Evidence heard in April murder of woman near Truckee
NEVADA CITY, Calif. — Felicia Romaine Spruell-Jones, whose body was found dumped on Interstate 80 near Truckee on April 4, allegedly was shot in the face by her boyfriend because he was in love with another woman.
That was some of the testimony presented over two days of a preliminary hearing into the evidence against Maurice Di Aundra Rogers, who has been charged with homicide in the death of Spruell-Jones, 46, of Reno.
Spruell-Jones’ body was found in the road under the Interstate 80 overpass at Farad Road.
Rogers was quickly identified as a suspect and a law enforcement bulletin was distributed throughout Nevada and to agencies in the greater Sacramento area.
He was located and detained in South Sacramento on April 8, was booked on a murder charge and is being held without bail.
Nevada County Sheriff’s Det. Russell Greene testified during the hearing in Nevada County Superior Court that he was called out to the scene where Spruell-Jones was found as a member of the Major Crimes Unit.
Greene said Spruell-Jones was found lying in the middle of the road underneath the interstate overpass, with her body showing signs of trauma to the head and with blood coming from her nose and mouth.
A car had driven through the puddle of blood, leaving an impression, then a track onto the interstate on-ramp, Greene testified. There also was a tire impression on the victim’s arm, he said.
The gunshot wound was not visible at the scene, but a shell casing was found on the road shoulder about 10 feet from the body.
According to Greene, a California Highway Patrol officer had stopped and talked to Rogers in his vehicle at about 5 a.m. that day, after the motorist reported he had run out of gas. That CHP officer did not report anything unusual about the contact.
Greene testified that Rogers was identified as the suspect in the homicide after receiving a report from the Washoe County, Nevada, Sheriff’s Department, that Spruell-Jones had called 911 the night of April 3 to report an argument with Rogers, saying he had a possibly stolen gun.
A Reno Police officer had responded to Rogers’ hotel room and searched his vehicle, his room and his person without locating a weapon. Spruell-Jones reportedly was argumentative with the officer who interviewed her and he concluded she had mental health issues.
Greene testified that in June, he was contacted by Leilani Lee Savage, whom he described as a prostitute who had been at the hotel with Rogers the night of April 3.
“He was supposed to give her money,” Greene said, adding that Savage told him Spruell-Jones showed up and confronted Rogers about paying the other woman with her money.
Savage said they argued and there was a physical confrontation, with Rogers head-butting the victim before they were separated.
Spruell-Jones then left the hotel with Rogers, Savage told the detective.
Savage reportedly said Rogers called her the morning of April 4 and was crying.
“He said he didn’t mean to hurt her, he didn’t mean to do it,” Savage told Greene. In subsequent voice mails, Rogers said he did not mean to shoot Spruell-Jones, and asked Savage to meet him.
“He said he did it for (Savage),” Greene said. “She had told him she wouldn’t date him if he was seeing (Spruell-Jones).”
On cross-examination Greene testified that Savage told him she had not come forward earlier because there was a warrant for her arrest.
Greene also testified that the gun was located after Rogers had made a call from jail to Louise Ford, a family friend, telling her several times that some of his clothing might be behind her couch.
“She didn’t understand what he was talking about,” Greene said. “She believed he was sending her a message.”
She found a duffle bag containing clothing as well as the gun, a rifle with the butt stock cut off, which was wrapped in a sheet.
State Department of Justice criminalist Angela Stroman testified that she examined the scene where Spruell-Jones was found, and also was called out to examine Rogers’ Cadillac.
Stroman said that it would be “practically impossible” for any firearm other than the recovered rifle to have fired the shell casing found near Spruell-Jones’ body.
She also testified that she found a small smear of blood inside Rogers’ sedan, as well as bloodstains on the front and rear wheel wells on the right-hand side.
Dr. Gregory Reiber, a forensic pathologist, testified that Spruell-Jones had been shot in the face from at least 3 feet away, with an exit wound to the rear of her head, and that the gunshot caused her death due to significant bleeding.
Reiber said that she also had blunt injuries to the right side of her head, from her ear to the top of her head. The head trauma would have to have been caused by significant force, he said, such as a 5- or 6-foot fall onto her head.
He agreed the trauma could have been caused by being struck by an automobile, and likely occurred before she was shot.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Robert Tice-Raskin took the matter under submission and will issue a ruling on Dec. 15.
Liz Kellar is a reporter with The Union, a sister media organization of the Sierra Sun’s based in Grass Valley and Nevada City.