Deputy Jeff Mitchell
Detective Tony Turnbull
SACRAMENTO, CA - In what they initially dismissed as a bizarre coincidence, detectives are now linking a white van found with two bodies inside and the murder of a sheriff's deputy hours earlier.
The October 2006 shooting death of Deputy Jeff Mitchell, 38, remains unsolved. But the lead detective said investigators believe they are closing in on a resolution and chose to go public Monday with a revised theory of what may have led to Mitchell's murder.
A few hours before dawn on Oct. 27, 2006, Mitchell was shot with his own handgun following a violent struggle on rural Meiss Road in southeastern Sacramento County. Mitchell had notified dispatch that he was approaching a white Chevy van with no license plates and one known person inside.
Eleven hours later, a white Chevy van with its front license plate bent up at a 90 degree angle was found in the shallow water of the Cosumnes River in El Dorado County with the engine still idling. Inside were the bodies of Allan Shubert, 43, and Nicole Welch, 28. A coroner's report listed the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sacramento County Sheriff's Department officials quickly downplayed a connection between the two incidents because they found no physical evidence linking Shubert and Welch with the Mitchell murder. But Detective Tony Turnbull said Monday he always suspected a link and discussed what he considered a likely scenario.
"Evidence at the scene of the white van in the river through time suggests there's a great possibility that Nicole Welch and Allan Shubert did not die in the river. There's a possibility they died somewhere else," Turnbull said. He still believes their deaths were accidental, however, and the person who shot Mitchell may have been trying to get rid of the bodies on Meiss Road.
"It's our theory with all the evidence and the interviews we've done, that it was a possible coverup of Welch and Shubert's death when Deputy Mitchell came across the van," Turnbull said.
Mitchell's wife Crystal was always confident the white van was connected to her husband's death in some way.
"I'm ecstatic that authorities are following that lead," Crystal said. "In my heart of hearts I believed that it was going to pan out. I always believed it was going to lead to Jeffrey's killer."
Shubert's mother was pleased the investigation was finally focusing publicly on the circumstances surrounding her son's death. "In my mind it has never been settled," said Carol Rodgers.
Rodgers, 66, said she was still bitter that her son was considered a potential suspect in the murder, however briefly.
"I knew my son. I knew if he was capable of something like that I would have told the detectives," Rodgers said.
Turnbull said he hoped his news conference would increase public awareness of the Mitchell murder case, now 3 and 1/2 years old.
"I believe there's a strong likelihood there are people out there with information," he said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net