“Probable Cause” Found for Prosecution of J.T. Conway at Preliminary Hearing

By Carl Butz

The wheels of justice move slowly. Almost a year and a half has elapsed since Dr. Ari Gershman was shot and killed while driving with his son near Poker Flat in the northwestern sector of Sierra County on July 3, 2020. John T. Conway was arrested as a suspect for the crime on the following day, after he drove rapidly through a law enforcement roadblock on Saddleback Road towards Highway 49. 

During the ensuing time, Conway, after recovering from a gunshot wound received during his apprehension, has remained incarcerated at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in Nevada City. Local and state investigators have amassed information resulting in a set of nine charges being levied against Conway in October 2020. In July of 2021, the court, in the person of Sierra County Superior Court Judge Yvette Durant, following a series of exams by psychiatrists, ruled against the defendant’s claim that since he cannot recall anything about the days before his arrest, he should be exempt from criminal prosecution. The state, however, stated while they would prosecute, they would not be seeking the death penalty. 

Thus, on this past Thursday, December 2, Conway appeared at the Downieville Courthouse, handcuffed, shackled, and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, to attend the next prelude to his trial, a preliminary hearing of the charges against him. 

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Cory’s Historical Corner

By Cory Peterman

Madam Romargi

Photo of Madam Romargi

While casually browsing through some old newspapers not long ago, I came across a remarkable photo that is said to depict Madam Romargi, the keeper of the infamous roadhouse known as the Sierra-Nevada House. For those of you not familiar with the story of Madam Romargi and her wayside inn, you can find my series on it online. The place was said to be “sinister, undesirable, and rugged” and “was known as the resort of the worst band of desperadoes in the country” according to early newspapers. It is written that everyone passing by the Sierra-Nevada House “was expected to stop and patronize their bar. Indeed they found it safer to do so. If Madam Romargi was not pleased with anyone, she would take a shot at him – a ‘gentle’ reminder to do better by them” and that “several miners, who had been known to be ‘headed’ for this place, rather well supplied with ‘dust’ or coin, had mysteriously ‘disappeared,’ but probably, having no relatives, nothing was ever done about it.” Madam Romargi was known to carry “in the folds of her dress, an ancient dagger and also a fully-loaded six-shooter.” So considering the fear people had of Jane Romargi, how did someone manage to capture her on camera?

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Bears At Play

We were saddened to learn about the death of OR-93, the grey wolf from northern Oregon who traveled south for the past couple of years, making its way into California in 2020 before being struck and killed by a vehicle near I-5 in Kern County sometime early in November. In response to loss of OR-93, who traveled the farthest south into California (historically a bastion of wolf habitat) since a wolf was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922, we decided it was best to show our respect for our native wildlife by showing a little happiness in our forests: bears hanging out in the Butte Creek Canyon as captured by Chris Wemmer, a local camera trapping friend.

Check out the excellent four-minute video below. We also suggest our critter-loving readers might enjoy checking out Wemmer’s well-produced, almost three-minute long video, of a ring-tail cat and its den in a tree, which is under the bear video.

Top Artists Featured at Mohawk Art Faire

Mohawk Community Art Faire 2021 featured artist, George Hal-
vorsen in his home workshop. He is working on the handmade raffle grand prize of a utility table. Photo by Judy Porep-Lullo

The Mohawk Community Art Faire (MCAF) is coming back this year after the pandemic recess of 2020.  The Art Faire is sponsored by the Mohawk Community Resource Center (MCRC) in Blairsden. Covid-19 caused last year’s show to be canceled but it’s back this year in full force. It will be held on the two days after Thanksgiving at the Graeagle Fire Hall in downtown Graeagle.

 It has been traditional to name a vendor in the Faire as the featured artist and this year it is George Halvorsen of Clio.  George is a longtime Plumas County resident and has been seen for years in numerous craft fairs in and around Plumas and Sierra Counties.  His art is woodworking and he creates beautiful and distinctive pieces of fine furniture and wood accessories appreciated by a wide audience. George worked as a general contractor for 39 years in Santa Rosa and Graeagle and has been producing fine furniture in his home workshop in Valley Ranch for the last 20 years.  He has been a part of the MCAF since its inception in 2014. 

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Vehicle Fire on Mountainside Above Downieville

On May 5th, at about 8:00 AM, a man arrived on foot at the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) to report his vehicle had caught fire approximately one mile up the steep, narrow, and twisty Galloway Road, south of Downieville. 

The Downieville Fire Protection District (DFPD) responded quickly to the news and, when they arrived on the scene in their green and yellow, four-wheel drive fire wagon, their crew discovered the fire being driven up the hill by a light wind through the heavily forested area. 

Given the circumstances, the DFPD immediately asked for mutual aid from firefighters in Alleghany and Pike City, as well as the US Forest Service. 

By 11:00 AM, local volunteers plus a Forest Service Hotshot crew from the USFS’s station in Camptonville were able to slow the fire’s spread and the incident command was assumed by the Forest Service, allowing the volunteer firefighters to be released.  

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