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Nevada County murder cases advance toward trial

Christopher Bancroft

Suspects in two murders were in Nevada County Superior Court Friday as their cases proceed toward trial.

Christopher Lee Bancroft was slated to appear for a pre-trial conference, but that was postponed for two weeks. He remains set for trial in August.

Bancroft, 29, has been charged with the murder of Donald Ormsby, whose body was found partially covered by dirt and leaves in the 1600 block of Countrywood Lane in June 2016. Bancroft was a suspect early on in the investigation, but was not charged until after he served a sentence on an unrelated Placer County burglary. Bancroft was booked into Nevada County Jail in May 2018 on the murder charge.



A second suspect, Schennal Gomez, was arrested, but a judge dismissed her charges after ruling there was not enough evidence against her.

During the preliminary hearing into the evidence held in July 2018, testimony was presented that Bancroft, Gomez and Ormsby planned to burglarize a Countrywood Lane home and that Gomez saw Bancroft slash at Ormsby’s head with a shovel.




The judge also heard testimony that Bancroft met a friend in Ormsby’s car the day after the slaying. The pair drove to Roseville to shop, and Bancroft tried unsuccessfully to use Ormsby’s bank card.

Bancroft will return to court on April 8. A trial readiness conference is scheduled for July 12, with his trial set to begin Aug. 6.

Sturgell trial to start April 9

Michael Sturgell, accused in the 2018 murder of his ex-wife, Pamela DeGrio, was in court for a trial readiness conference.

The body of DeGrio, 67, was found in her North Bloomfield Road home on Feb. 6, 2018. A subsequent autopsy revealed she had been shot multiple times in the head.

Sturgell, 72, was arrested in Oroville days later, after he reportedly tried to pawn a firearm stolen from a Nevada County home. A statement made by Sturgell after that arrest led to the seizure of his shoes, which were found to have DeGrio’s blood on them. Sturgell eventually was charged with DeGrio’s murder in April 2018, while he was in custody after failing to appear in court for the unrelated burglary case.

A motion by Sturgell’s attorney, Samuel Burns, to suppress the shoes as evidence was denied in March by Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger.

On Friday, Judge Heidelberger said she would issue a ruling before trial regarding potential evidence that might be presented suggesting a third party was responsible for DeGrio’s death. One more conference was scheduled, for March 29.

Sturgell’s trial is set to begin April 9 and is expected to last three weeks.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


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