Arsonist pleads ‘not guilty’
Sheldon Steward, the man convicted of killing his friend at Bucks Lake in August of 2015, was sentenced in Plumas County Superior Court on Aug. 31.
Judge Angus Saint Evens sentenced Steward to 25 years to life for Count 1 (first degree murder) with an additional year added for using a weapon for a total of 26 years to life.
He also sentenced Steward to seven years in prison for arson on forest land during a time of emergency, to be served concurrently with the 26-years-to-life sentence.
The victim’s mother, father and uncle addressed the court describing how the crime had impacted them before the court issued the sentence.
Also prior to sentencing, the judge denied a request for a new trial. Steward’s attorneys James Reichle and Bill Abramson filed a motion for a new trial based on instructional, judicial and prosecutorial error, which were all denied. The court also denied the defense request for the degree of murder to be reduced from first to second degree and denied the defendant’s application for probation.
Steward was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, plus penalty assessment, as well as restitution in an amount to be determined. He received credit for the 741 days he has currently served in custody.
Following the sentencing, District Attorney David Hollister, who prosecuted the case, said, “This was an exceptionally long and difficult case culminating in a five-week jury trial and conviction. Our hearts continue to go out to the victim’s family and friends for their loss. I am very appreciative of the efforts by our Sheriff’s Office, particularly the Investigations Unit, CHP, CalFire, my staff and the many others who worked diligently and effectively on this case for the last two years.”
Jeffery Cameron Schmid pled not guilty to five counts of arson and waived his right to a speedy trial during his Aug. 30 court appearance. He is scheduled to be back in court for a pretrial conference Sept. 22 at 11 a.m.
Schmid was charged with one count of felony aggravated arson for the Minerva Fire and four counts of felony arson related to the Toll, Squirrel, Rhinehart Meadows and 89’er fires. The aggravated arson charge carries a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
Schmid remains in custody at the Plumas County jail. Though these initial charges have been filed, Hollister said that the investigation is ongoing.