Michael Sturgell, already in Nevada County Jail on burglary accusation, now charged with murder | TheUnion.com

Michael Sturgell, already in Nevada County Jail on burglary accusation, now charged with murder

Weeks passed after Pamela Diane DeGrio's death, and her former sister-in-law began to worry that the homicide case would go cold.

The Tuesday arrest of 71-year-old Michael Kent Sturgell, who authorities say married and divorced DeGrio over 40 years ago, changed everything.

"We began to wonder," said Pat DeGrio Russell, who's not related to Sturgell. "We knew it had to be somebody who knew her."

Bud DeGrio, a former husband of DeGrio's and Russell's brother, said Sturgell's arrest surprised him. He said it's difficult for him to believe Sturgell killed DeGrio.

"It's just hard for everybody," he added. "You've got to really feel for the kids."

Sturgell, already in the Nevada County Jail on an unrelated burglary accusation, was told Tuesday morning that he's charged with murder in connection with DeGrio's death. He declined to give a statement, authorities said.

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Sturgell was linked to the February shooting death of DeGrio, 67, through a firearm stolen from her home around the time of her death. That weapon recently was recovered in Butte County, along with other firearms taken in the unrelated burglary, sheriff's Lt. Rob Bringolf said in an email.

"These firearms were determined to have been fenced by Mr. Sturgell shortly after Ms. DeGrio's death," Bringolf said.

According to sheriff's Sgt. Robert Jakobs, someone in early April contacted Butte County authorities about possible stolen guns. Local authorities became involved days later. They then determined that one of those guns came from DeGrio's house. Four others came from the unrelated Nevada County burglary.

Local authorities arrested Sturgell on the unrelated burglary charge days after DeGrio's death. They claimed Sturgell stole firearms from a Nevada County home and tried to pawn them in Oroville.

Sturgell made bond but failed to appear in court in March, leading a judge to issue an arrest warrant for him. Authorities rearrested him in April — the same month someone contacted Butte authorities about other possible stolen firearms.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.