Jury notices going out in Bucks Lake stabbing case

Some Plumas County residents can expect in the next few weeks to receive notices to become potential jurors.

Jury selection will be held in the Plumas County Courthouse on May 15 and 16.

Selected jurors could be determining the fate of Sheldon Nicholas Steward, 25, of Oakland. He is charged in the stabbing death of his friend, Trevor Hominski on Aug. 25, 2015, at Bucks Lake. A charge of arson has been added.

More than 100 notices will be mailed throughout the county, according to visiting judge Angus St. Evans of Glenn County. St. Evans will also handle the trial expected to take four to five weeks.

St. Evans, a retired judge, is replacing Plumas County Judge Ira Kaufman who will be on vacation.

All jurors will be asked to complete questionnaires developed by both the prosecution under District Attorney Dave Hollister, and defendant legal representatives Jim Reichle and Bill Abramson.

Questionnaires will help thin the jury pool to a more manageable number. Those remaining jurors will then be questioned by the legal representatives to choose 12 jurors and alternates.

As part of pre-trial preparation, Hollister, Reichle and Abramson met in chambers with St. Evans on April 13.

In open session, St. Evans directed both the prosecution and the defense to share all photographic materials. He also said that any recorded materials must be transcribed and made available. During the preliminary examination Feb. 24, recordings made by law enforcement and the defendant, were played but had not been transcribed.

Who’s chosen?

This is a criminal case and jurors selected to serve on the jury as Steward’s peers, are sent summons at random.

Jurors’ names are selected from voter registration lists, and driver license or identification cards from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

According to the Plumas Superior Court, employers must allow individuals who are either summoned or chosen for jury duty to serve. Employees must, however, give an employer reasonable prior notice. The term reasonable is not qualified. Employers do not have to pay an employee while they respond to a summons or during the jury trial.

The court pays individuals $15 per day beginning the second day of jury service. According to the Plumas Superior Court web site, those serving jury duty are reimbursed 34 cents per mile, one way, beginning the second day of the trial. Jurors who already work for federal, state or county government are paid their regular wages and benefits and do not receive per diem pay.

General instructions on what is expected of someone who receives a summons are included with the mailed summons. Individuals are given telephone numbers and they are expected to call one of those numbers the night prior to the date of their appearance. A recorded message provides the date, time and place where an individual with a summons must appear.

It is everyone’s obligation to answer a summons. There are a few exceptions: that an individual is physically or mentally incapacitated and can provide a doctor’s statement about the issue; if the individual is obligated to care for a sick or aged dependent (child care does not qualify); or that the individual is a particular type of law enforcement officer. According to the Plumas County Jury Commissioner’s office, those submitting written proof of why they cannot attend, must include an indication of when they will be available to serve on a jury.

For those who have another reason why they cannot attend — such as previously arranged travel, the commissioner asks that individuals fill out the questionnaire they receive stating the reason and return it to the address provided. Those individuals will be called upon later.

The fire

It was about 6 a.m. that August morning nearly two years ago, when campers in the Mill Creek Campground at Bucks Lake and some homeowners were awakened by the smell of smoke and fire.

Bucks Lake and Meadow Valley fire departments, along with the U.S. Forest Service, responded to the small blaze.

What they initially encountered near the fire area was a man who was suffering from a neck wound. He was at some point identified as Steward.

As mop-up of the less than half-acre fire got under way, firefighters discovered the partially charred body of a second victim. That man was later identified as Trevor Hominski, 20, of Emeryville.

As information came in, the two young men, reportedly good friends, allegedly used LSD during their planned camping trip. The use of that mind-altering drug may or may not have had a bearing on what happened that night.

While Steward was flown to Enloe Hospital in Chico for treatment, including surgery to the neck wound, members of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office and later a CalFire investigator examined the scene. County law enforcement was intent on finding evidence as to what happened; CalFire needed to learn about the fire activity.

In Chico, Steward would be told of his friend’s death and eventually placed under arrest and charged.

In examining Hominski’s body, a Butte County coroner was able to identify two stab wounds. One was to the chest and the other to the back.