Wednesday, 06 December 2023

Teenager to stand trial for murder

LAKEPORT – On Tuesday a Clearlake teenager was ordered to stand trial for the fatal stabbing of a schoolmate in June.

Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 18, was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on a first-degree murder charge and the special allegation of using a knife in the June 5 death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez, a fellow student at Carle High School in Lower Lake.

The preliminary hearing resulted in Varney being ordered to stand trial for Valdez's death.

Varney is alleged to have stabbed Valdez in the neck with a folding pocking knife after Valdez began hitting her. The incident was part of an after-school confrontation that occurred when the girls got off the bus near their Clearlake homes, as Lake County News has reported.

In June, Varney – who told police that she didn't intend to stab Valdez – pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“The preliminary hearing is virtually meaningless here because this case will ultimately be decided by a jury,” said Varney’s defense attorney, Stephen Carter of the Law Offices of Carter and Carter.

Carter wouldn't offer details about his plans to defend the teen.

“We will not tip our hand at this point since our defense will not be presented or made public until the jury trial,” he said. “The preliminary hearing is a necessary step in the march toward the jury trial and we are happy that a trial date will be set now that it is over.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff declined to discuss the prosecution's allegations in the case. He said Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine will prosecute Varney.


Carter said the court date to set the jury trial will take place on Oct. 14.

Varney remains in the Lake County Jail.

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


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