Murder suspect pleads innocent
The last of three defendants in the murder of James Vannberg pleaded not guilty Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court.
David A. Burke II’s court-appointed lawyer, Glenn Kottcamp, entered the pleas to murder and arson charges.
Burke, 24, is accused of beating Vannberg on July 9 at South Yuba Campground, driving over him, beating him again, and leaving him for dead nearby. One co-defendant, David C. Leffingwell, 23, faces the same charges, and 21-year-old Heather Gereau-Baer is charged with accessory to murder.
Leffingwell and Gereau-Baer, who allegedly claimed Burke alone delivered the deadly blows with a crowbar, pleaded not guilty last week. Both also made brief appearances Thursday.
A preliminary hearing for all three – to determine if sufficient evidence supports the charges -was set for Oct. 8. Both murder defendants are being held without bail.
Gereau-Baer is jailed on $50,000 bail, but Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson asked that she be ordered to have no contact with Vannberg’s widow, Joli Vannberg, if she’s freed.
“I understand,” Gereau-Baer said to Judge John Darlington.
Before the hearing, Gereau-Baer’s mother, Roxanna Gereau, said her daughter asked her to contact Joli Vannberg – who was also in court – but she declined.
Gereau has visited her daughter a handful of times and is relieved she’s behind bars, away from bad influences and a methamphetamine habit. She said her daughter also suffers from dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder, and has had a longtime sleeping problem.
She’s also Gereau’s only child.
“She’s my one and only. I don’t mess with perfection,” she said.
Gereau-Baer is accused of providing a cigarette lighter used to set fire to Vannberg’s vehicle after the killing.
Her mother described her daughter as an artistic, giving person who hooked up with the wrong crowd. She married this year but the relationship fizzled, and she had recently hooked up with Leffingwell, her mother said. She also said James Vannberg was her daughter’s friend.
As for the murder case, Gereau said, “I just think it’s going to open her eyes to let her know there’s a better life out there.”
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