Death-penalty an option in Weimar double-murder case

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer County District Attorney’s Office is keeping open the option of pursuing the death penalty in its prosecution of Lee Konnerth on two murder counts. Konnerth, 35, is charged with the murder May 15 of his girlfriend, 30-year-old Sarah Burr of Grass Valley, and their unborn child. The district attorney’s office formally laid double-murder charges against Konnerth during his arraignment Wednesday at North Auburn’s Placer County Jail courtroom but also alleged special circumstances of multiple murders and use of a firearm that provide a foundation for a death-penalty or first-degree murder case. Supervising Deputy District Attorney Garen Horst said Friday that the two homicide counts and allegations of special circumstances against Konnerth do not immediately signal what type of prosecution the District Attorney’s Office will proceed with at this time. “In terms of right now, there is no decision whether to seek the death penalty,” Horst said. “It would be premature without getting a full understanding of the offense and all the factors jurors would consider.” Placer County’s last death-penalty conviction occurred in 2000, when Auburn ranch-hand Arturo Suarez was sentenced by a Napa County jury. Suarez had killed four people near Auburn, leaving his youngest victims – a niece and nephew ages 3 and 5 – buried alive. Konnerth, a Weimar resident, is alleged by authorities to have shot Burr in a domestic violence incident at his home. The second murder charge was added after the coroner determined that Burr had been pregnant at the time of her death. Jailed at the Placer County Jail in North Auburn, Konnerth is to make his next courtroom appearance June 2 on the open murder charge. “The decision (on pursuing a first- or second-degree murder charge) doesn’t come lightly,” Horst said. “And it will come after a great deal of reflection and investigation.”