Sunday, 14 April 2024

Trial in September Clearlake homicide begins Thursday

LAKEPORT – Testimony in the trial of two Clearlake men accused of murdering a man in an early morning confrontation last September began on Thursday morning.


Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, are each facing a murder charge for the Sept. 22 murder of Shelby Uehling, 25, who had moved to Clearlake from Montana earlier in 2009.


Edmonds also is charged with murder with a special allegation of using a knife, and Norton faces charges of murder with a special allegation that he used a billy club, and assault with a deadly weapon with a special allegation of causing great bodily injury, as Lake County News has reported.


Jury selection in the case started earlier this month, and on Wednesday an evidentiary hearing was held before Judge Arthur Mann, who is presiding over the case.


Prosecutor Art Grothe used his opening statements to give the six-woman, six-man jury an overview of the case.


Between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Sept. 22 Clearlake Police dispatch received a 911 call reporting that a fight was taking place somewhere along Old Highway 53. When officers arrived on scene, they found Uehling face down on the side of the road, lying next to an oak tree, his carotid artery slashed. A large blood trail started about 10 feet away from his body.


Fifty yards down Old Highway 53 Uehling's red Honda was still running, with the windows down, the driver's side door open and the head of a golf club buried in the dash. The shaft of the club was found between the car and Uehling's body.


Among the numerous wounds Uehling suffered was a deep, penetrating wound on his right buttock, which Grothe said a pathologist will testify is not consistent with a knife but with a golf club shaft.


Grothe discussed Edmonds and his relationship with 23-year-old Patricia Campbell, with whom he had an on again, off again relationship.


During a brief period in which Campbell and Edmonds were broken up, Campbell and Uehling became romantically involved, a fact Edmonds became aware of a week before Uehling died, Grothe said.


Grothe shared some text messages Edmonds is alleged to have sent Uehling in which he made it clear that he didn't want Uehling near the young woman.


In one message Edmonds called Campbell a “bag whore” – a term for a woman who will trade sex for drugs – and told Uehling, “She'll never be yours.”


Grothe alleged that the messages also carried threats. In another of the texts, Edmonds told Uehling, “What goes around comes around,” and “I know a lot of bad people in this town.”


“That was a week before Mr. Uehling's throat was slit,” Grothe said.


He alleged that Norton, walking home from a barbecue at Edmonds' home late on the night of Sept. 21, saw Uehling's car parked at Mendo Mill on Highway 53. Norton then allegedly called Edmonds, took a golf club and went with his friend to Uehling's parked car.


Edmonds' defense attorney, Doug Rhoades, said the fatal confrontation didn't start either on Sept. 21 or 22, but weeks before, when Uehling and Campbell had been in that brief relationship.


He said that Uehling, who was using methamphetamine, gave the drug to Campbell, and Edmonds found out about it.


Then Uehling and Campbell broke up. “It terminated not on the best of terms,” said Rhoades. “She got tired of him. He became demanding,” with Campbell telling him in no uncertain terms to leave her alone.


Rhoades alleged that Uehling didn't like being told no, and that on the night of Sept. 21 he was parked in an area off of Old Highway 53, near Campbell's home – nowhere near the place in the Avenues where he had been staying.


The only reason for him to have parked there, said Rhoades, was to watch traffic. “There's no reason for him to be there at all, no legitimate reason,” he said.


Rhoades said Norton and Edmond met up and found Uehling still in the area. “There is an argument, a confrontation of some kind,” Rhoades said. “I don't know who said what to whom first, who was more aggressive than the other.”


Uehling was stabbed, Edmonds was knifed in the arm, and afterward Edmonds and Norton panicked, going to Norton's home, changing their clothes and hiding them and the weapons, Rhoades said.


“Our contention is that Mr. Edmonds was defending two people – one was present, one was not,” said Rhoades, referring to Norton and Campbell, respectively.


Norton's attorney, Stephen Carter, told the jury that the evidence will show that the dispute arose out of a desire to protect Campbell. “That's how this whole dispute started.”


While Edmonds had romantic feelings for Campbell, Norton's family had been close to hers, and he felt protective of her, Carter explained.


The thing that “gets this rolling,” said Carter, was Campbell's brief breakup with Edmonds and relationship with Uehling, with whom she used methamphetamine. “That's the start of the case, the evidence will show,” he said.


Even after Campbell broke up with him, Uehling couldn't forget about her, Carter stated. He recounted an episode in which Uehling came to her trailer and Norton and Edmonds told him to leave, with Norton holding Uehling's car door so he couldn't get out.


“There is worry here about what's going on with Mr. Uehling and his plans for Ms. Campbell,” Carter said.


Carter asserted that when the confrontation occurred between Uehling and Edmonds and Norton, Uehling was high on methamphetamine. He said Uehling had in his car an ax handle with a homemade grip and a screwdriver, and a fixed blade knife in his shoe.


After the fight, Norton and Edmonds left the scene. Carter said the blood on Norton appeared to be more from “incidental contact” with Edmonds, who he said had more blood on him, than directly from Uehling.


“I think the evidence will show that Mr. Norton was scared,” said Carter, explaining that Norton saw his friend Edmond with blood on his hands on the knife.


Officer describes crime scene


The first witness of the day, and the one who spent the longest time on the stand Thursday, was Clearlake Police Officer Michael Carpenter, the first person to arrive on the scene and discover Uehling's body.


Responding to the area of Clement and Lotowana, Carpenter recalled that as he pulled up to the scene, his squad car's lights moved over the pool of blood and then illuminated Uehling's body lying next to the tree.


Carpenter said he got out of the vehicle and started yelling at Uehling to see if there was movement. He then put on safety gloves due to the large amount of blood and began assessing the scene. “I didn't know what we had at the time,” he said.


When Sgt. Brenda Crandall arrived just a few minutes later, Carpenter said he tried to find Uehling's pulse.


Paramedics also responded and Uehling was taken to the hospital, where Carpenter responded to take pictures of his body and bag his hands. He and other investigators later went to Norton's and Edmonds' residences; the two men later ended up at the Clearlake Police Department for questioning.


Edmonds had a cut on his left forearm, which he said he received from a fence, Carpenter said.


Using an overhead projector, Grothe led Carpenter through a series of photos that showed the crime scene, including a closeup of Uehling's body near the tree, face down, but his torso partially propped up on his elbows.


Carpenter also explained several photos of Uehling's body which showed signs of the assault, including long gashes that he suggested were the result of an asp, or foldout club that Edmonds is alleged to have had in his possession along with a knife.


Uehling's torso showed signs of bruising across the chest, stomach and around his waist, and his knees – bare because he had been wearing shorts – looked bruised and dirty from having been in the dirt and weeds during the final struggle. Uehling's blood was found up the trunk of the oak tree next to him, Carpenter said.


The photos showed what Carpenter estimated to be a nickel-sized wound on Uehling's right buttock where it's alleged he was stabbed with the shaft of the golf club. They also showed what appeared to be a stab wound across the middle part of the right side of his back.


In Uehling's right shoe investigators found the fixed blade knife, which was sticking out near the base of the tongue of the shoe. Carter had said during his opening arguments that no blood from either Edmonds or Norton was found on the knife. Grothe showed the knife – contained in a clear plastic bag – to the jury.


Other pictures shown to the jury included pictures of the cut on Edmonds' left forearm, a small nick on his neck, and pictures of his hands and the inside of his leg, none of which appeared to show any signs of injury.


Also on the stand Thursday were neighbors who lived in the area of the assault, including Phillip Adams, who was outside that night, smoking a small marijuana roach, when he began to hear arguing, yelling and screaming, which became “louder and more terrifying” over the two to three minutes it lasted.


Adams said he didn't have a telephone and didn't wake the neighbors. Instead, he walked in the direction of the screams but couldn't see anything because it was so dark. In less than five minutes after the screaming stopped, he said he saw two people walking into Lotowana Village.


Testimony in the case will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, in Department 3.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .


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