Friends say Penn Valley murder suspect kept guns in home, appeared to be deteriorating
Robert Lloyd Steuber, an 82-year-old Penn Valley resident facing a murder charge in connection with the fatal shooting of 67-year-old Sandra Sue Lebarron, is described by two people who know him as a well-armed, disabled man descending into delusions.
Authorities say they arrested Steuber after a Tuesday morning argument between himself and Lebarron grew violent. Arguing in their mobile home’s master bedroom, Steuber left to retrieve a .40-caliber handgun, returned to Lebarron and shot her multiple times.
Steuber, firing four times, struck Lebarron with three bullets. An autopsy revealed that she died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, Sheriff Keith Royal said.
“We have the weapon,” he said.
Deputies found Steuber, in a wheelchair, and the deceased Lebarron after responding to reports of possible shots fired in the 11000 block of Sierra Circle. Charged in connection with her death, Steuber remained in the Nevada County Jail Wednesday without bond.
People who know Steuber said he lived at a mobile home for about seven years with Lebarron, who acted as his caretaker.
Juan Browne, who met Steuber in the 1970s as a child, helped engineer the wheelchair ramp leading from the street to Steuber’s front door. Extremely hard of hearing and using a wheelchair, Steuber spent most of his time in his bedroom.
“She was trying to take care of him,” he said of Lebarron. “She was his only hope at this stage of his life to get care and now she’s gone.”
Jeff Ackerman, a former publisher of The Union, called Lebarron a hero in her dealings with Steuber.
“I was always amazed about basically how she could put up with Robert,” he said.
According to Ackerman, Steuber and Lebarron once lived separately in a mobile home park in the Glenbrook Basin. The Great Recession hit, which led the pair to move in together and eventually buy the home on Sierra Circle.
Ackerman said he visited Steuber last week during a trip to Nevada County. He chatted with both Steuber and Lebarron, learning about repeated 911 calls Steuber had made about prowlers.
“Sandy was concerned that Robert was deteriorating and making all these phone calls,” Ackerman said. “Robert was becoming too much to handle.”
Browne was a kid when in 1974 he first met Steuber at the Nevada County Airport. According to Ackerman, Steuber lived at the airport for years as a caretaker and served as its watchman.
Despite being born with a club foot, Steuber became a pilot and helped get Browne, now a professional pilot, into aviation.
Steuber showed a young Browne the airport and gave him his first few rides in an airplane. He also kept tabs on Browne as the younger man grew into his aviation career. Browne said that last year he took Steuber into the air for what, looking back, could have been his last ride.
“An extremely intelligent individual,” Browne said of his former mentor. “Rapier wit and an alligator mouth, you might say. He’ll tell you directly what he thought.”
Steuber took the controls during his flight last year with Browne, handling himself well. However, recent changes in Steuber’s mental health concerned Browne.
“He’s armed, delusional, on medication and he can’t hear,” Browne said. “It’s just a very sad situation overall.”
Steuber regularly visited the Grass Valley offices of The Union when Ackerman served as publisher between 2002 and 2012. He liked discussing politics and current events. Over the years the men formed a friendship.
“He was a curmudgeon, in the classic sense,” Ackerman said.
Ackerman, however, also had his concerns. Steuber always possessed firearms, he said. Steuber kept three to four handguns in his bedroom — firearms that worried Ackerman during his recent trip here, he said.
“She did everything for him,” Ackerman said of Lebarron. “I don’t know where he would have been without her. Her loss is felt.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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