Sunday, 14 April 2024

Edmonds, Norton to face trial for September homicide

LAKEPORT – A visiting judge ruled Tuesday that two Clearlake men will be held for trial in the Sept. 22 homicide of a Montana man who had been staying in the county since the spring.


Shannon Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, were in Lake County Superior Court's Department A on Tuesday for their preliminary hearing in the homicide of Shelby Uehling, 25, who had been staying both in Cobb and Clearlake.


Retired Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Raymond Giordano ruled there was sufficient evidence to try Edmonds and Norton for the murder.


Edmonds also faces a special allegation of using a knife, and Norton faces a charge of being an accessory and a strike enhancement.


However, Giordano found that prosecutor Art Grothe hadn't provided sufficient evidence to back up a charge against Norton of assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury or a special allegation that he used a billy club to beat Uehling.


Uehling was found face down next to an oak tree along Old Highway 53 in the early morning hours of Sept. 22. The first officer at the scene found that he had no pulse, according to Clearlake Police Sgt. Brenda Crandall, who was the a patrol supervisor on shift when Uehling's body was discovered and was one of five witnesses called to the stand during the six-hour hearing.


Based on the evidence that's been gathered so far, Grothe argued a theory for the homicide that proposed the motive was Edmonds' anger with Uehling, who had been dating Patricia Campbell, Edmonds' girlfriend of four months, during a brief time when she and Edmonds had split up.


Uehling had been severely beaten, suffering multiple blows to the skull and face, bruising to his chest, arms, legs and hands.


But the fatal wound was a three-inch laceration to his neck that severed his carotid artery, with another serious stab wound to his lower back that punctured a lung and still another stab wound to the buttocks. The thyroid glands in his neck also has been crushed and lacerated from blunt force trauma.


Grothe argued that Edmonds and Norton went to the area of Old Highway 53 and Lotowana with the specific purpose of killing Uehling.


He theorized that when the attack occurred at about 1 a.m. Sept. 22, Uehling had been asleep in his small red Honda Civic, with the seat in a reclining position and a shaving kit in the backseat.


Grothe suggested that Norton had swung a golf club through the open car window, embedding the head of the club in the dashboard and breaking off the shaft, which police would find down the road closer to the tree where Uehling's body would be found.


Uehling was pulled from the car, beaten and stabbed, said Grothe, with witnesses telling police that they heard Uehling screaming in agony as he fought for his life. Witnesses also told police that the heard one of the alleged assailants say at the scene of Uehling, “He's dead.”


But Edmonds' defense attorney Doug Rhoades took exception to the idea that the two men set out with the intent to kill Uehling, calling it “a stretch.”


Rather, Rhoades argued that it was just as likely a scenario that a fatal confrontation may have resulted without that intent, and that Uehling – who was found with a knife in his shoe – may have been an aggressor at some point in the struggle.


In the smaller Department A courtroom, Edmonds sat at a table with Rhoades which also was shared by Grothe and the case's lead investigator, Tom Clements. Defense attorney Stephen Carter sat with his client, Norton, in the jury box.


During the day Norton and Edmonds, both wearing black and white jail jumpsuits, their wrists shackled to their waists, would occasionally exchange pointed looks and raised eyebrows as the testimony against them was presented. At one point, five bailiffs were stationed in the courtroom.


Edmonds shot and fatally wounded two men as they ran from his Clearlake Park home during a 2005 break-in. He was not charged in that case, and this is the first time he's faced any felony criminal charges in Lake County.


Witnesses recount crime scene, events leading to man's death


Crandall, the second officer to arrive on the murder scene, said the attack occurred in an area called “the resorts,” composed of old cabins and mobile homes along Old Highway 53.


When she arrived she found an officer standing next to Uehling's body. In the roadway was a large amount of blood and pieces of evidence, including the broken shaft of a golf club, a mini Maglite flashlight and a trail of doughnuts. About 50 yards from his body was Uehling's Honda, with the driver's side door open and the engine still running. Crandall secured the scene and began taking photographs.


At the scene she spoke with a witness who had been outside at his residence on Lotowana, covering up his boats that night, when he said he heard a lot of yelling and screaming. “He stated that it sounded as if someone was in agony,” Crandall recounted.


The witness told Crandall that he had seen two men walking away from the crime scene.


Carter asked Crandall during cross examination if she had seen blood on the golf club or in the car's interior. She said she did not, that she hadn't performed a close examination but was just trying to get photographic impressions of the scene.


Norton's girlfriend Jackie Shelafoe said they've been living together on and off for two years at her trailer on Clement Drive, but she'd only known Edmonds for a few months.


She recalled twice visiting Edmonds' home a few trailer parks away on Sept. 21 before finally walking home at about 9:30 p.m. She then took her medications for bipolar disorder and went to bed.


Later that night, at about 11:45 p.m., Norton came in and made a phone call to Edmonds, telling him that someone – believed to be Uehling – was up at the top of the hill on the Lotowana side. He then hung up, grabbed a golf club Shelafoe kept by her front door for protection and ran out of the trailer.


About 20 minutes to a half hour later, Norton returned to the trailer with Edmonds, with Shelafoe noting that Norton had blood on his blue jeans.


“Melvin said, 'Don't worry, we didn't stab anybody,” she said.


She said Norton and Edmonds then changed clothes, with Norton grabbing white plastic shopping bags from the kitchen, into which they placed the clothes. They also washed up.


Shelafoe also recounted that they had a billy club with that, measuring 10 inches in length but extending to a fully opened length of 24 inches, that belonged to Edmonds. In pictures Grothe showed her, Shelafoe also identified a two-bladed knife that Edmonds owned.


Shelafoe, who said Norton had assaulted her last year, said she was scared when she saw the men come in with bloody clothing, “because I was afraid they'd done something wrong.”


Under cross examination by Carter, Shelafoe said she couldn't recall specifically seeing Norton take the shopping bags from the kitchen, and also didn't see the men wash up or change, although their clothes were different when they left the home.


Girlfriend recalls days before Uehling's death


Campbell, who lived with Edmonds at the Lakeside Resort, followed Shelafoe to the stand.


On the stand the young woman was at times exasperated, angry, embarrassed and impatient with the questioning by the three attorneys.


Campbell said on the stand that during their four months together she and Edmonds would occasionally fight and split up briefly, and she would either move from his trailer go next door to her mother's or to her father's Clearlake home.


About a week before Uehling's death she had briefly dated him after meeting him at the home of her mother's friend. It had been Campbell who had reached out to Uehling after meeting him.


Edmonds, Campbell said, knew that she and Uehling were dating but didn't know about their brief sexual relationship.


The relationship, which was marked by the couple using methamphetamine together, broke up quickly. Campbell accused Uehling of stalking her after he came to her mother's home and banged on all of the windows, trying to get in. That incident ended after Norton and Edmonds told Uehling to leave, she said.


Campbell – who after she broke up with Uehling texted him a picture of her and her daughter – said she sent him a final message on Sept. 21 telling him she didn't want him to contact her any more.


During testimony Campbell said that at one point Uehling had made a threat against Edmonds, telling her that if Edmonds ever tried anything Uehling had items in the trunk of his car that could “take care” of Edmonds.


Campbell said she moved back in with Edmonds on Sept. 20. At the time she was using methamphetamine, but she said it was Uehling's drug use that made her stop seeing him. During testimony she stated that Uehling had gone to her father's home and said he would quit using drugs to get back together with her.


Campbell said she slept all day on Sept. 21, waking up briefly to eat some of the barbecue that Edmonds and his friends had fixed. The next time she woke up was at 5 a.m. the next day, when the police showed up at the residence.


Grothe asked her if she had ever told Edmonds about Uehling's threat against him. She said yes. “I was just warning him just in case anything went down,” she said, noting that the conversation took place within a few days of Uehling's death.


Clearlake Police Officer Timothy Alvarado testified to interviewing two brothers who lived near the crime scene. One of them heard a man scream, “No, leave me alone,” before hearing another man state, “He's dead.” He also claimed to have seen two men leaving the area in dark clothing after apparently considering taking the Honda with them.


During his turn on the stand, Clements recounted going to the home shared by Shelafoe and Norton on Sept. 22, where during the service of a search warrant officers found Norton's and Edmonds' clothing in the shopping bags in the trailer's first bedroom, stashed under the bed.


Tucked between the mattresses of that same bed was an “asp,” or retractable billy club, and the two-bladed knife, both of which had been identified as belonging to Edmonds.


That same day, he interviewed Edmonds once and Norton twice, noting that both men originally denied having anything to do with the incident.


Eventually, Norton said they went to confront Uehling to make him stop harassing Campbell, and an argument ensued in which Edmonds and Uehling began fighting. During the fight Edmonds reportedly got a cut on his forearm, which Grothe later would argue was accidentally self-inflicted.


Clements, who also was present for the autopsy, conducted by Dr. Thomas Gill, described the extent of Uehling's injuries.


Grothe argued that the attack was intentional and a “joint endeavor for which Edmonds specifically armed himself.


Rhoades said Edmonds was known to usually have a knife on him, and said the evidence presented a scenario that was a “far cry from, 'Let's go up there and kill him.'”


Carter argued that there was no evidence to show his client had committed murder, with the two main weapons – the billy club and the knife – identified as belonging to Edmonds.


Giordano ordered the men held for trial. They'll return for arraignment at 8:15 a.m. Oct. 19 in Department 3. They remain in jail on $1 million bond.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

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