Nevada County judge puts dismissal of murder case on hold

Alan Riquelmy
Special to the Sierra Sun

Finley Fultz, whose murder case was dismissed last week, will remain jailed pending an appeal, a Nevada County judge ruled Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge Tom Anderson gave prosecutors until Jan. 11 to file a motion for a permanent stay on his decision that dismissed Fultz’s murder case and ordered him released Friday.

Anderson’s Wednesday decision will keep Fultz, 29, in the Nevada County Jail for now.

Accused in connection with the July 2014 shooting death of Isaac Zafft at a Penn Valley marijuana grow, Fultz has been jailed since mid-2016. Anderson ruled last week that prosecutors and law enforcement made a series of errors that warranted the case’s dismissal.

Defense attorney Greg Klein, who represents Fultz, railed against prosecutors during the Wednesday hearing. He argued the judge should release his client on Friday.

“They act like there’s some type of little mistake here,” Klein said. “These aren’t mistakes. These are intentional errors is what they are.”

Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh declined to respond to most of Klein’s arguments, claiming the defense attorney has a past of making false statements.

Klein, in turn, has called Walsh a cheat and a liar.

“We disagree with just about everything Mr. Klein has said,” Walsh said.

Local prosecutors now will contact the state Attorney General’s Office, which is expected to shoulder the appeal of Anderson’s motion to dismiss. State prosecutors will ask the Third District Court of Appeal to issue a permanent stay. They’ll then appeal the dismissal, Walsh said in an email.

According to District Attorney Cliff Newell, larger District Attorney’s Offices have their own appellate divisions. Smaller offices like his rely on the Attorney General’s Office.

Murder case

Walsh, in his request to have Anderson delay Fultz’s release, described evidence his office has against Fultz.

According to Walsh’s motion, authorities in 2014 received a tip that Fultz, Daniel Devencenzi and Nathan Philbrook on July 7 that year went to a Penn Valley grow to rob it. During that robbery Zafft was shot and killed.

The investigation found a fingerprint of Philbrook’s at the scene. Additionally, Philbrook had told several people he, Fultz and Devencenzi had tried to rob a grow, and that Fultz killed someone, Walsh states.

Under questioning Fultz invoked his right to an attorney, Walsh’s request states.

“Prior to invoking, Fultz admitted to being a part of this robbery and being armed with a gun,” it continues. “He did not admit to being the shooter.”

Klein argued Walsh’s motion presents evidence that suits his needs.

“This is just a blatant attempt to destroy any potential jury pool,” Klein said.

Devencenzi and Philbrook, both 34, pleaded guilty in April to manslaughter. Philbrook also pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted robbery. Devencenzi agreed to an 11-year prison sentence. Philbrook has been sentenced to 23 years behind bars.

Both men are expected to receive reduced sentences after a recent change to the law.

Devencenzi is scheduled for a Jan. 2 sentencing.

Alan Riquelmy is a staff writer at The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. To contact him, email or call 530-477-4239.

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