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Man charged with murder in death of NHP sergeant
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Man charged with murder in death of NHP sergeant

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ELY – A White Pine County man has been charged with four felony counts including open murder with a deadly weapon in the March 27 death of Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Ben Jenkins.

John Leonard Dabritz, 65, was also charged Wednesday morning in Ely Justice Court with grand larceny of a motor vehicle, grand larceny of a firearm, and third-degree arson.

He is accused of shooting Jenkins and taking his vehicle and weapon, then setting his rental vehicle on fire and fleeing the scene.

Elko Justice of the Peace Mason Simons is hearing the case. Ely Justice of the Peace Stephen Bishop was disqualified because of an incident three days before the homicide in which Dabritz left a box at Ely Justice Court containing notes that court personnel considered threatening.

Simons signed the statement of probable cause and no-bail hold order for the homicide.

The arrest report states that the crimes took place at 5:56 a.m. March 27 on U.S. Highway 93 at mile marker 106, and that Dabritz was arrested at 9:46 a.m. approximately 15 miles north of Cherry Creek.

The document states that law enforcement was called by an NHP trooper on a report of shots fired. When they arrived, they found a trooper deceased from what appeared to be a gunshot wound. His vehicle and firearm were missing.

A vehicle left at the scene appeared to have been set on fire. The 2020 Ram 1500 truck’s owner is listed as Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

“It appeared the trooper’s body, which was near the truck on the scene, was also partially burned,” stated the report.

The open murder charge states that Jenkins was shot “in the shoulder and/or head.”

When Jenkins’ patrol vehicle was later found disabled in a ravine, Dabritz was inside and in possession of the stolen pistol.

He was taken into custody without incident.

Dabritz made his first appearance in court Wednesday afternoon.

Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, he sat next to White Pine County Public Defender Richard Sears during the 18-minute hearing to determine his legal counsel.

He spoke only to answer questions about his income, property, and whether he understood his rights and the charges against him.

Dabritz, at times, closed his eyes and bowed his head and at other times listened attentively to the proceedings.

To be appointed defense counsel, Dabritz’s income—$600 per week from Social Security Disability – and property were reported to the court.

Sears was appointed as his defense counsel, upon review of his qualifications by the Seventh Judicial District should the prosecution ask for the death penalty.

District Attorney Michael A. Wheable is the prosecutor.

According to a pretrial risk assessment of Dabritz, he had no prior felony or misdemeanor convictions over the past 10 years. His age the first time he was arrested in April 1973 was under 20.

Dabritz is being held without bail.

Simons was appointed to the case because of an incident at the Ely Justice Court three days before the homicide.

According to the order appointing an alternate jurist, Dabritz delivered a box “with concerning contents” to Ely Justice Court on March 24.

“The reporting party discovered a box outside their workplace that contained several notes, which they believed to be threatening,” stated a blotter report posted the following day on the White Pine County Sheriff’s office Facebook page. “The letters and box were examined and nothing was found that would be construed as a threat.”

According to the court order, “These circumstances create the possibility a reasonable person may question Hon. Stephen J. Bishop’s impartiality. As such, it is necessary for Judge Bishop to disqualify himself and appoint an alternate jurist.”

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