Fire chief makes court appearance in slaying of girlfriend

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The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With the family of his slain girlfriend looking on, former Cal Fire battalion chief Orville Fleming made a brief court appearance Tuesday in Sacramento and had a public defender appointed to represent him in his murder case.

Fleming, 55, showed no outward signs of fatigue from the 16 days that authorities said he spent under heavy bush and growth in south Sacramento, hiding from search teams after the May 1 slaying of his live-in girlfriend, 26-year-old Sarah June Douglas.

Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and confined to a steel cage inside the courtroom, he uttered only four words during the appearance before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jaime R. Roman, saying “yes” when Roman read his name and asked if he was Fleming, and “No, I don’t” when the judge questioned whether he had money to hire an attorney.

A public defender was appointed and the hearing continued until May 27.

Afterward, a horde of reporters and media cameras that had filled the courtroom inside the county jail building surrounded Douglas’ mother and sister on the sidewalk outside to hear them say they hope Fleming will spare them a trial.

“It’s very hard see him in court, it’s very hard on our family …,” Douglas’ sister, Trina Werly said. “We just want justice for Sarah. He’s admitted to what he’s done.

“Right now, we’d like him to plead guilty and we’d like to close this, but we’ll see what happens.”

Douglas’ mother, Trudy Werly, said she was angry as she watched Fleming in court, adding that she had only one question for him: “What happened?”

Sheriff Scott Jones said Fleming “admitted culpability” after his arrest Friday and gave detectives a full statement. Fleming was arrested after a detective spotted him board a bus on his way to get some food.

Authorities said that when he was arrested Fleming had some minor injuries from the night of the attack, and sheriff’s spokeswoman Lisa Bowman said in an email that detectives believed “there were indications that he had attempted to kill himself” after the attack. She said detectives would not provide details.

Fleming, who is estranged from his wife, has had no visitors since his capture, online jail records indicate, and he is being held without bail.

Court documents state that Douglas was stabbed to death after returning to the home she shared with Fleming around midnight on April 30. Another sister and her mother dropped her off, and her sister later got a phone call from Douglas in which she heard shouts and screams, court documents state.

Douglas was found the morning of May 1 inside the blood-spattered home. Fleming was fired for not showing up for work during the manhunt that stretched from Canada to Mexico, but authorities say it appears that he never left the area and had no help while he was hiding.

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