ELKO – A woman convicted of abuse and neglect of her newborn was the most widely read crime and court story of the year.
Readership was high for 10 stories that involved crimes committed this year or court cases from prior years.
Nikki Shelley, 23, was found guilty by a jury July 29 of willful abuse, neglect or endangerment of a child by placing the child in a situation wherein the child may suffer physical pain or mental suffering, a category B felony. The verdict came less than three months after Shelley gave birth to a baby girl alone in her Spring Creek home.
Jurors sat through three days of testimony in Elko District Court that revealed Shelley concealed her pregnancy from her family except her friend Whitney Ellingson. On May 18, after giving birth in her parent’s shower, she wrapped the baby in towels, placed her in a white kitchen trash bag and then put her in the trunk of a car.
Upon arriving at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, Shelley told nurses she had suffered a miscarriage and had “passed some gooey stuff.”
The baby was found almost an hour later and flown to Primary Children’s Hospital for treatment.
Defense attorney Ben Gaumond told jurors that Shelley believed the baby was dead. The argument was refuted by District Attorney Mark Mills, who questioned Shelley’s decision not to call 911 for medical assistance for the newborn.
On Nov.17, Shelley was sentenced by Judge Al Kacin to serve 38 months in prison with credit for 88 days served. She is eligible for probation after serving 15 months of her sentence. The charge carried a penalty of up to six years in prison.
During the sentencing hearing, the state recommended two years in prison for Shelley, and eligibility for parole after 19 months. The defense asked for probation. Shelley did not speak to the court.
Other top crime and court stories of 2017:
— Ristina Slack, 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory sexual seduction involving a 13-year-old boy and received a suspended sentence of 10 years in prison and was ordered to serve 30 days in jail.
— “We got justice for Stephanie,” said Lidia Cortes after the sentencing of Eduardo Estrada-Puentes on Jan. 13, more than five years after the death of her daughter Stephanie Gonzalez. Estrada-Puentes received life in prison without the possibility of parole on the charge of first-degree murder for killing his wife in 2011.
— A man was arrested for allegedly committing bestiality on a dog in August. Thomas Copland, 32, was charged with torturing or injury to an animal, a Category D felony, and pleaded not guilty in district court on Oct. 30. A trial date has not been set.
— Deborah Urrizaga, 52, was ordered to serve a year in jail and given a suspended sentence of five years in prison for embezzling more than $34,000 from the Elko Motorcycle Jamboree. Arrested in February, the former treasurer of the Jamboree and Spring Creek Middle School teacher pleaded guilty in September in a plea agreement that reduced the charge from 20 counts down to one.
— Aaron Hughes was paroled after four years in prison. The former Elko Police Department captain resigned in 2008 after evidence came to light that led to his conviction of incest. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 and was denied parole two years later.
— A Spring Creek woman was charged with child neglect and endangerment after being arrested for allegedly leaving her 14-month-old in the car while she gambled at Dottie’s Casino in March. Jamie L. Benson, 28, pleaded guilty in Elko District Court Nov. 13 and will be sentenced in January.
— An elementary schoolteacher in Wells was arrested in June on charges of sexual relations with four male high school students. Tennille Whitaker, 40, waived her preliminary hearing in Elko Justice Court in November and has yet to enter a plea in district court.
— An 18-year-old Elko High School student was arrested Oct. 18 for allegedly possessing weapons on school property and being in possession of an alcoholic beverage. Sammual R. Munk, was discovered by a school resource officer, who said he saw smoke coming from Munk’s pickup truck and found alcohol and several weapons including guns and knives during a search of the vehicle. His preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 29.
— In West Wendover, a 21-year-old man was arrested Nov. 26 in connection with the shooting death of his 15-year-old brother. Ivan Lopez remains in custody at the Elko County Jail and his case is pending in Elko Justice Court.