Body ID’d: Process to identify the body took months because of DNA testing

Few details have emerged since police began investigating two Nevada City homicides in mid-June, although authorities have confirmed a positive identification for a deceased victim in one of the cases.

On Monday, the County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had confirmed the identity of a man whose body was located on June 19 at a remote property on the 26000 block of North Bloomfield Road. Prosecutors allege that the deceased male in this case, Raul Iturralde, 43, was murdered by Russell Harvey Rippetoe, 57, about one week prior to the discovery of Iturralde’s body.

Rippetoe has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge against him.

In a separate homicide investigation, authorities have not released any further information in nearly three months regarding the purported murder of a United Kingdom man, Jessic Clayton Robiere, 30, whom investigators say was shot to death at a residence on Bodie Ridge Road sometime around June 16. Zachery Isaiah Minissale, 34, who is deceased, has been named as a murder suspect in that investigation.

Rippetoe was arrested on suspicion of murder two days before the discovery of Iturralde’s body, and remained in custody Tuesday at the County Jail.

While prosecutors named Iturralde as the suspected homicide victim in court documents filed June 22, the Sheriff’s Office did not officially confirm the deceased male whose body was found at the North Bloomfield Road address as Iturralde until this week. The process of identifying the body took several months due to the need to confirm who Iturralde was through DNA testing.

The Sheriff’s Office has said Rippetoe was arrested after it received a tip from an anonymous individual that led deputies to believe Rippetoe may have killed Iturralde following an altercation of some sort between the two men.

No official cause of death has been pronounced and few details about the victim have been released. In an email, County Assistant District Attorney Bob Burns said that little information is expected to be released in the near future concerning Iturralde’s death, as the case against Rippetoe is currently pending in court. A felony conference hearing is set for Oct. 16.

On Tuesday, Rippetoe’s defense attorney, Jai Gohel, expressed that the case against his client was extremely weak, adding that he looks forward to proving in court that prosecutors are “charging the wrong person” in connection with Iturralde’s death.

“…What I can say with some level of confidence is that when all of the evidence is out there and presented in court, it will be clear they are charging the wrong person, and that Mr. Iturralde’s unfortunate death did not occur at the hands of Mr. Rippetoe,” Gohel said.

Two other people who have remained unidentified were apparently living at the address where Iturralde was killed at the time of the incident, and one of those subjects was apparently a “percipient witness” to the events surrounding Iturralde’s murder, the District Attorney’s Office has previously said.

Gohel expressed his belief, based on his review of the case’s evidence, that this other unidentified “percipient witness” was, in fact, involved in the same altercation between Rippetoe and Iturralde that authorities say occurred immediately prior to Iturralde’s death. The defense attorney did not claim that this third individual should be a homicide suspect in the case, but rather maintained that evidence presented in open court would prove Rippetoe’s innocence and show that there was much more to the matter than had been presented by prosecutors thus far.

Iturralde, Rippetoe and the two other individuals who were living at the North Bloomfield Road address were all believed to be involved in an illegal marijuana growing operation at the property at the time of the alleged homicide, sheriff’s Lt. Sean Scales has said. Over 500 plants, totaling approximately 1,500 pounds of cannabis, were seized from the premises following Rippetoe’s arrest, Scales said.

The other two individuals at the property were not arrested in connection with Iturralde’s death, and are not considered to be suspects in the homicide investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said.


In subsequent months, authorities have remained silent concerning the investigation into the alleged murder of Jessic Robiere, who was found dead as a result of multiple gunshot wounds on June 16 at a residence on Bodie Ridge Road.

The only suspect identified in connection with Robiere’s death, 34-year-old Nevada City resident Zachery Minissale, was killed in a shootout with deputies in Eureka County, Nevada, on the same day that Robiere’s body was discovered.

Minissale was being pursued by deputies at the time of his death after allegedly shooting a Nevada public transportation worker in what appears to have been a random act of violence, according to Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts.

It is not clear what motive Minissale may have had for shooting this individual or for killing Robiere, and the Nevada Department of Public Safety Investigations Division, along with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, are continuing to investigate the incidents, according to statements from both agencies.

The home where deputies found Robiere deceased belonged to Minissale, but the Sheriff’s Office has declined to comment on what the relationship or connection was between the two men. It is believed that Robiere, who had a listed residence in Truckee at the time of his death, may have been couch surfing around the time that he was killed at Minissale’s residence, Scales has said.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at [email protected]

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