A man charged in the slayings of his parents is believed to have shot them Jan. 13, two days before their bodies were found inside their home in an upscale neighborhood north of Modesto, according to court documents released Tuesday.
Cameron Richard Terhune, 24, of Modesto appeared Tuesday afternoon in Stanislaus County Superior Court for his arraignment.
He was charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his parents, Ken and Diane Terhune.
Along with the murder charges, the criminal complaint claims Terhune acted intentionally, deliberately and with premeditation. The complaint also alleges that Terhune used a firearm, causing great bodily injury or death to a person.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
Each count includes a special allegation for multiple homicides. Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said the special allegation allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris, however, said prosecutors had not decided what punishment they will seek. Harris, who will be the lead prosecutor in the trial, told Judge Ricardo Córdova that they will speak to family members before they decide.
Terhune is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 6 at 8:30 a.m. for a pretrial hearing.
Deputy Public Defender Maureen Keller submitted a plea of not guilty on behalf of her client. Keller denied the special allegation for multiple homicides.
Terhune walked into the courtroom about 1:30 p.m. wearing a red-and-white-striped jail inmate jumpsuit. His hands and feet were shackled.
He did not speak much during the hearing, saying "yes" in a monotone when the judge asked whether he understood the charges. Terhune told the judge he could not afford to hire an attorney, so the public defender's office was assigned to represent him.
Stanislaus County sheriff's detectives have declined to release details on how Ken Terhune, 65, and Diane Terhune, 56, were killed. They were found in their home at 201 Stewart Road, just west of McHenry Avenue near Del Rio Country Club.
The district attorney's office has declined to release details about the deaths. Harris said the crimes were committed Jan. 13, but he would not say exactly when the Terhunes were shot or when investigators believe the Terhunes died.
Shipley said the district attorney's office will not release details about the deaths because prosecutors want to ensure the defendant receives a fair trial.
"Our office is not looking to be secretive," Shipley said. "It's basically allowing us to perform our function and bring justice to the community and the victims in this case."
She said releasing details now could discourage witnesses from coming forward, but she admitted it also could encourage witnesses to come forward.
Family members have said the Terhunes have two sons: Cameron Terhune and his 16-year-old brother, Elliott. A family member said Tuesday that Elliott is staying with family friends in the Modesto area.
According to sheriff's officials, after "credible" information was given by a family member who lives at the Stewart Road home, the sheriff's Special Weapons and Tactics team was called late Thursday morning to search the home.
Authorities have refused to say who made the call and where Elliott was at the time of the shootings.
SWAT team members went into the house at 1:30 p.m. and found the Terhunes. Authorities would not say where the bodies were found.
Authorities found Cameron Terhune driving a car on Floyd Avenue about 9 p.m. Thursday. Terhune was taken into custody and is being held without bail at Stanislaus County Jail.
Sheriff's detectives presumed Ken and Diane Terhune were the victims, but coroner's officials Friday had to use fingerprints to positively identify the bodies.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.