Arreaga accuses Shavonne Hammers of murder

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

EUREKA – Taking the witness stand against the advice of his attorney, double murder suspect Jason Michael Arreaga testified today, Oct. 13, that unarmed Eureka couple Harley Hammers Jr. and Angel Robin Tully were murdered by Hammers’ estranged wife Shavonne just outside a trailer home in a Fieldbrook driveway in September 2014.

Jason Michael Arreaga

Jason Michael Arreaga

Arreaga, 30, of Lucerne in Lake County, alleged that Shavonne Hammers retrieved a .380 caliber pistol from the passenger’s seat of Arreaga’s Buick, and then he heard gunshots, “like six or seven,” fired in two phases.

“There was [sic] three and then three and four.”

The defendant readily acknowledged he did not see the shooting; his testimony was circumstantial.

Seconds before the shots had gone off, Shavonne Hammers had intervened in a verbal confrontation that had mushroomed spontaneously between the victims and Jerry Bachus, who had parked in the driveway for a heroin transaction and knew all the parties well.

Bachus had seen the couple pull into the driveway about five in the afternoon in a maroon Maxima. The car stopped by a clump of redwoods opposite the shanty trailer of Angelique Eller, a hardened meth addict and a longtime friend of Shavonne Hammers.    

Bachus strode directly toward Harley Hammers as he exited the driver’s door, according to Arreaga. “Jerry told them, ‘Get out of here! This is neutral territory!”

Ignoring Bachus’s command, Tully leapt from the Maxima’s passenger seat, wielding an axe with a yellow handle, according to Arreaga’s account. Yelling and irate, she approached the shanty trailer, where evidently Tully assumed she would find Shavonne Hammers. Carly Michaels, Arreaga’s teenage girlfriend, was also inside.

Arreaga trailed behind Tully as she banged on the door and on a wood pile lying nearby, but her attention was drawn back to the Maxima by the verbal encounter between Bachus and Harley Hammers. As she turned in that direction, “she came back towards me and dropped the axe; she looked like she was going to attack Jerry,” Arreaga testified.

Arreaga went on toward the trailer as Tully passed him and he banged on the door, calling out, “Carly, it’s me! There’s people [sic] here to see Shavonne.

“Carly opened the door and didn’t come out. Shavonne ran right past me and Carly. She said, ‘Where are they?’” meaning Harley Hammers and Tully.         

Arreaga watched Shavonne Hammers alight at the passenger side of his Buick where he believed she had squirreled the murder weapon beneath the seat earlier.   

Then Arreaga heard the gunshots. He added that he neither saw the gun nor Shavonne Hammers pull the trigger because he was blocking the trailer door to ensure his girlfriend remained safe inside.

“All I could think of was to protect Carly,” Arreaga testified. “I was in front of the trailer door and I couldn’t see exactly” what happened during the gunplay. “I felt panic, I was dripping with sweat, I had to go to the bathroom bad, I was in a complete panic.”

In the seconds after the gunfire, there was “complete silence,” Arreaga recalled, “really quiet. I heard two cars peel out. There was a little pause in between. I told Carly to stay where she was.”         

Pale, nervously biting his lip, wearing a white shirt, a patterned salt and pepper necktie and black trousers, Arreaga said repeatedly he was frightened to tell investigators the truth when they interviewed him after his arrest on Sept. 4, 2014 because he feared reprisals from the drug traffickers he dealt with regularly to help pay the bills for his invalided father, who has severe rheumatoid arthritis.

Questioned methodically and strategically by his lawyer, Public Defender Heidi Holmquist, to elicit the most sympathy for her client, Arreaga testified that at the time of his interrogation, “I was at the end of my limits.” He had been consuming both alcohol and marijuana – he denied using meth – in the aftermath of the murders. He estimated he had not slept for some three days after leaving Lake County to transport Shavonne Hammers’ to her mother’s apartment in McKinleyville.

Prompted by Holmquist, the defendant also told the jury, “I’m going to have a lot of physical violence problems” in the wake of taking the witness stand because of his “way of life” as a drug dealer.

“No, I did not commit murder,” Arreaga declared when asked.

Detectives recovered the gun from a lockbox attached beneath the hood of Arreaga’s car after his arrest. The suspect claimed that Shavonne Hammers was fully aware of the lockbox and that Michaels had given her the combination. He hypothesized that Hammers concealed the weapon in it while he was occupied in a restroom near a creek where Hammers allegedly burned her bloody clothes hours after the slayings. Customarily, he indicated, he kept the lockbox in the backseat, not underneath the hood, and stored his drugs in it.    

Deputy District Attorney Zachary Curtis, the prosecutor in the case, is scheduled to question Arreaga Wednesday morning, Oct. 14.


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