Huebsch Released Pending Sentencing for Burnt Ranch Homicide
By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune
After more than a year of holding a not guilty plea for the murder of Willow Creek resident Adrian Rael, Donna Huebsch claimed self-defense and accepted a plea deal on January 8 offered by the Trinity County District Attorney for the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Friends of Rael reported him missing on August 15, 2012 and rumors circulated that Rael had been shot to death in Burnt Ranch on Huebsch’s property. A neighbor called the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office to report a possible homicide after he was asked by Huebsch to help dispose of Rael’s body.
That same night, deputies questioned Huebsch and searched her residence and the surrounding area. They did not find any evidence of a shooting at that time. But, six days later, on August 21—after Rael did not surface and rumors ran rampant throughout the Burnt Ranch, Hawkins Bar and Willow Creek communities—deputies served a search warrant at Huebsch’s home and Rael’s body was located dumped near Huebsch’s home. She was arrested and booked on murder charges on August 21, 2012.
According to Trinity County District Attorney Mike Harper, Huebsch had three different defense attorneys working her case over the past 16 months. She recently hired a fourth, Arcata-based Russell Clanton.
“It was recently brought to light that she admitted to the crime the day after Rael’s body was discovered,” Harper said. “Her fourth attorney turned over a motion of discovery that revealed important information.”
Harper said that Huebsch’s self-defense story would have brought about 30 additional defense witnesses to testify.
“I wish we would have had this information a year ago,” Harper said.
Although both the prosecution and the defense would not allow the TRT to see the actual motion of discovery, Harper said it outlined Huebsch’s story of self-defense.
“The victim was a friend of hers who apparently became aggressive with her,” Harper said, “Her story was reasonable and made sense, so with that new information it was determined that the crime was involuntary.”
So, why hide the body?
Harper said he believes Huebsch, and others were surrounded by a “drug culture” of sorts and that she feared retaliation.
“She asked a neighbor to help dump the body, he refused. That’s how we found out about the crime in the first place. I think that’s why she lied to the police. She was afraid of retaliation and I think that’s reasonable. It certainly doesn’t make it okay, but it was a reasonable fear,” Harper said. “Perhaps she would have been assaulted or maybe worse.”
Huebsch is scheduled to be sentenced on February 26 at 9 am at the Trinity County Courthouse in Weaverville. Harper said involuntary manslaughter carries either a probation sentence or 2-4 years in state prison. He added that
Huebsch has about 16 months of time served with good behavior which can be counted as 32 months of time served.
Huebsch’s defense attorney, Russell Clanton declined to talk with the TRT about the case. And phone calls from the TRT to Huebsch’s home were not answered.