Murder defendant without counsel
The 39-year-old Red Bluff man accused of killing 14-year-old Marysa Nichols announced in court Tuesday morning he doesn't understand why he is being charged with murder.
"All they have is a picture of me walking with a kid walking behind me," Quentin Ray Bealer said during his arraignment proceedings in Tehama County Superior Court.
Red Bluff High School surveillance video of Nichols walking in the direction of Brickyard Creek, her typical path home from Red Bluff High School's Education Outreach Academy, also showed a white male in that vicinity around the same time.
The police released the video to the media on March 1 and asked for help in identifying the man.
Red Bluff Police Chief Paul Nanfito said that the department received "dozens and dozens of tips" from the video.
"He (Bealer) was positively ID'd as the person on the surveillance tape," Nanfito said.
District Attorney Gregg Cohen said if the defendant doesn't understand the charges against him it will have to be something he discusses with his attorney.
The problem is Bealer doesn't have an attorney.
Kenneth Miller, the public defender originally assigned to the case on March 6, declined due to a conflict of interest.
So have all of the other public defenders Judge John Garaventa requested, such as Ron McIver, Laura Woods, and Diane Martin-Logan.
Garaventa even went into the local pool of private attorneys, but each declined for one justifiable reason or another.
"We have no alternatives available," the judge said.
Garaventa said he is going to ask Shon Northam, a former Tehama County deputy district attorney, if he would possibly take the case.
The judge continued the arraignment proceedings to 9 a.m. today.
Cohen said Northam works as private counsel in Sacramento where he has handled criminal cases, but is currently serving out of the Muto and Muto firm in Red Bluff with Tehama County Child Protective Services cases.
Nichols body was found Feb. 28 in a creek near Red Bluff High School. She was reported missing at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 by her mother, Diane Whitmire, after the girl did not return home from school.
The teen's preliminary cause of death has been determined to be strangulation, according to the Red Bluff Police Department.
Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen said he filed the murder charge as an open count so his office could proceed on a first-degree theory.
"We are still waiting on the results of forensic evidence from the state Department of Justice before we further refine exactly how to handle this case," the district attorney said.
The murder charge has a possible prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Bealer is also charged with second-degree commercial burglary, receiving stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia. Those charges stem from an arrest that took place in December.
An additional count of being under the influence of a controlled substance was added to the list of charges. That count derived from the defendant's arrest on March 2 at the Red Bluff Police Department.
It was while Bealer was in custody on this last charge that he was arrested for suspicion of Nichols' murder.
Bealer is being held in the Tehama County Jail without bail. Tehama County sheriff's Capt. Danny Rabalais said Bealer is being kept in segregation for his own safety.