Covelli Court Appeal To Be Heard October 15

  • Top, Nicholas Covelli (left) on Mother?s Day with his mother, sister, nephew and brother. The family vows to continue their quest to solve the mystery of Covelli?s death. Bottom (l-r) Lance and Richard Shropshire.

    Top, Nicholas Covelli (left) on Mother?s Day with his mother, sister, nephew and brother. The family vows to continue their quest to solve the mystery of Covelli?s death. Bottom (l-r) Lance and Richard Shropshire.

Legal Problems For Shropshire Family Continue

A legal appeal filed by the family of Nicholas Covelli is scheduled to be heard October 15 at 9 a.m. in federal court in San Francisco. Covelli was killed at 22 years old by a deputy’s gun in the middle of a dark winter night on Piru Trail in Frazier Park. The Covellis seek to overturn the 2005 jury verdict that dismissed their case against the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy David Benson.

The family charged that Benson and KCSD violated Covelli’s civil rights through inappropriate use of force that resulted in the loss of his life. The family has been relentless in their efforts to persuade Kern County’s sheriff to look into what happened on the night in 2003 before the deputy encountered Covelli.

During the trial Benson said the young man was behaving so strangely that he feared he might be "under the influence of PCP." The Kern County Coroner’s autopsy found that Covelli was not under the influence of drugs. They noted he had a variety of fresh injuries. Witnesses said he was wandering in 23 degree weather, barefoot, without a jacket and without his much-needed glasses.

A KCSD "officer-involved shooting" inquiry ruled the shooting was within departmental guidelines for use of force and the jury voted that the officer did not act unreasonably.

The Covelli family hired private detectives and lobbied sheriff’s candidates to agree to re-open the investigation into what happened to their son earlier that evening to put him in a disoriented state.

Retired FBI investigator John White, now a private investigator in Bakersfield, has dispatched packets of data and witness reports to Sheriff Donny Youngblood, the California state attorney general’s office and to newspapers, including The Mountain Enterprise, alleging that Covelli was violently assaulted and left to die in the mountains, without his glasses, shoes and coat.

The Bakersfield Californian reported White’s allegation that Carl "Scotty" Shropshire of Frazier Park is suspected of that violent attack.

The Shropshire family who have a long history in the Mountain Communities also have a long history of legal trouble. Carl Shropshire was arrested and returned to jail recently with a sentence of about 120 days, for making violent threats against a sheriff’s deputy. He had been out of jail for about six months after serving roughly 18 months for earlier convictions.

On September 25, the second-degree murder trial for his son Richard Carl Shropshire, 22 began for the alleged beating death of Rodney Patrick Barrington Jan. 25, 2006 in Arizona.

Barrington, 44, was beaten in front of his Bullhead City residence and died from head injuries the next day at a Las Vegas hospital. Richard’s brother, Lance Shropshire, 19 pled guilty to rioting and was sentenced to two years in prison. Mojave County Prosecutor Josh Ackerman alleges that Richard Shropshire hit Barrington over the head with a rock during the dispute. Shropshire’s attorney said he acted in self defense.

On September 28 the Arizona jury acquitted Richard of second-degree murder charges. His brother Lance was already out of jail and was in the courtroom with other members of the family for the verdict, according to Jim Seckler, court beat reporter for the Mojave Daily News.

The Covelli family and Investigator White have urged newly elected sheriff Donny Youngblood to reopen an official inquiry into the events preceding the death of their son in Frazier Park. Under California law, one who commits a felony (such as assault or abduction) may be held responsible for a death that occurs as a result of that illegal action.

Spokespersons for the sheriff’s office say, "this isn’t CSI; that is a TV show." They argue that this is a "cold case" because Covelli died four years ago.

The Covelli family reports that they may now have a witness who is willing to come forward, but did not reveal further information

In replying to our inquiry about the appeal of the federal case taking place next week, the parents, Patti and Tony Covelli, wrote back, "We of course are very anxious and skeptical it will prevail but, at the least, the lies and inconsistencies will be exposed once again."

—By Patric Hedlund

This is part of the October 05, 2007 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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