Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Criminal proceedings stall again in Arbuckle murder case

Martin Ehrke, 49, of Arbuckle, was arrested on two counts of homicide Thursday.

It’s been more than three years since two Colusa women were found dead on an Arbuckle almond farm – and their families are still looking for justice in the case. 

Family members of Kimberly Lynn Taylor, 39, and Jessica Lynn Mazak, 25, whose bodies were discovered hidden on the Hillgate Road property in southwest Colusa County in 2018, sat quietly in a Colusa County Superior Courtroom on Monday, as the judge once again suspended all criminal proceedings against the man accused of causing their deaths.

For the third time, questions surrounding murder suspect Martin Ehrke’s mental competency have delayed the proceedings. 

The case has dragged on for so long, his Public Defender, Robert Hinley, was forced to withdraw from the case because of a change in his employment. 

Before he removed himself from Ehrke’s case, Hinley told Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson that a defense-commissioned psychiatrist determined that Ehrke suffers from a neurological disorder and lacks the mental capacity to actively participate in his legal proceedings. 

George Woods, MD, is the third psychiatrist to evaluate the 50-year-old, who has been incarcerated at the Colusa County Jail since his arrest on Jan. 25, 2018, after Taylor’s body was found stuffed inside a freezer. Deputies found Mazak’s body a short time later submerged in a pond on the Ehrke property. Autopsies revealed both women died from blunt force trauma, according to the Colusa County Sheriff’’s Office. 

Evaluations by two previous court-appointed psychiatrists resulted in determinations that Ehrke has the mental capacity to understand the proceedings and aid in his defense. 

Tayler and Mazak were reportedly staying on the Ehrke property when another roommate discovered blood inside the residence and called law enforcement. 

Thompson, who sealed the defendant’s medical records, has assigned Public Defender Brandon Williams to defend Ehrke. 

A competency hearing is scheduled for March 1 to give Williams time to get up to speed on the case. 

Ehrke has pleaded not guilty to the two first degree felony murder charges, and two special allegations of committing multiple murders, which could have sent him to death row if convicted, had Gov. Gavin Newsom not suspended capital punishment.

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