Hearing in Police Officer’s Killing
On Thursday, Jan. 6 — Joanna McElrath (Beckett), 36, and Robin Glen James, 46, of Susanville, were arrested on charges of murder and conspiracy in the death of Susanville Police Officer Robert McElrath, 37.
They were booked into the Lassen County Jail on no bail.
McElrath’s body was found in the mid-morning of Sunday, Jan. 2, near the railroad trestle at Devil’s Corral.
According to a press release from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, the case was determined to be a homicide. The press release said the investigation is on-going and further information will be released when possible.
At 10:59 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 2, deputies received a report of a deceased person in the area of Devil’s Corral, near the railroad trestle. Deputies responded to the location and identified the body.
The Susanville Police Department confirmed McElrath was an officer in their employ.
In June 2006, the Susanville City Council approved promoting McElrath from reserve officer to police officer. He had been a reserve officer for two years, had been previously been employed as a LCSO deputy and Sierra Army Depot’s security department.
In a written statement posted on police.cityofsusanville.org and the police department’s Facebook page, Susanville Police Chief Jeff Atkinson said, “Rob was an important part of our police department family and we will miss him greatly. Rob was always quick with a smile and his positive attitude made our department a better place. We are grateful to our fellow law enforcement agencies and citizens of our community for all of the support shown to us in this most difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Neither suspect entered a plea Tuesday in the January killing of Susanville police officer Robert McElrath, 37.
Robin Glen James, 46, and Joanna McElrath, 36, the victim’s estranged wife, both appeared in Lassen County Superior Court but requested their cases be continued.
Laureen Bethards, who is representing McElrath, said she had received an extensive amount of material from Lassen County District Attorney Robert M. Burns and needed time to review it.
With no objection from Burns, Judge John T. Ball continued the hearing until Dec. 19.
Burns has charged that James and McElrath, his girlfriend at the time, used a prescription narcotic to drug Robert McElrath before using his own car to drive him to a railroad trestle over the Susan River seven miles west of Susanville, where they shot him with his service weapon and returned later to dump his body off the bridge.
They face felony charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder and special allegations that the murder involved lying in wait and the use of a firearm.
Burns has also charged McElrath with committing murder for financial gain.
Both defendants have been in custody without bail since their Jan. 6 arrests.