The crime jarred the small town of Red Bluff. Two days after 14-year-old high school freshman Marysa Nichols went missing in February 2013, her body was found less than a mile behind her high school.
She had been strangled, investigators said, and authorities had a suspect, Quentin Ray Bealer of Gerber. He was arrested in March 2013 by Tehama County sheriff’s deputies just days after law enforcement searchers discovered Marysa’s body in a field behind Red Bluff Union High School.
Now, more than three years after the teen’s death, Bealer’s murder trial inches closer in Sacramento Superior Court, moved to the capital city from rural Tehama County – halfway between Sacramento and the Oregon state line – and the intense publicity the case has generated there.
“This was a high-profile murder in the city,” said Tehama County District Attorney Glenn Cohen. “She was a 14-year-old victim, a high school student. She was missing a day or two before she was discovered. With the combination of events, it brought a lot of notoriety to the case.”
Cohen said the Red Bluff murder case is the first to be moved out of Tehama County in more than 10 years.
A Monday trial date has been set before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Delbert Oros, but Cohen and Sacramento court officials anticipate jury selection to begin Tuesday with testimony and evidence to be presented on April 25.
According to news reports, Marysa had attended independent study at a charter school on the Red Bluff campus and had planned to meet friends for lunch. She never showed. Marysa was reported missing later Feb. 26, 2013, when she did not return home from school. Authorities ultimately found the girl’s body after searching a creek area behind the school where she was said to have walked between home and the campus.
In the days after Marysa’s death, Red Bluff police released security camera video of the area near the high school. The footage showed a man police later identified as Bealer walking near the campus before turning into the school’s parking lot. Police said Marysa was seen walking in the same area less than two minutes later. Bealer was arrested March 2, 2013, after Red Bluff police said he was persuaded by acquaintances to come forward.
More than 200 people marked Marysa’s death at a candlelight vigil outside the Tehama County Courthouse in Red Bluff, according to news reports at the time.
A Tehama Superior Court judge in November 2014 ordered the case moved to Sacramento Superior Court. Bealer, 42, has been held without bail in Sacramento County custody since February.