.
Burke’s lawyer, Glenn Kottcamp, had no comment.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson, said Burke won’t be offered a plea bargain, an indication the case is going to trial.
Wolfson said he believes Burke’s alleged actions rise to first-degree murder, which poses 25 years to life in prison. Wolfson said he isn’t pursuing the death penalty because the case doesn’t meet the criteria.
Burke, the 24-year-old son of a Nevada City police officer, is accused of beating 26-year-old James Vannberg with a crowbar July 9 at South Yuba Campground, near Edwards Crossing, and beating him again alongside a nearby road, where Vannberg was found partially buried.
The arson charge stems from allegations that Burke torched Vannberg’s Jeep Cherokee in the Greenhorn Creek bed.
Two co-defendants, 24-year-old David Leffingwell and 21-year-old Heather Gereau, have entered plea bargains and await sentencing.
Leffingwell, who faces up to 11 years in prison, pleaded no-contest to voluntary manslaughter. Gereau, facing up to six months in jail, pleaded no-contest to being an accomplice after the fact.
Testimony Tuesday suggested Burke said he was going to kill Vannberg, and that he asked Leffingwell to lend him a crowbar and roust a sleeping Vannberg. Most of the testimony came from Gereau and Steve Tripp, a sheriff’s detective.
Gereau claimed Burke was angry at Vannberg for “disrespecting” people, and the clincher occurred when Vannberg allegedly stole food and food stamps from another camper.
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