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Suspect arrested in murder of local woman

A slain woman’s purse allegedly found in the search of a Penn Valley area home this week could help police break the Mariam Spratt murder case.

The suspect in the slaying – 34-year-old Steven Medlyn – was out of custody at the time of Spratt’s death on a plea agreement that postponed his sentencing from a year-old crime until next month.

Medlyn had been arrested in May 2006 in a drug sting operation, Nevada County Superior Court records reviewed by The Union show. A loaded gun was found at the time of his arrest. At the time, Medlyn and his wife also were arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.



As part of the plea agreement, Medlyn entered a drug rehabilitation program, but that was 10 days after Spratt’s death in May of this year, according to the records.

Investigators on Thursday found Spratt’s purse at Medlyn’s home and arrested him on suspicion of burglary and of murder while laying in wait, Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said Friday.




Medlyn remains in custody with no bail at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility pending a 1 p.m. arraignment July 12.

A neighbor found Spratt, 75, strangled in her Grass Valley apartment on May 4 after noticing her door standing ajar. Police suspected the assailant strangled Spratt with a cord of some kind in her Empire Street home but had no early leads.

The arrest came after Medlyn and his wife, Dawn Medlyn, 37, were questioned Thursday by Grass Valley Police detectives Sgt. Doug Hren and Colin Nelson. Dawn Medlyn was released after the questioning, pending further investigation, Hren said.

“We’re happy to start getting some closure going on this. It’s been too long,” Hren said. “With anyone we spoke to, everything led back to them.”

Armed with a search warrant, police went to the Medlyn’s home after the questioning and found Spratt’s purse and other identifying items in a hidden spot, Hren said. Steven Medlyn was subsequently arrested.

A sullen Steven Medlyn appeared in Nevada County Superior Court Friday afternoon. But his arraignment was postponed after Public Defender Don Lown asked Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson for more time to see if any conflicts existed with his office.

Drugs and gun in past

The Medlyns were arrested May 11, 2006, after Nevada County Narcotics Task Force officers snared Mr. Medlyn in a sting drug sale in a Grass Valley parking lot, according to court records.

The officers had contacted Steven Medlyn to trade one-eighth of an ounce of methamphetamine to him for $100 and six Oxycontin pills. Medlyn was arrested at the sting scene for possession and transport of Oxycontin, possession of Oxycontin for sale and possession of methamphetamine. He allowed officers to search his apartment on Sutton Way.

Once at his home, officers found more Oxycontin that had been prescribed to Medlyn. They also found a fully loaded, .40-caliber handgun with a round in the chamber underneath a pillow in the Medlyns’ bedroom, court records show.

When Dawn Medlyn returned to the apartment about midnight, police arrested her and her husband on suspicion of child endangerment, because their two children were in the home alone with the gun at the time of the drug sting.

Dawn Medlyn’s endangerment charge was dismissed at a preliminary hearing, when the District Attorney’s office failed to provide enough evidence to bind her over for further proceedings, according to court records.

Steven Medlyn was also charged with child endangerment and he was bound over for further court proceedings on that and the drug charges in a preliminary hearing last October 26.

Guilty plea

On Feb. 23, 2007, Steven Medlyn pled guilty to felony possession of methamphetamine in a plea agreement struck between Deputy District Attorney Ken Tribby and Deputy Public Defender Dan Geffner. Court records show Judge Robert Tamietti signed the agreement, which put the other charges in abeyance, according to a spokesperson at the Nevada County Court Clerk’s Office.

The deal gave Medlyn a deferred entry of judgment for 18 months, during which he was supposed to complete drug counseling and obey all laws with the possibility of the meth charge being dismissed if the conditions were met.

Medlyn entered the Chapa-De Indian Health Program outpatient drug treatment program in Auburn on May 14 of this year, ten days after the murder of Mariam Spratt.

The deferred judgment is up for review on August 24, according to court records.

At that time, the District Attorney could refer to the current murder case as an infraction of the judgment, according to the spokesperson at the court clerk’s office.

After the slaying, Spratt’s aunt, Betty McClanahan of Wisconsin, said her niece may have been involved with drugs and alcohol abuse at one time, but doubted that was the case at the time of her death.

“I’m glad they got somebody for it,” McClanahan said late Friday. “It’s just a horrible feeling to know what happened to her. She was a very talented lady.”

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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