By Alana Bleimann and Koda Slingluff
SACRAMENTO – Accused murderer Ronald Seay, charged in a 2018 homicide after North Natomas Branch Library supervisor was found dead after multiple incidents of verbal aggression and hostility, will finally get his trial next year.
Seay been in custody more than two years already. The case was delayed because of a competency question and then since last March when COVID-19 delayed trials.
Judge Ernest W. Sawtelle oversaw a seven-hour preliminary hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court with over five witnesses—the judge later ruled the case should be set for trial.
In early October of 2018, at 10:50 a.m. Sacramento Police Dept. Officer Steven Fontana was dispatched to the North Natomas Branch Library after receiving a complaint from the library’s supervisor, soon to be the defendant’s victim.
Upon arrival at the library, Fontana said he was told there had been an “ongoing issue with an individual in which he was violating library policy by leaving his belongings unattended and charging his cellphone.”
The supervisor told the officer that he and the individual had an argument, and that the defendant was “verbally hostile and aggressive.” Fontana found the individual in question sitting in the library and tried to talk with him.
The initial contact between the two men was “not as positive as I would like normal contact to be,” Fontana said, who noted the defendant was asked to leave but he said he was “a taxpayer, he wasn’t leaving and that he had not done anything wrong” and eventually “put his headphones on and just ignored [Fontana]” and wouldn’t identify himself.
The defendant eventually walked out of the library on his own and went into a vehicle with Fontana following him, who said, “I took my body camera off and directly faced it on the license plate of the vehicle he had entered” in order to identify him. The vehicle was a 2018 Chevy Impala with a license plate from Missouri.
Just 10 days later, Officer Fontana received a similar complaint from the same library by the same supervisor, and this time, the defendant was back at the library but the supervisor had a form from the city that banned him from the building.
Fontana was not able to see the defendant inside the library at the time but saw the same Chevy in the parking lot, and, as the defendant was approached at his car he gave Fontana “a jerk attitude” and called him “a child molester” and claimed that he should be arresting “the real offenders,” according to the officer.
As the defendant was not willing to roll his windows down, Fontana had to slip the city’s notice of trespass into the car’s moon roof.
Less than two months later, in December of the same year, Officer Fontana was on duty and a call from the same library was received, said the officer, but this time “It was a shooting…kind of a rare occurrence especially in that area….peaked my interest.”
He was quickly able to link the incidents in October to this one because “I noticed the victim was labeled as [the supervisor] and I remembered, hey, I trespassed a guy from there not too long ago,” said Fontana, who heard the there was also information about a Chevy with an out-of-state license plate—the same vehicle spotted at the library in October.
Fontana informed other officers that the two could be connected and eventually learned that his instincts were correct.
Another officer witness, Detective Brian Murawski, testified to the evidence and conditions at the crime scene, saw the Chevy that Fontana noted—“a particular vehicle” that was “gray or light-colored similar to a Chevy Malibu with out-of-state license plates.”
There was a female victim who already been pronounced deceased when Murawski arrived. She was identified as the library’s supervisor—the same one that officer Fontana had been in contact with in October.
The vehicle she was in “was running and the transmission was in reverse upon arrival,” Murawski, but said it was not moving because “the victim’s foot was compressed down with her body weight on the brake…they [additional officers] reached into the vehicle and secured the transmission to the park position.”
The victim “appeared to have 11 gunshot wounds on the left of her body as well to the back and chest area”, the detective said, who found, inside the car, 11 shell casings, two cellphones, and one gun safe.
The number of gun shell casings were the same as bullet wounds on the victim’s body. Inside the safe was “a Springfield XD 9mm pistol” which matched another gun case found earlier.
The following day, Murawski testified he went to the residence of the defendant in which he met the defendant’s mother who “pointed me to her bedroom,” where he found a pill bottle was found with the defendant’s name on it along with another gun case for the same Springfield XD 9mm handgun.
Across the street from the defendant’s residence was a neighbor who secured video surveillance footage of the Chevy leaving and returning to the garage.
“At 4:09 p.m. the car appeared to be gone. And at 8:01 p.m. it is back present at the location” the night of the murder, according to Murawski. The victim was murdered at the library around 6:11 p.m.
The videotapes were potentially problematic, according to Assistant Public Defender Norm Dawson, because the neighbor was showing Murawski the videos through email and he never followed up to make sure that all the videos were sent.
On the night of the incident, Detective Joseph Thebeau arrived at the Seay residence to watch the movement of the defendant, and at approximately 4:40 a.m., Thebeau received notification that this vehicle had moved “an individual came outside and moved the car into the garage of the residence….believed it was Mr. Ronald Seay.”
And then at about 5:15 a.m., the car moved outside again and the vehicle took off, followed by three marked patrol vehicles. The Chevy was ultimately stopped after a one-minute chase. The defendant stopped his car “directly in the middle of a major intersection,” the detective said.
“Mr. Seay complied with the stop and gave no resistance,” and was then pulled out from the inside by Thebeau and additional officers.
The final witness called was Detective Chad Coughran, a Sacramento PD homicide investigator who interviewed officers at the scene who said they heard “10 loud bangs that he thought were either gunshots or firecrackers. He immediately continued walking toward the sound of those loud bangs.”
Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard then directed his examination toward two jail visit recordings of the suspect and his family. Because social visits are conducted over a phone line, the conversations were recorded and catalogued by the prison.
During the first conversation, defendant Seay spoke about his belief that people have conspired to kill him and his family for his whole life, and added that “they just got mad because I got one of theirs before they got me.”
In the second conversation, Seay expressed concern about what his sons may think of him. He said he didn’t want his sons to think he “just did it out of spite.”
Seay’s case was set for trial in early 2021.
Alana Bleimann is a junior at the University of San Francisco majoring in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice Studies. She is from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
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