Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Sentence Handed Down in Bear River Triple Homicide

Posted By on Wed, Feb 16, 2022 at 3:26 PM

click to enlarge Nikki Dion Metcalf, Margarett Lee Moon and Shelly Autumn Mae Moon (left to right) were fatally shot the morning of Feb 10 in their home on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation, leaving a community in mourning. - FACEBOOK
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  • Nikki Dion Metcalf, Margarett Lee Moon and Shelly Autumn Mae Moon (left to right) were fatally shot the morning of Feb 10 in their home on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation, leaving a community in mourning.
One year after a newly engaged couple and a 16-year-old girl were shot to death at a home on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation, the now 19 year old who pleaded guilty to their murders was sentenced today to 150 years to life in prison.

Judge Timothy Canning handed down the sentence that was part of a plea deal for Mauricio Johnson, who was a guest in the home when he killed Nikki Dion Metcalf and Margarett Lee Moon, both 40, and Moon's 16-year-old daughter, Shelly Autumn Mae Moon, on Feb. 10, 2021.


The deaths rocked the Loleta community, where Shelly and Margarett Lee Moon both worked at the local elementary school as aides, tutoring students and working in the afterschool program.


Moon and Metcalf had become engaged to be married just a few weeks before they were killed.


In a news release on the sentencing, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office reiterated that attorneys and victim advocates from the office “spoke with many members of the victims’ families, friends, and additional members of the community” in making the plea deal, which saw Johnson plead guilty in October, but that not everyone agreed with the decision.


“Understandably, given the terrible harm done by the defendant, the people most affected by the murders expressed differing views on whether to accept the negotiated disposition or proceed to trial,” the release states. “Many of those family members were present today at sentencing and addressed the judge. Each expressed the profound and significant loss they personally felt as a result of these heinous crimes.”


Under state law, Johnson will have a youthful offender parole hearing in 25 years because of his age at the time of crimes. In addition to three counts of first degree murder, Johnson also pleaded guilty to three special allegations of using a fire arm in the killings.


After fleeing the scene, Johnson was arrested in Utah on Feb. 11, 2021, while traveling with his mother, Melissa Sanchez Johnson, and her friend in a white Toyota Highlander, reportedly heading to a friend or family member’s residence in Indiana.


The district attorney’s office release states that Johnson could have received a life without parole if the case had gone to trial, which would have negated the parole hearing in 25 years, but efforts are underway to change the law to give all youthful offenders the hearing regardless of their possibility of parole vs. without parole sentencing status.


That, along with a number of other factors, were taken into account in moving forward with the plea deal, the release states.




Those factors included: “ 1) the plea satisfies the public safety mission of the Office, 2) a trial would require testimony from young people who have suffered tragedy, 3) the wishes of family members of the victims, 4) the retention of hope for the positive transformation of a person 18 years of age at the time of their crime, and 5) likely changes to California law.”


“The negotiated sentence is the maximum sentence he could receive if the law under consideration takes effect,” the district attorney’s office release states.


Read the full release below:

Today, February 16, 2022, Judge Timothy Canning sentenced 19-year-old Mauricio Johnson to the negotiated term of 150 years to life in prison, for three counts of first-degree murder and three special allegations for use of a firearm causing death for the killings of Nikki Metcalf, Margarett Moon, and confidential minor victim Jane Doe.

The murders happened on the night of February 9 to the early morning of February 10, 2021, on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation. Because of Mr. Johnson’s age, he will have a youthful offender parole hearing in 25 years.


Attorneys and victim advocates from the District Attorney’s Office spoke with many members of the victims’ families, friends, and additional members of the community. Understandably, given the terrible harm done by the defendant, the people most affected by the murders expressed differing views on whether to accept the negotiated disposition or proceed to trial. Many of those family members were present today at sentencing and addressed the judge. Each expressed the profound and significant loss they personally felt as a result of these heinous crimes.


Had the case proceeded to a trial resulting in the defendant being found guilty of all charges and including the special allegation of multiple murders, a judge might have sentenced the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prior to agreeing to the negotiated disposition, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office considered several factors, including: 1) the plea satisfies the public safety mission of the Office, 2) a trial would require testimony from young people who have suffered tragedy, 3) the wishes of family members of the victims, 4) the retention of hope for the positive transformation of a person 18 years of age at the time of their crime, and 5) likely changes to California law.


Under current California law, youthful offenders under age 26 serving a life sentence all receive a parole hearing in their 25th year of incarceration, unless they are serving life without the possibility of parole. California legislators are seeking to modify the parole eligibility of youthful offenders, so that all youthful offenders would be entitled to a parole hearing regardless of their original sentence, including those offenders sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The negotiated sentence is the maximum sentence he could receive if the law under consideration takes effect.


Finally, citizens should recognize the difficulty of receiving parole for people guilty of first-degree murder. To ensure that decision-makers remain fully aware of the substance and significance of the crimes committed, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office attends all parole hearings for people convicted of murder. Family members and community members often also attend Parole Board Hearings to communicate the significance of the crimes committed. People convicted of murder very rarely receive parole when the opportunity first arises.
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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