Eighteen days ago, in the pre-dawn dark of Western Nevada, 18-year-old Naomi Irion was waiting in the Fernley Walmart parking lot for the employee bus that took her to her job at the Panasonic facility. As she sat in her car passing the time, records indicate she was on social media and checked in on Snapchat.
At 5:25 a.m. surveillance footage captured a masked man approaching Irion’s car. He wore a hooded sweatshirt and approached her car from behind. It is unknown what was said, but Irion moved from the driver’s seat and the hooded man got into the car with her and drove away. Irion has not been seen since.
Lyon’s County Sheriff’s Office announced last Friday a 41-year-old man named Troy Driver was identified as the man surveillance footage had captured before she disappeared. Driver was arrested on the charges of kidnapping, though little is known as to what evidence investigators had collected tying him to her disappearance.
Troy Driver has quickly become known by true-crime aficionados as the disappearance of Naomi Irion becomes the crime story of 2022.
In the bizarre way that so many things seem to return to Mendocino County, the main suspect in the disappearance of Naomi Irion, the last person she was seen with before she disappeared eighteen days ago, Troy Driver cut his criminal teeth in none other than Mendocino County.
In mid-April 1997, Driver and accomplices would wield a semi-automatic handgun and a pistol-grip shotgun on three separate occasions, committing three armed robberies between Mendocino and Sonoma County.
On April 22, 1997, Driver and three others would carefully manufacture the circumstances that led to the shotgun murder of another teen. Driver and another would stuff the body in the trunk of the victim’s car, dump the corpse off of Highway 128 east of Navarro, and then torched the car to get rid of evidence on Branscomb Road.
News outlets around the nation are beginning to connect Driver with these crimes from twenty-five years ago. We want to tell the whole story.
A thorough examination of the Ukiah Daily Journal’s coverage of the crimes, penned by reporter Dan McKee, provides a comprehensive account of Driver’s role in the murder of a methamphetamine dealer and insight into his criminality. We speak with a Mendocino County lawman who investigated the crime himself. Ultimately, we seek to understand the violent origins of a man the world is coming to know, but Mendocino County knows all too well.
On May 4 and May 6, 1997, the Ukiah Daily Journal published similar, small blurbs regarding a missing 19-year-old man by the name of Paul Steven Rodriguez. He had last been seen on April 21 driving his 1986 Mercury Cougar around Willits. Rodriguez, standing 5’ 8’’, weighing 270 pounds, and adorned with blonde hair and blue eyes, was dressed in the classic wear of late 90s urban cool: black t-shirt and sweats, black tennis shoes, a beige baseball cap with a Fila logo, a silver ring with four diamonds, and a black wallet attached to him with a chain. The public was asked to contact Willits Police Department if they had any information to provide.
On May 7, Rodriguez was found by Search and Rescue personnel buried in a shallow grave along Highway 128 two miles east of Navarro. Ukiah Daily Journal writer Dan McKee (who would write the paper’s entire coverage of the crime), wrote that Rodriguez had been shot in the head and brought back to Ukiah for positive identification and an autopsy.
No details were provided, but Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Kevin Broin told McKee that at that point several suspects were in custody and more arrests were imminent.
Initial Details of the Killing Emerge
On May 8, 2021, the Ukiah Daily Journal published another article by Dan McKee entitled “More details released on Willits murder”.
Paul Rodriguez, found buried in a shallow grave off Highway 128 two days before, was located by Search and Rescue personnel. Law enforcement was led to the scene by 19-year-old Carl Dulinsky, one of three teens involved in the midnight murder along Willits’s Schaefer Ranch Road sixteen days prior.
Law enforcement told the Ukiah Daily Journal that Rodriguez was lured by his 17-year-old girlfriend to a secluded spot on the rural road where they were met by Dulinsky and a then-unnamed 17-year-old male.
MCSO Sergeant Kevin Broin said the girl “allegedly shot Rodriguez in the head, then the three stuffed the corpse into the trunk of Rodriguez’s Mercury Cougar and drove south, dumping the body off the side of the road about 3 miles east of Navarro.
Sergeant Broin reported an informant had divulged the murder plot to police, and there was evidence “the trio planned to kill Rodriguez before he was lured to Shaefer Ranch Road.”
As of May 8, 1997, Rodriguez’s maroon Mercury Cougar had not been located and the two unnamed parties arrested for the crime were booked into juvenile hall.
A Girlfriend Shoots Her Older Boyfriend
Carl Dulinsky stood in front of Judge Jonathan Lehan at the Willits Municipal court on May 9, 1997. He was accused of providing a teenage girl with the shotgun she would then use to kill her boyfriend, Paul Rodriguez.
17-year-old Alissa Marie Moore used the shotgun to shoot Rodriguez in the head inside a home owned by the parents of 17-year-old Troy Driver, located on the isolated Schaefer Ranch Road south of Willits.
A prosecutor for the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office filed a petition that both Driver and Moore be tried as adults in the case in which they both faced charges of murder while lying in wait. If approved, the teens could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Carl Dulinsky’s attorney delayed his client’s entering of a plea because, at that point, he knew nothing of the case “except what he’d read in area newspapers.” The plea hearing was postponed till May 15, 1997.
A mere two days after discovering the body of Rodriguez, investigators were still working to determine the motive in his killing. After shooting him in the head, Dulinksy, Driver, and Moore “dragged the 270-pound man to his car and drove 55 miles before dumping the body off the roadway near Navarro.”
Despite questioning and videotaped statements from all the suspects, Sergeant Broil told the Ukiah Daily Journal “I don’t think there’s any clear-cut evidence of a motive.”
Cigarettes and Cash: Dulinsky and Driver Tied to Three Armed Robberies
Carl Dulinksy and Troy Driver, behind bars for their suspected role in the murder of 19-year-old Paul Rodriguez, were charged on May 14, 1997, for three separate armed robberies in Ukiah, Willits, and Sonoma County’s Rohnert Park in the days preceding Roridguez’s killing.
17-year-old Alissa Marie Moore, the girlfriend of Rodriguez who pulled the trigger of a shotgun ending her boyfriends’ life, reportedly implicated Dulinsky, Driver, and one other adult woman who acted as the getaway driver in the robberies.
On April 4, 1997, Driver and Dulinsky reportedly robbed the Ukiah Circle K on East Perkins Street at 2:30 in the morning armed with a semi-automatic pistol and a pistol-grip shotgun.
Ten days later, the pair would use the same weapons to rob Chevron service stations located in Willits and Rohnert Park during the early morning hours of April 14th.
In all three robberies, Driver and Dulinsky stole small amounts of cash and cigarettes, Ukiah Police Department Sergeant Dan Walker told the Ukiah Daily Journal.
On Tuesday, May 13, 1997, investigators had finally located Rodriguez’s burned-out maroon Mercury Cougar on rural Branscomb Road 25 miles north of Willits.
Dulinsky was being housed in the Lake County Jail for “security reasons”, according to Sergeant Walker.
At this point, Driver, Dulinsky, and Moore had been charged with first-degree murder in Rodriguez’s death.
“Shithouse Carl”, the Hells Angels, and Quadruple Murder East of Fort Bragg
The Ukiah Daily Journal article also shed light on Dulinsky’s father, known in Hells Angel circles as “Shithouse Carl” Dulinsky. “Shithouse Carl”, a nickname he was given for running a portapotty business, would actually act as an informant for the government when investigating the 1986 quadruple murder committed by Hells Angels Gerald Lester and Charles Diaz.
In October 1986, Lester and Diaz would kill a family of four in a cabin east of Fort Bragg. The patriarch was Billy Grondalski, a former Hells Angel, who was shot in the mouth. His wife Patricia would be shot in the forehead, and 17-year-old Nolan Vandagriff, Grondalsky’s son from a different marriage, would be shot below the left eye. Billy and Patricia’s daughter Dallas would be shot and have her throat slit. The killers would torch the cabin hoping to cover up their crimes
The Story Comes Out— A Fourth Suspect is Sought
On May 16, 1997, the Ukiah Daily Journal provided the public with the most detailed account of the night Rodriguez was killed and the murder plot cooked up by Driver, Dulinsky, and Moore.
The article also announced that Troy Driver’s older sister, 19-year-old Sharla Driver, was actively being sought for her suspected involvement in the slaying of Paul Rodriguez. She was thought to be in Italy living with her serviceman husband.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office told the Ukiah Daily Journal Sharla Driver was present when her 17-year-old brother Troy and 19-year-old Carl Dulinsky “agreed to help Alissa Marie Moore, 17, kill Rodriguez during a drive to Ukiah just hours before the killing.”
Via information gathered from a series of affidavits, the Ukiah Daily Journal stated the plot to kill Rodriguez began when Driver and Dulinsky told Moore they would help her kill her boyfriend at the Driver’s Schaefer Ranch Road home in the early morning of April 21.
To lure Rodriguez to the home, 17-year-old Moore would tell him Troy Driver’s mother had a car break down on the 75-yard dirt driveway leading to his house.
The plan was, according to taped interviews of Dulinsky, either he or Driver would kill Rodriguez once he had arrived.
Troy and Sharla Driver proceeded to drive their 1983 Dodge Aries down the dirt driveway, parking near a horse trailer, where Driver and Dulinsky stored the shotgun. To create the ruse the vehicle was disabled, Driver and Dulinsky raised the hood of the Dodge Aries, pulled an engine wire, and “waited for Rodriguez and Moore to arrive.”
When Moore and Rodriguez arrived, the couple got out of their car, and Rodriguez, there to help them diagnose the inoperable vehicle, positioned himself at the left front side of the Dodge Aries to look into the engine compartment.
Moore grabbed the shotgun stowed in the nearby horse trailer, and while her boyfriend was inspecting the engine, pointed it at his head and fired.
Rodriguez fell back and Moore reportedly “became excited.” Driver took the shotgun from Moore, handed it to Dulinsky who then placed it on the ground.
Driver walked with Moore away from Rodriguez’s dead body trying to calm the girl. She began “making declarations of love to the fallen body.” When the pair circled back to where Rodriguez’s body lay, Driver told Dulinsky to pick up the shotgun from the ground.
Troy Driver’s sister Sharla got behind the wheel of their Dodge Aries and drove it back to their house. Moore backed Rodriguez’s Mercury Cougar up to his body to load him into the truck. At 270-pounds, Rodriguez proved difficult to move so Driver and Dulinsky improvised a ramp using a metal partition used to separate the stall ins the horse trailer rolling Rodriguez’s body into the trunk. To get Rodriguez to fit in the trunk, Driver had to remove “a large speaker assembly from the Cougar’s trunk.”
As they rolled Rodriguez’s body up the improvised ramp, his shoes fell off and his wallet, as well as loose change, fell from his pockets. Driver picked up the shoes and threw them in the trunk and Moore picked up his wallet and the change placing them in her jacket.
Despite removing the speaker system, Rodriguez proved too big to fit in the trunk, so Driver used a four-foot-long metal fence post to “leverage the 270-pound man into the cramped space.”
At that point, Driver, Dulinksy, and Moore drove Highway 128 and dumped Rodriguez’s body about two miles east of Navarro.
Attorney Moves to Bar the Press from the Trial of Troy Driver
As the criminal case against the four accused of killing Rodriguez progressed, Troy Driver’s attorney filed a motion to bar the press from the juvenile court hearings regarding her client.
Jane Cole-Wilson, Driver’s defense attorney, argued press coverage could “endanger her client’s ability to receive a fair and impartial trial.”
She told the Ukiah Daily Journal that she regularly files motions to bar reporters from juvenile court hearings because “a lot of background information is brought to light during these kinds of hearings, information that normally would not be admissible during a trial if indeed my client is eventually tried as an adult.”
Cole-Wilson argued that background information could “severely impair and prejudice potential jurors in the case by providing them with the information they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Nearly two weeks later the Ukiah Daily Journal would publish an op-ed entitled “We will fight closed hearings for juveniles” where staff lines out why they believe the press should be allowed in juvenile criminal proceedings.
From the UDJ‘s perspective, the seriousness of Troy Driver’s crimes warranted the revocation of the privilege of anonymity usually granted to juvenile offenders.
Driver’s defense attorney voiced concerns the paper’s substantial readership in the small town of Ukiah would taint the jury pool. In response to this concern, the op-ed stated “While we like it that lots of people read our newspaper, there have been plenty of well-publicized trials in Ukiah that have been concluded fairly while under the scrutiny of the press.”
The concluding line of the op-ed cut to the heart of the UDJ‘s position: “We appreciate Cole-Wilson’s attempts to protect her client, but we will urge the court to turn her down.”
On July 15, 1997, the Ukiah Daily Journal would celebrate Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ron Brown’s decision in an op-ed that reporters would be allowed to cover the fitness hearing of Troy Driver, the hearing that would determine whether he be tried as an adult.
Judge Brown asked Driver’s attorney what sort of information could be revealed in the hearing that would compromise her client. She told the judge it was not her responsibility to provide that information upfront. Judge Brown disagreed saying, “You’re asking the court to rely on faith that probably is information in this that could affect your client.”
Without any specificity to her concerns, Judge Brown denied Cole-Wilsons motion, and the press was allowed to cover Driver’s fitness hearing.
The Gavel Comes Down
Justice in the murder of Paul Steven Rodriguez would come piecemeal and slow as each suspect approached the charges differently.
On July 4, 1997, the Ukiah Daily Journal would report that Dulinsky plead guilty to a single count of murder after the fact.
He also pled guilty to three counts of robbery, two counts of using a firearm during the commission of a robbery, and one count of commercial burglary. He admitted to his role in the robbery of the Chevron station in Willits and Rohnert Park and the Circle K in Ukiah. This specific article offered for the first time that Dulinksy also took part in a robbery of a Willits Coast-to-Coast hardware store in February 1997, to which he also pled guilty..
The negotiated settlement resulted in Dulinsky being sentenced to nine years and eight months in state prison. He agreed to waive his rights to appeal his conviction and also waived his right to refuse to testify in the trials of Moore and Driver.
At Dulinksy’s sentencing hearing, Mendocino County Prosecutor Julie Werbel described him as “a highly intelligent young man and a very weak one.” She described how he had won a college scholarship and then “blew it”, later enlisting in the Navy with a “less than honorable discharge.”
His defense attorney reminded the court that the case was solved due to the cooperation of Dulinsky. Ultimately, he was sentenced to nine years and eights months in prison.
As per a Ukiah Daily Journal article, on July 21 Alissa Marie Moore rejected a plea deal at the last minute when she realized that it would have resulted in her being sent to prison for 16 years, opting to take her chances in front of a jury instead.
Moore reportedly was seen laughing and joking with her Public Defender Jeffrey Thoma prior to the plea deal hearing. The hearing had been set to change her earlier “not guilty” but when she learned she would be sent to state prison instead of the California Youth Authority, she changed her mind and chose to take the case to court.
On August 26, 1997, the Ukiah Daily Journal published an article announcing that Moore, despite her initial trepidation, pled guilty to second-degree murder for her role in the death of Rodriguez. Her plea deal would result in a fifteen-year prison sentence and be eligible for parole after serving twelve years and nine months of the sentence.
Troy Driver was 17-years-old when he pled guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact, according to a UDJ article from August 31, 1997. He would also plead guilty to his role in the armed robbery of the Ukiah, Willits, and Rohnert Park Gas Stations as well as the Coast-to-Coast Hardware store in Willits. The plea agreement resulted in Driver agreeing to serve fifteen years in state prison for his role in the death.
At Driver’s sentencing hearing, Driver’s probation officer Thomas J. Cropp told Judge Brown he was concerned that Driver “might not thrive in prison.” He added that if the 17-year-old was not jailed, he “could be a danger to his community”
The final suspect in Rodriguez’s death, Troy Driver’s sister Sharla, fled the country immediately after Rodriguez’s murder. She sought refuge in Italy where her serviceman husband lived.
Approximately one month after the murder, Italian authorities at the behest of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation located Sharla Driver and from June 1997 to February 1998 she was imprisoned in an Italian jail.
On February 10, 1998, the Ukiah Daily Journal reported Sharla Driver was in Mendocino County to face justice for her role in the murder of Rodriguez and the armed robberies. She would plead guilty to being an accessory to the murder and two counts of second-degree robbery for driving the getaway car for her brother and Dulinsky.
Sharla Driver’s punishment would be the lightest of the four involved, sentenced to two years in the Mendocino County jail and placed on formal probation for her role in the killing of Rodriguez.
She told the police that as she watched the ruse designed by Moore to kill Rodriguez playout, she “didn’t believe it was going to happen.”
She admitted that the two years before the murder she had spun into methamphetamine addiction, and while in the Italian jail she had attempted suicide several times and burned herself with cigarettes.
Judge Nelson ordered that Sharla Driver, along with the jail time and the probation, be ordered for evaluation for placement into an in-house drug rehabilitation program. If accepted, she would serve her time there.
“All the Right Answers”— A Parole Officer Notices Driver’s Proclivities Towards Recidivism
The August 26 article in the UDJ regarding Driver’s sentencing hearing brought forth information about his past not mentioned in previous coverage of the murder. Readers learned that Driver’s criminal record stretched back five years before the killing. In 1992, he was sentenced to community service for shooting a deer out of season. In 1994, as a 14-year-old, he was sentenced to formal probation for residential break-ins with several firearms taken and the burglary of the Quality Firearms store on Orr Springs Road. Ten months after being caught burglarizing, he was removed from his parent’s home and lodged at the Shasta Youth Connection facility because he pointed a pistol at another youth “while demanding information.”
Deputy Probation Officer Thomas J. Cropp offered insightful observations about Driver’s perceptions of his criminality that would give a glimpse into a moral landscape geared toward a life of criminal behavior. When asked why he had robbed the gas stations, he told Cropp he needed money to pay bills and help his sister get a passport to Italy to be with her serviceman husband. Driver told Cropp that “It was easier to rob someone than to work and earn the money.”
Cropp ascertained that Driver had begun smoking marijuana at age fifteen describing himself as a “heavy-duty, daily user” and telling the probation officer he took a hit of marijuana “about every five minutes for the past two years.” Driver also divulged that he had been ” drinking heavily every day” before the killing of Rodriguez.”
Cropp observed that Driver was “quite the charmer” who seemed to answer every question “with all the right answers.” Despite his surface charm, juvenile hall records indicated Driver was written up for multiple infractions while in custody like threatening staff members, refusing to follow directions, and causing “numerous problems during transport to and from the court.”
While in juvenile hall, Cropp also said that Driver had faked a suicide attempt.
After spending a considerable amount of time interviewing Driver, Cropp said, “I also believe Mr. Driver was more involved in this case than we are led to believe.”
‘Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned‘
It would be many months after Paul Rodriguez’s murder that the totality of the truth would emerge, pieced together through affidavits and the testimony of investigators. Only then could investigators get a clear picture of the dynamics that would inspire a teen girl to meticulously plan the killing of her older boyfriend and recruit others in her efforts.
Before Driver and Dulinsky robbed the Circle K, Driver told his probation officer that Dulinksy “kept talking about wanting to kill someone.” To avoid the possibility that Dulinksy would become murderous, Driver told his probation officer he gave Dulinsky a pistol with a reversed firing pin.
The pair would steal a total of $78 during that robbery.
The next robberies occurred on the same day in Willits and Rohnert Park and Driver and Dulinsky would be accompanied by a Robert Colyer and Sharla Driver, Troy’s sister, and another youth would remain in the care. The two robberies would net $170 and twenty packs of cigarettes. The robbery crew then drove to Sharla Driver’s home and split the money five ways.
Colyer later admitted to police that he was Driver and Dulinsky’s lookout while they burglarized the Willits Coast-to-Coast hardware store in the early morning of February 20. Driver threw a rock through one of the windows to gain entry and the trio fled with several guns, which they took to the home of Alissa Moore.
Paul Rodriguez’s brother Michael would reveal to Willits Police that the guns stolen from the hardware store that night were later sold to Paul in exchange for drugs, including methamphetamine. Driver corroborated this information telling Officer Cropp that Rodriguez was a “well-known drug dealer who had guns.”
Sharla Driver would later tell law enforcement that Paul Rodriguez and Alissa Moore’s relationship had resulted in multiple occasions of domestic abuse. This angered Troy Driver due to a big brother-little sister dynamic he had with Moore. At one point, Moore showed Driver bruises inflicted by Rodriguez and he proposed she move into his home so he could protect her.
Six days after the robbery crew had knocked off the Chevron gas stations in Willits and Rohnert Park, Moore drove Rodriguez’s Mercury Cougar to Ukiah with Driver, Dulinsky, and Sharla.
As they drove back to Willits, Moore reportedly complained she was “tired of the way Paul was treating her.” She asked Driver and Dulinsky to kill Rodriguez for her. Driver told probation that this was not the first time she had talked about killing Rodriguez but always regarded her sentiments as just a threat. This time, Moore had a plan.
She laid out her ruse to Driver and Dulinsky. She would lure Rodriguez onto the rural road near Driver’s house with the potential of a drug deal, and then upon arrival, there would be a vehicle purposefully disabled. She planned on killing him when he was hunched over attempting to fix the car. Moore dropped Driver and Dulinksy off and the two reportedly discussed her proposal but did not want to go through with it. Driver would later get the pistol-grip shotgun from his house and place it in a horse trailer near the driveway.
The two young men would later see Moore in Willits and tell her they could not go through with the plan and she responded told them “it was okay and she would do it herself.”
A Mendocino County Law Man Remembers Troy Driver
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall was working within MCSO’s Narcotics Task Force. As drugs began to intersect with violence, the task force was reimagined as the Major Crimes Task Force investigating both narcotics and any crime that resulted from their sales or manufacturing.
Sheriff Kendall remembered the Willits drug scene. He remembered Paul Rodriguez, who he called “Fat Paul”. He remembers the crew he ran with, the weapons, and the methamphetamine.
Sheriff Kendall remembers the drive out Highway 128, two miles east of Navarro. He remembers recovering Rodriguez’s body underneath brush from the roadside.
He called the killing of Rodriguez a “thrill-kill”, done out of Moore’s desire to show that she could. He remembers the senselessness of the young man’s death.
Sheriff Kendall surmised that Troy Driver saw his prison time as “transactional”. He said prison has become “part of doing business. You do the crime, you get out. There’s no more penance”
“California is the land of second chances,” Sheriff Kendall said. “But, when there is nothing in place to make sure these guys take responsibility for their actions, their second chances become second chances to victimize.”
Where Are They Now?
We do not know what happened to Sharla Driver after her jail sentence and probation. She could still be alive, healthy, and healed. She could be dead.
We know Alissa Moore was in state prison up to 2013 and beyond because of press coverage that indicated she was up for parole and then denied. No coverage since states she was released but multiple databases associated with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation do not list her as a current inmate. It stands to reason she is out of prison based on her time served.
Carl Dulinksy is now a born-again Christian. He points towards his role in the murder of Rodriguez to his conversion to Christianity. This article by the Christian Broadcast Network tells his story. He is reportedly also a Human Resources Manager for a rehabilitation clinic in Alaska.
And finally, Troy Driver. He now sits in a Nevada County Jail, and today at 11:45 a.m. PST the world can tune in via this Zoom link and watch a local magistrate consider his bail.
Lyon County Sheriff’s Department and multiple other agencies are desperately looking for any sign of 18-year-old Naomi Irion, the young woman last seen on surveillance footage being pushed into the passenger seat and allegedly driven away by Troy Driver, a man who has been robbing, stealing, and victimizing since his adolescence.
As the world waits for answers, Sheriff Kendall looks back at his time investigating Driver’s crimes: “There is no litmus that tells us whether someone is going to stay evil.”
It must be stated that the kidnapping charges Troy Driver currently faces associated with the disappearance of Naomi Irion have not been proven in a court of law. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, Driver should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.naomi-christine-irion-1