Utah Search Warrant Provides Tragic Details of Bear River Rancheria Triple Homicide and Suspect’s Subsequent Flight from Justice

Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson [Screenshot from the webcam court proceedings]

A search warrant affidavit issued by the Utah State Bureau of Investigations has brought to light new details regarding the February 10 Bear River Rancheria triple homicide including the events that led up to the killings, suspect Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson’s subsequent actions, and his flight from justice.

According to the search warrant affidavit, on the morning of Wednesday, February 10, a 13-year-old identified as “Jane Doe-1” called 911 telling the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center saying she had found “her mother, sister, and father bleeding out” in a bedroom of the residence located [on] Carroll Road.”

The search affidavit describes emergency personnel arriving on the scene finding a 16-year-old Shelly Moon and 40-year-old Nikki Metcalf deceased. Shelly’s mother, 40-year-old Margaret Moon, was transported to the hospital where she was “declared brain dead and later succumbed to her injuries.” 

All three were shot in the head in the residence’s northeast bedroom where investigators found 9mm casings and a bullet.

Von Eric Keener {Mugshot from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office]

A Loleta resident told a Humboldt County District Attorney Investigator Brawner that around 5:30 a.m. on February 10, Sanchez-Johnson and Von Eric Keener “pounded on her door” demanding Melissa Johnson’s car. Melissa Johnson, Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson’s mother, and Von Eric Keener’s girlfriend had recently parked her car at the Loleta resident’s home. The resident  told investigators she “stayed in bed” during the circumstance and “did not have many other details” but did notice “Mauricio Johnson and Von Keener seemed panicked.”

Investigator Brawner then learned that another person had seen Von Keener and one of Mauricio Sanchez Johnson brothers driving a red van that morning to his mother’s home after which one of the two got out of the van into Melissa Johnson’s vehicle and the other got into “the rear of the van.”

Video surveillance was gathered by Investigator Brawner that depicted both of the vehicles leaving the Loleta  residence on Brenard Road proceeding eastbound to the southern portion of Carroll Road and “a short time later Melissa Johnson’s vehicle is seen coming from Carroll Road and leaving.”

Investigator Brawner then located the red Dodge Grand Caravan at 132 Carroll Road in Loleta. The resident of this location said they did not know who owned the van and said the van arrived between 3:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m. that morning.

According to a witness, Shelly and some cousins were hanging out and, in the early morning, around 3:30 a.m., they began to consume alcoholic beverages. Shelly’s mother Margaret became upset and reportedly broke a liquor bottle in the hallway of the residence. About half an hour later, Cherry Moon arrived and picked up Shelly’s cousins.

At about 4:10 a.m., one of the young witnesses said that Margaret’s fiance’, Nikki Metcalf, “had observed a male subject in [Shelly’s] bedroom. The male subject was on top of [Shelly].” At this point, Metcalf hit the male who then exited the room and “walked into the living room while pulling up his pants.”

The affidavit describes Humboldt County Detective Head speaking with Mauricio’s brothers. One told Detective Head that “in the early morning of February 10, 2021, Mauricio Johnson arrived at the residence and was in a panic.” The witness said he found his brother in possession of a pistol, wearing bloody clothes, and initially telling him he had shot someone but later explained he had shot multiple people. The witness told the investigator that Mauricio proceeded to change his clothes and left the residence with a pistol and “a bag containing his bloody clothes.”

Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson’s mugshot after being apprehended in Utah

Detective Head gathered more information about the circumstance from the girlfriend of one of Mauricio’s brothers  who said Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson came to their home at approximately 4:30 a.m. and “pounded on the door.” She saw Sanchez-Johnson possessed a pistol and was crying and saying things like, “I did something” and “I wasn’t thinking.” She characterized Sanchez-Johnson at that time as “having a hard time making sentences.” Sanchez-Johnson proceeded to change his clothes while continuing to apologize.

The girlfriend said that the brother told her that Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson had allegedly said that he had been “getting with” a girl when her step-dad (though Metcalf was not married to Margaret)  walked in.  Mauricio reportedly claimed that Metcalf started to “get tough” with him. Mauricio allegedly said he pulled out his firearm, shot Nikki Metcalf, then shot Margaret Moon when she came into the room, and finally shot the 16-year-old Shelly Moon “because he did not want to have any witnesses.”

After a search warrant was obtained for Mauricio’s brother’s home, investigators said they found two 9mm semi-automatic pistols, one loaded with ammunition similar to the casings and bullet recovered from the scene.

Providing insight into how investigators were able to track Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson, Von Eric Keener, and Melissa Johnson as they fled Humboldt County, the affidavit reveals Melissa Johnson’s Toyota Highlander had equipment installed that tracks location “for the purposes of repossessing [it] if payments aren’t made.” At approximately 4:30 p.m. on February 10, investigators determined the vehicle was “traveling eastbound on Interstate 80 near Truckee, California.”

The two vehicles, Melissa Johnson’s Toyota Highlander and a 2014 Chrysler 300, were stopped by Utah Highway Patrol. Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson was driving the Toyota Highlander. Troopers found two-way radios and a police scanner in the vehicles indicating “the vehicles were communicating with the 2-way radios and using the scanner to avoid law enforcement.”

Mauricio Sanchez-Johnson appearing before Utah’s 3rd District Court via webcam

A cousin of Margaret and Shelly Moon said in response to the newfound information from the search warrant, “Mauricio shot and killed them three in cold blood and had his family help to cover it up… any and everyone involved, that helped him in any way and didn’t call authorities, should be punished to the fullest extent for their part.”

This evening, the families of Nikki Metcalf, Margaret Moon, and Shelly Moon will be holding a candlelight vigil at 6:00 p.m. at the Bear River Rancheria marking the one-month anniversary of their deaths. 

Earlier Chapter

Categories: Crime

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