Nelson Vose began his life of crime early on, and by the time he was 31, in February of 1998, and living in Willits, he was a seasoned offender, a felon, denied the right to bear arms. But it is easier for a felon to get a gun in this country than any law-abiding citizen, and so it should come as no surprise that Vose was armed when, one fine winter Saturday of 1998, he locked and loaded a .380 semi-automatic and trained the muzzle on the people he was living with on Sherwood Road.
When Vose was arrested, he was carrying drugs and the hypodermic syringes to inject the drugs with, another pistol, lots of bullets, and the weed he’d no doubt robbed from his Sherwood “friends.” Vose had told these people he’d kill them if they told on him.
It had all started with a domestic dispute — we used to call ‘em wife beaters, but now, that’s a kind of undergarment, a singlet, and “domestic dispute” can mean anything, from breaking wind to breaking bones, and everything in between.
By the time Vose was 41, an age when a lot of career outlaws are beginning to slow down, he achieved an even higher measure of notoriety than he'd previously enjoyed — an 11-hour standoff. That one back on March 28th of 2000, Vose had inflated the routine service of a bench warrant for not showing up for a court appearance on drug charges into what could have been a serious shoot out.
Deputies had gone to his home on Highway 162 between Dos Rios and Covelo early that afternoon, and when they pulled up, Vose barricaded himself in a closet with a pistol, shouting out to the cops that he wasn’t going down alone. As the hours dragged on into the late night and early morning, the deputies brought in reinforcements from the Willits Police Department, and the CHP. It was thought Vose had captives in the house with him.
The “fuckin’ pigs” – as Vose styled the guardians of law and order while he cranked off threats and bullets from the upper floor-windows of his happy home. The area was sealed off with roadblocks and hostage negotiations began . Vose’s probation officers arrived to try to talk Vose out of “suicide by cop.” It turned out Vose was alone in the house, and law enforcement gave all the credit, in a subsequent article for the Ukiah Daily Journal, for the desperate man's surrender to the probation people. As it developed, Vose had been despondent over recent incidents in his personal life and had been prepared to leave this life by shooting as many deputies as he could see to shoot at.
By September of 2013, Vose, now 54, had moved himself and his many grievances to Ukiah where he shared them with Jeanette Marie Mason, his domestic partner. On November 9th, Vose was booked into the county jail for resisting arrest and threatening an officer. The police had appeared because Vose had administered a serious beating to Ms. Mason.
On December 18th Vose was in court to answer to these latest charges. Deputy Craig Walker had been dispatched to the Vose/Mason love nest at 2660 Mill Creek Road, Talmage, in response to a 911 call.
Deputy Walker took the stand last Thursday at Vose’s preliminary hearing to determine if Vose should be held to answer to charges of assault.
DA David Eyster is trying to put Vose away. It went like this:
“Were there any signs that the defendant had been abusing alcohol, Deputy Walker?”
“Yes, sir. He had about him a strong odor of alcohol; his eyes were glassy, watery and red, and his speech was slurred.”
“Can you describe his demeanor?”
“He was uncooperative and hostile, if that’s what you mean.”
“Did he try to delay you in your duty?”
Deputy Walker uttered a small sound, a kind of grunt or guffaw, if you will; what is technically called a phoneme, something less than a syllable, the smallest phonetic unit, but as it was attended with wry smile it spoke volumes.
Just a little delay?
“I must have told him at least 10 times to sit down, and at one point he hit me in the head with his fist.”
“What did you do?”
“I put my hand on my tazer and told him that was enough. I said again, ‘sit down’.”
“Did he? Did he do as you asked?”
“No. He started towards me saying, ‘Fuck you. Go ahead and taze me, you fucking punk’ — then he hit me.”
“Did you do as he asked?”
Walker is Anderson Valley's resident deputy. He is much admired for his intelligence, patience and all-round reasonableness. Vose was fortunate indeed to have Walker show up.
The defense was handled by a lawyer named Harwood, who may be from the Office of the Public Defender, there being so many new lawyers around the courthouse these days — for both prosecution and defense — that it's hard to keep track of them all. These new lawyers seem leery of people with press cards. You say, “May I have your card, counselor?” and they scurry away like mice to huddle and tremble in their locked offices.
Mr. Harwood, a slim, young, professional-looking fellow, rose to cross. Trouble had formally begun in the Vose household when the victim, Ms. Mason, had christened lover-boy by smashing a fifth of Jim Beam across his brow.
“So someone had been hit him in the face with a bottle of booze,” Harwood said. “And Deputy Scott was already there when you arrived?”
“Yes, that’s correct,” Walker responded.
“After you arrived, how long was it before you contacted Mr. Vose?”
“About a minute. I parked in the driveway and joined them on the porch.”
“You testified that he appeared intoxicated.”
“Can you quantify that?”
“I dunno how you’d measure it.”
“Well, was he quite drunk?”
“And did you notice any injuries to my client?”
“Yes. He had a cut above his left eye.”
“Do you know how he received it?”
“Yes. His girlfriend hit him with a bottle.”
“Now, prior to any physical contact with my client, you asked him to sit down — was that your testimony?”
“And he sat back down?”
“For a moment, then?”
“And Deputy Scott went into the house?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“After Scott went into the house you decided to put the cuffs on my client, did you not?”
“I did, yes.”
“Had he threatened you?”
“But he just wouldn’t sit down?”
“So, he said ‘fuck the cuffs’?
“That he did.”
“Was he yelling?”
“It was somewhere between a normal tone and yelling.”
“And you told him not to move?”
“Yes I did.”
“I certainly wasn’t just talking.”
“And he responded?”
“I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking me, counselor.”
“Well, was it at that point that he struck you?”
“No. I drew my tazer and told him not to move; and he said: ‘Fuck you; fuckin’ taze me, punk’.”
There was a silence in the courtroom as the defense attorney whispered with his client as the sound of a dog barking came up from somewhere below.
At length Mr. Harwood asked how far away Deputy Walker was from his client when he hit the trigger on the tazer.
“About five feet,” Walker said.
“Was he coming toward you?”
“Did he lunge at you?”
“Yes, he did.”
“And that’s when he struck you?”
“Where – where did he strike you, Deputy?”
“Just behind my right eye,” Walker said, tapping his temple.
“Well, why in the heck didn’t you just move out of the way, Deputy?” Harwood spluttered, revealing himself as a man unacquainted with encounters of the violent type.
“There wasn’t that much time, counselor.”
“Did he hit you hard or soft?”
“I’d say it was pretty hard since it glanced off my face and left me dazed … briefly.“
“Well, did you sustain any injuries?”
“No; although I was told I had an angry red mark glowing on my head for quite some time afterwards.”
“Is that when you fired your tazer?”
“Was Deputy Scott there?”
“I’m not sure whether he saw that or not.”
“But my client removed the prongs, did he not?”
“He did pull one of ‘em out, yes.”
“Did he then finally sit down?”
“Oh, yes,” Walker grinned.
“Then you ‘dry stunned’ him, did you not?”
“And a dry stun is when you touch the trigger again after the initial jolt and the prongs have been removed?”
“Basically, yes, that’s correct.”
“So my client got up again and came after you?”
“Yes he did.”
That was it. Judge John Behenke found sufficient evidence to hold Mr. Vose for trial.
Harwood wondered aloud if maybe his client couldn’t get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor; he hadn’t really hurt Deputy Walker after all, and Vose’s domestic partner loved her co-habitant; indeed she seemed to enjoy the physical violence as much as he did! Judge Behnke said that was certainly a possibility.
Where will it end?