By Lou Binninger
In 2015, Sara Matthews Easton, a devoted mother of three children, was in a troubled marriage, regretting her choice of a partner and wishing she would have chosen someone like her father.
On Saturday night, August 15, 2015, she was with her husband Marysville Chief of Police Aaron Easton at Joe’s Crab Shack celebrating her 32nd birthday. In just a few hours emergency personnel would arrive at the Easton residence to find Sara with gunshot wounds to the head. Her husband and children were in the home at the time.
Law enforcement indicated that Aaron Easton was extended “professional courtesies” at this apparent suicide. They did not approach the scene with the same investigative vigilance as with a regular citizen.
However, the scene had been tampered with and three shell casings were found along with other evidence pointing to a possible homicide versus a self-inflicted or accidental death. That morning rather than calling “911,” Aaron Easton first called Brian and Amanda Hopper to come to the home. They declined. Then he called “911.”
Sara was then transported to Adventist Emergency Department in Marysville and pronounced dead.
Brian Hopper and Aaron Easton began their careers in law enforcement at Yuba County Sheriff’s Department (YCSD). Easton’s “Linked-In” profile says he was at YCSD from April 2004 – February 2011. Hopper left the department after Easton.
YCSD leadership was relieved with both Hopper and Easton departing. There was information that they were having sexual relations with women while on duty. In fact, a Yuba College police cadet later accused Easton of forcing her to give him oral sex while she was on an academy ride-along.
Brian Hopper was married to Amanda Jones Hopper at the time. Amanda Hopper was the new District Attorney (DA) of Sutter County (November 2014 election) when Sara Easton died. And, DA Hopper’s father Steve Jones worked as a prosecutor for the Yuba County District Attorney’s office.
These relationships created a number of conflicts to investigating Sara’s death. Brian Hopper was called-in for questioning by Yuba City Police detectives.
However, they did not believe his story about his relationship to Sara Easton and they called his wife, the DA to explain the situation. That led to more questions. Did investigators think Brian Hopper was having an affair with Sara Easton or was he a person of interest in her death or both?
Police investigators noting the ethical conflict in dealing with the Sutter and Yuba County DA offices went to Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner seeking approval of search warrants. Poyner authorized the warrants and said he would have no problem prosecuting Aaron Easton for murder with the evidence he reviewed.
Although DA Hopper could not prosecute this case she had a lot at stake. Hopper sought confidential details and findings from the sheriff’s department. It was awkward for law enforcement personnel.
According to Sara Easton who once considered the DA a close friend, Amanda had sexual relations with Sara’s husband. Sara Easton knew her husband to be a sex addict, having had many affairs including an Appeal Democrat reporter. She knew he was having other women while working at YCSD which eventually led to her getting a venereal disease from her husband.
When Aaron Easton applied for a job at Marysville Police Department in 2010 where he later became chief and interim city manager the background investigator was informed of Easton’s marital unfaithfulness. He was hired by the city anyway.
Sara Easton was afraid of her husband’s penchant for sado-masochism including choking her and taping a plastic bag over her head. She was afraid of her husband. Sara was tired of trying to outperform or compete with the flings and affairs in his life.
In her frustration did Sara kill herself in her own home near the children she loved? Or, did she tell him she was leaving leading to an argument and Aaron shooting her?
Law enforcement personnel close to the case believe Aaron killed Sara. The family wonders why nothing is being done. Some say the case went to the State Attorney General’s (AG) Office.
The AG’s office has never been helpful on cases here. The AG has a reputation of being political and paper-weights. Some in the Yuba City Police Department say the case is still there. Who is blocking this investigation?
Meanwhile life goes on. Both Assemblyman Gallagher and Senator Nielsen endorsed DA Hopper for another 4-year term. She won easily in 2018.
Easton re-married right away and lives in Moore, OK. His “Linked-In” profile touts his law enforcement accomplishments while leaving out his resignation as the Marysville Police Chief following the cadet sexual assault investigation. Easton says, “I have been asked to speak on the Dr. Phil Show, Good Day Sacramento and was featured on several programs, including NBC News, Yahoo News, and American Police Beat Magazine, among others.”
“I was featured in ‘Police Chief’ magazine as a recipient of the International Association of Chiefs of Police 2016 40 Under 40 Award; given to the 40 law enforcement professionals under 40, throughout the world, that best exhibit leadership in the law enforcement profession.”
More dangerous than a dirty cop is a dirty judicial system. Justice delayed is justice denied.