By Lou Binninger
The Yuba-Sutter area has achieved national recognition for some horrific tragedies. The Juan Corona murders starting May 19,1971, (when the first body found) killing 25; the Yuba City High School bus crash May 26, 1971 killing 29; the Lindhurst High School Shooting on May 1, 1992 killing 4.
Certainly the 1955, 1986 and 1997 floods that destroyed lives, animals, thousands of structures and cost billions of dollars will always stand-out. And those losing loved ones and homes in the recent Yuba County forest fires could be added, as well.
There was the unsolved double-homicide of Valerie Janice Lane, 12 and Doris Karen Derryberry, 13 reported missing on November 12, 1973. A few hours later their bodies were found on a dirt road in Marysville, shot at close range.
The case went cold until December 2016 after the state forensics lab matched DNA from the two suspects to semen found on Derryberry. The two arrested were 65-year-old cousins (Larry Don Patterson and William Lloyd Harbour) who both lived near the victims in Olivehurst when they were killed nearly 43 years before.
(There are a number of unsolved murders in Yuba-Sutter and not mentioning them all here should not be taken as minimizing the anguish to the family and the community.)
Recently, there has been national interest in another tragedy though it took but one life.
Representatives with the weekly CBS newsmagazine ‘48 Hours’ have been making contacts with people with knowledge of the Sara Matthews Easton case.
The well-known television newsmagazine says it “investigates intriguing crime and justice cases that touch on all aspects of the human experience……the show has helped exonerate wrongly convicted people, driven the reopening -- and resolution -- of cold cases, and changed numerous lives. CBS News correspondents offer an in-depth look into each story, with the emphasis on solving the mystery at its heart. The program and its team have earned critical acclaim, including multiple Emmy, Peabody and Edward R. Murrow Awards.”
Easton was found in her Yuba City, CA bed with a gunshot wound(s) to the head on the morning of August 16, 2015 after being out with her husband Marysville Chief of Police Aaron Easton several hours prior. The Easton case is still unresolved and at a standstill now in its 5th year being under investigation. Was it a suicide, an accident or a homicide?
Many of those involved in the case have moved-on or will be leaving soon. Sutter County Sheriff Paul Parker and his Chief Deputy Coroner Bruce Hutchinson retired and other investigators have left their departments for various reasons. Yuba City Chief of Police Rob Landon and Lt. Jeremy Garcia are soon to retire.
The Sara Easton incident occurred in the police department’s jurisdiction but the sheriff’s department handles the coroner or medical examiner duties. The prosecution has been given to the Attorney General’s office due to conflicts of interest with both Yuba and Sutter County District Attorney offices.
Investigators close to the case do not believe Easton shot herself. However, they have not made an arrest. No one can predict if 48 Hours can bring a resolution to the investigation, but it should prove interesting if they determine the case is worth the costs to produce an episode.
The show’s key people to interview might include Amanda Hopper (Sutter County District Attorney), her ex-husband Brian Hopper (former Yuba County Sheriff’s Deputy), Parker and Hutchinson, Chief of Police Rob Landon, various investigators from Yuba City Police and Sutter County Sheriff’s Departments, Aaron Easton and his former co-workers, and friends and family related to Sara and Aaron Easton and Easton’s new wife Chanell Chaney Easton, funeral attendants, and of course Appeal Democrat newspaper reporters.
(See previous Territorial Dispatch articles ‘Sara’s Blood Cries Out’ 3/11/20 and ‘Will Sara Easton Get Justice’ 3/18/20 for more information.)
Today, Aaron Easton is an insurance salesman in Moore, OK.
(Get Lou’s podcast at “No Hostages Radio” and his articles at nohostagesradio.com)