Saturday, 25 May 2024

Teen enters not guilty plea in murder case

CLEARLAKE – A teenage girl facing charges for the fatal stabbing of another girl entered a not guilty plea on Friday.


Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 18, appeared in Lake County Superior Court, according to her attorney, Stephen Carter.


“We entered her plea as not guilty,” Carter said.


Varney is charged with murder and a special allegation of using a deadly weapon – in this case a knife – in the death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez of Clearlake.


Valdez died June 5 after Varney allegedly stabbed her during a confrontation that happened when the teens got off the school bus near their homes, as Lake County News has reported. Both girls were juniors at Carlé Continuation High School.


The incident between the teenagers allegedly was the culmination of a months-long feud, Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police told Lake County News in a previous interview.


Hermann said Varney told police she hadn't intended to stab Valdez. Rather, she told police Valdez had started hitting her.


Varney allegedly had a folding pocket knife with a 4-inch blade that she had been carrying in her hand before the fight started, and which police later recovered at the home of a neighbor where she went to call for help.


An autopsy ruled that Valdez's death resulted from a stab wound to the neck, with the wound appearing consistent with the knife, Hermann said.


Carter said Varney will return to court July 18, at which time the date of her preliminary hearing will be set.


Varney remains in Lake County Jail, with bail set at $500,000, according to jail records.


For Carter, who began representing Varney a week and a half ago and is beginning his own in-depth study of the case, it's too early to know how long the case might take to get to trial.


If Varney is convicted, she'll face 25 years to life for the murder charge, said Carter, plus one year for the special allegation of using a deadly weapon.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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