Accused double murderer to stand trail

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The man charged with killing two women at his family’s almond farm in Arbuckle has been declared competent to stand trail.

Martin Ehrke, 50, appeared in Colusa County Superior Court on July 3, where Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson ordered his case to proceed.

Ehrke stands accused of killing Kimberly Lynn Taylor, 39, and Jessica Lynn Mazak, 25, at a home located on his family’s Hillgate Road property on January 24, 2018.

Taylor’s body was found the following day inside a chest freezer located in a bedroom. Investigators later found Mazak’s body submerged in a pond. Both women died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Colusa County Coroner’s Office.

Thompson had suspended the case in May at the request of Public Defender John K. Hinely in order for Ehrke to undergo psychiatric evaluation by two qualified mental health practitioners to determine if he is capable of aiding in his own defense.

“I have read both reports and have determined Mr. Ehrke is trial competent,” Thompson said, at last Wednesday’s proceedings.

Ehrke has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, in addition to a special allegation for multiple murders. Because of the special allegation, he could face the death penalty.

Ehrke, who has repeatedly waived his right to a speedy trial, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He will be back in court on Oct. 8 for a Miranda hearing, in which Thompson is expected to rule on whether there were any violations of Ehrke’s Miranda rights during his initial interrogation by law enforcement, and whether Ehrke’s statements will be allowed into evidence at trial.

Colusa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brendan Farrell said a video and transcript of Ehrke’s initial interview on the day of his arrest would be made available to the judge prior to the hearing.

A preliminary hearing, in which law enforcement will be expected to present just enough evidence for Thompson to determine if there is sufficient reason for Ehrke to stand trail for murder, is expected to be set at the Oct. 8 hearing, which is scheduled for 9 AM in Dept. 1.

At Hinley’s request, previously-sealed public records relating to the case will remained sealed until Thompson decides otherwise.

The family of the two young single moms appeared in court for last week’s proceedings.

Mazak’s sister and several others wore T-shirts with the victim’s photo on the back, taken during happier times.

Taylor and Mazak were known to be staying at the farm at the time of thier deaths. The Colusa County Sheriff’s Office discovered the gruesome scene after a roommate called to report that he came home on Jan. 25, 2018, and found blood on the walls and that the two women were nowhere to be found.

Ehrke was arrested later that day in Colusa.