Crime - Sacto 911

DA won’t seek death penalty in Natomas librarian’s slaying; case halted for sanity review

Watch the arraignment of man accused of shooting of Natomas librarian

Cory Thornhill, deputy public defender of Sacramento County, stands in front of Ronald Seay, the accused shooter of 41-year-old librarian Amber Clark, during an an arraignment at Sacramento County Main Jail on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.
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Cory Thornhill, deputy public defender of Sacramento County, stands in front of Ronald Seay, the accused shooter of 41-year-old librarian Amber Clark, during an an arraignment at Sacramento County Main Jail on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.

Ronald Seay will not face the death penalty in the deadly parking lot ambush of a Natomas librarian last December, Sacramento prosecutors announced Friday as a judge suspended the murder case on doubts over the accused killer’s sanity.

Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard said his office will instead seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the point-blank shooting death of Amber Clark, the 41-year-old North Natomas library branch supervisor gunned down in her car in December 2018.

“One of the main issues was what the maximum penalty will be,” Seay’s attorney, Sacramento County Supervising Public Defender Norm Dawson, said Friday following the mid-morning hearing. He said the two sides discussed an “appropriate potential result” before the DA’s Friday decision.

“I think the DA did a diligent job with a difficult set of facts,” Dawson said.

Seay faces a first-degree murder charge and an allegation of lying in wait. He remains held without bail at Sacramento County Main Jail as he awaits a mental evaluation and the potential resumption of the criminal case.

“He’s seriously mentally ill. He has a protracted history of illness and mental hospitalizations,” Dawson said after the hearing. He said his goal for Seay is to “get him to a facility where he can get appropriate treatment.

Seay’s voice boomed from behind the doors of the jailhouse courtroom’s holding cell mid-Friday morning signaling Norgaard and Seay’s attorney Dawson to the floor for his appearance.

Inside the cell before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley, Seay greeted the courtroom: “Everybody all right? Glad somebody is,” he said before declaring, “The whole system is based on lies and deception. You all know that. This is just a reminder.”

Seay kept a running dialogue as Norgaard announced the death penalty was off the table, saying at one point, “The woman walked behind me with a hand in her purse. That never should’ve happened,” in an apparent reference to Clark.

Frawley declared doubt as to Seay’s mental fitness, suspended criminal proceedings in Clark’s murder and appointed a pair of doctors to examine Seay.

The judge set an Oct. 18 court date to present their findings as Seay’s monologue continued: “I may not be alive by then. Thank God for the Resurrection. Do I look like I don’t believe in Jesus?” he said from behind the bars. “Stop looking at the outward. Look inside.”

Attorneys called for the six-week pause, citing what Norgaard said was the “voluminous” evidence and information the doctors will need to review for their interviews with Seay.

“There’s a lot of information related to the investigation of the case – his mental health history, other history – that needs to be provided to doctors so they’re not operating in a vacuum,” Dawson said.

Seay’s mental health had been at issue even before the fatal encounter in the North Natomas library parking lot.

Seay, of St. Louis, had tormented libraries there in the months before he decamped for Sacramento, Missouri officials told The Bee in the days following Clark’s killing.

Seay had been barred from at least two St. Louis-area libraries and had been arrested multiple times for causing disturbances at libraries. Seay had threatened librarians in Missouri, including one St. Louis-area library director who said Seay threatened him repeatedly before being ultimately banned from the facility in August 2018.

Weeks after Seay was officially banned from the Ferguson, Mo., library, Seay was arrested at a neighboring town’s library suspected of trespassing and causing a disturbance.

By October 2018, Seay was in Sacramento and had resumed the same pattern of disturbances and ejections from local libraries. Sacramento library officials that month issued a stay-away order to keep him away from the North Natomas branch.

Clark was shot and killed two months later.

Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass talks about slain employee Amber Clark after murder suspect Ronald Seay was arraigned at the Sacramento County Main Jail on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.

Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.