Three suspects in $1.3 million museum robbery plead not guilty

Public defenders requested; judge to review $1M bail

11/19/2012 1:11 PM

11/20/2012 1:13 AM

Four men accused of committing a $1.3 million mineral heist at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum apparently can't afford to hire an attorney.

Matthew Campbell, 43, Jonathan Matis, 41, Edward Rushing III, 40, all requested a deputy public defender to represent them Monday morning in Mariposa Superior Court, where they pleaded not guilty to committing the Sept. 28 robbery.

The fourth suspect, Christopher Scott Sheffield, 42, also appeared in court Monday but wasn't arraigned because his deputy public defender wasn't present. He'll appear in court today to be arraigned and enter a plea.

Three of the men will be in court again to review their bail, which is set at $1 million each. Rushing isn't eligible for bail because he was on parole.

The attorney for Matis requested a review of the evidence prior to the bail review.

Campbell, Matis, Rushing and Sheffield were arrested last week after an investigation led by the California Highway Patrol. Dressed in black and white jail uniforms, all four sat stone-faced and said little in court Monday as Judge Wayne Parrish read their charges, some of which had more than 10 counts.

Of the four, Matis and Rushing face the most serious charges, including second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime. Campbell and Sheffield are charged with attempted burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime.

District Attorney Thomas K. Cooke said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case but assured he'll proceed "vigorously."

"This is a very serious crime against the people of Mariposa County," Cooke said. "It's significant to everyone in the entire community. I can't make comments about the facts of the case, because the suspects are entitled to presumption of innocence."

No word about what was taken, recovered

CHP investigators haven't elaborated specifically on what was taken during the robbery. Authorities have also been tight-lipped about what they've recovered, citing the integrity of the case. On Monday authorities acknowledged some "rocklike" materials, similar in texture to minerals, were collected as evidence. The material still needs to be analyzed for its condition and quantity. The CHP reported recovering gold with some quartz. A dollar amount for what's been recovered hasn't been released.

The incident happened Sept. 28 when robbers, dressed in black and wearing hoods, entered the museum's vault about 4 p.m. after threatening a guide and curator with pickaxes.

In the two-minute robbery the men dashed off with the gold and gems by smashing display cases. According to the CHP, they tried to steal one of the museum's most valuable pieces, a 14-pound gold nugget called the Fricot Nugget, but the alarm went off before they could break the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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