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Butte County, California is located in the northern portion of the state. Most of the cities and towns in this area have a slow, farming community feel to them. But, murders or homicides are committed within the county. Certainly, the number of murders per year is much lower than the average in other California counties. But, none the less, Butte County does have a history that includes murders.
Although murder is not a daily, or even weekly occurrence, it does happen in rural Butte County. Two murders in particular shocked Butte County residents. The Murder Jeanene Bonner in May 2002 and the 2000 murder of Tami Geren (A young Concow mother) took place. Both murders involve children. In the Bonner murder 11 year old Jeanene Bonner was the victim. In the Geren murder the victim’s child witnessed the murder. It is these two murders that will be examined in this paper.
Вuring the period of 1998 to 2003 the California homicide rate initially dropped but increased substantially. The following graph shows the growth in numbers from 1998 to 2003. The trend line shows an increase in the homicide rate:
The above chart shows California’s homicide as compared to the national homicide from 1998 – 2003. Again, the trend line shows an increase in the homicide on the state and national level. Compared to the California and National homicide rates Butte’s homicide trend is decreasing in value. 2001 is an outlying value and is an unusual year that had a higher than usual homicide rate.
The best method of comparison is accomplished by using statistical data that counts homicides based upon Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s), state levels, and national levels. This data uses the calculation of number of homicides per 100,000 people. It is this data that is used to compare Butte County, California, and the United States. Butte’s MSA is Chico and the figures from the Chico MSA will be used in this comparison. The following chart shows homicides from 1998 through 2003. Butte County (Chico MSA) reported between 2000 and 2003.
Although this chart shows a downward trend homicide rates are pretty much staying level. The outliers from the Chico MSA skew the data. When Chico MSA data is analyzed the homicide rate is 6.4 per 100,000. The outliers with a zero value for non reporting periods was tossed out and actual data and data years reported was used. The results are that Chico’s homicide rate is less than the California’s and greater than the national average.
Butte/Chico MSA Murders
As stated earlier Butte County has had two murders that are of great interest and were reported widely in the media.
Randy James Geren (Case CM013568) was convicted April 22, 2002 of the murder of his wife Tami Geren. The worst part about this murder is that Geren murdered his wife in front of their young child. In doing so he has forever changed the life of his own child. The Geren family lived in rural Concow, Butte County, California. He stood acused of, and was convicted of, murdering his wife of 20 years after and argument on February 13, 2000. Tami Geren was stabbed multiple times and died of her injuries. Their seven year old son witnessed the murder. Geren pleaded nolo and was convicted based on evidence, witness reports, his own accounts, and convicted by jury who founded true in this case. His attorney Leo Battle stood by as his client was sentenced to 26 years to life with 801 days credited as ‘served’. Although convicted on a nolo plea Geren hopes to get retried based upon the fact that prior to the murder he had brain surgery that altered his perception of things going on around him. A new trial has not been granted.
The Jeanene Bonner murder is a troubling one because the child had expressed fear of her father, ‘Jack’ Garcia. Despite a letter to the court from Jeanene expressing her fear, the court ruled to allow Jack Garcia unsupervised visitation with Jeanene. This was a case of murder suicide that took place in Butte County California. Initially, Jack Garcia’s body was found inside his pick-up truck parked along a rural highway in Butte County. After learning that Jack Garcia had picked up Jeanene 9 days earlier from school and had not been seen or heard of since investigators started looking for Jeanene. Initially, investigators did not know where to begin their search but after examining Jeanene’s coat contents investigators were lead back to the site where Jack Garcia was found. The plant material found in her jacket pin pointed the elevation she had worn the jacket at. Jeanene’s body was found down hill not far from the truck her father’s body was found in. One can only imagine that Jack Garcia had killed his daughter, walked up the hill returning to his vehicle, and shot himself in the head. Chico and Butte county investigators pieced together evidence that supported the theory about Jeanene’s death. In this case there was no need to file charges because investigators had no indication that anyone but Jack Garcia had committed the murder. It was an unfortunate ‘case closed’. The Judge who ruled that visitation be allowed said that the letter had sounded like someone much older had written it and that in the majority of cases of this type the judges don’t speak with the children.
Murder/Homicide is an awful way to die. Statistics support that California and National homicide rates are gradually rising while the Butte County, California, homicide rate is falling. Interestingly, homicide rates per 100,000 people were on a slight decline. Again, Butte’s high murder rate during 2001 acts as an outlier and could be thrown out of the statistical analysis. But, the 2001 outlier was left in and had little effect on the outcome (results). What the numbers do support is that murders are not as densely located. That is, the murders are more spread out over the population.
Butte County Superior Court. (2001.) Online Case Register of Actions: People vs. Geren, Randy James. CM013568.
California Crime Rates 1960-2006. California Law Enforcement Agency Uniform Crime Reports 1980-2005.
Indar, Josh. (2003). Local Stories: Dead Men Do Tell Tales. News Review Chico California.
News & Alerts (2003). Attorney General Lockyer Urges Continued Funding to Provide Free Forensic Services For Law Enforcement. California Department of Justice – Office of the Attorney General.
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Vau Dell, Terry. (2007). Wife Killer’s Case Back in Butte County Courts. Mercury-Register.
United States Crime Rates 1960-2006. United States Crime Rates 1960-2006.