UPDATED: Manslaughter charges filed in Truckee carbon-monoxide deaths
March 23, 2014
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Manslaughter charges were filed Monday against a local contractor whose negligence led to the carbon monoxide-caused deaths of two men last fall, according to the Nevada County District Attorney's Office.
The bodies of Albert Senzatimore, 69, and Gary Trovinger, 57, were found inside Trovinger's home at 13600 Weisshorn Avenue in Tahoe Donner on Oct. 26, 2013, according to previous reports.
A Truckee Police Department investigation determined Trovinger hired 41-year-old Kurt Schoemig — who is president of the Truckee company Cedar Ridge Builders — to work on the house last year, according to a statement from the DA's office.
An employee of Schoemig's cut a furnace exhaust pipe as part of the work, the investigation revealed. Schoemig never finished the project, leaving the pipe to vent into the home when the heater came on.
Prior to their Oct. 26 visit to Truckee from their primary residences in the Bay Area, Trovinger and Senzatimore turned the furnace on remotely with a cellphone application, according to the DA's office. They died shortly after entering the home due to overexposure to carbon monoxide.
Schoemig reportedly had not applied for a building permit with the town. Because of that, town officials did not inspect the home for red flags, one of which would have been CO levels.
"Schoemig played a substantial factor in causing these deaths," Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson said. "It is a shame he did not pull a permit as required by law, as this tragedy was avoidable."
Two counts of involuntary manslaughter were filed against Schoemig, who declined to comment for this story when reached by phone Monday.
On Tuesday, Schoemig's attorney — Steve A. Munkelt, of Nevada City — said there is ongoing civil litigation "involving a number of parties" that could impact the criminal portion of the case.
"Through that process, although a number of experts have inspected the home, there are additional inspections scheduled and testing … to try and determine what really were the factors that occurred that led to these deaths," Munkelt said in a phone interview.
"At this point, I don't believe there is enough evidence to know if Mr. Schoemig's part in the sequence of events had anything to do with (the deaths) … for that reason, I do not believe there is any evidence that he is criminally responsible," Munkelt added.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Schoemig. Once he surrenders, he will be arraigned, Ferguson said Tuesday, with a preliminary hearing to follow within 10 court days of the arraignment.
If enough evidence is presented to bring the case to trial, it likely will be several months down the road, she said.
Officials in November said the incident likely would have been prevented if the home had a carbon monoxide detector installed.
Last year, the town, police and Truckee Fire Protection District collaborated on a free CO and smoke detector program.
The program is ongoing — if you need a smoke or CO detector, stop by any Truckee Fire station or the Town Building Department at Town Hall.