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Co-defendant in cop killing to face special prosecutor

08/03/2014 6:37 PM

08/04/2014 12:09 AM

Robin Glen James, a co-defendant in the 2011 murder of off-duty Susanville Police Officer Robert McElrath, 37, will face a special prosecutor in his trial on multiple felony counts.

The Lassen County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Dan A. Howe to handle prosecution of the case that has already seen Joanna Lynn McElrath convicted of the first-degree murder of her estranged husband. Howe, an attorney based in Susanville, has served as an assistant district attorney and currently prosecutes prison cases on a county contract. District Attorney Stacey Montgomery recommended him as the most qualified and experienced attorney for the murder case.

James, 49, was romantically linked to Joanna McElrath in January 2011, when she drugged Robert McElrath with a prescription narcotic before using her husband’s own car to drive him to a railroad trestle over the Susan River seven miles west of Susanville.

Robert McElrath was shot with his service weapon and his body dumped off the bridge.

James faces charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder and special allegations that the murder involved lying in wait and his use of a firearm.

Joanna McElrath, 39, pleaded guilty in March to premeditated and deliberate murder in a deal struck with former Lassen County District Attorney Robert M. Burns. In exchange for the plea and waiving her right to appeal the conviction, Burns dropped special allegations that would have precluded the possibility of parole.

She was sentenced in May to 25 years to life for first-degree murder and special allegations that the murder involved lying in wait and was committed for financial gain.

James is scheduled to appear in Lassen County Superior Court on Aug. 15 for a pretrial hearing.

Sacto 911 Staff

Bill Lindelof

Cathy Locke

Marissa Lang

Darrell Smith
Superior Court

Denny Walsh
Federal Court

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