Three defendants in a fatal hash-lab explosion in Rio Dell were sentenced today to several years of supervised probation.
Judge John Feeney imposed the sentences this morning on David and Tamara Paul, who rented their garage to three men using it as a hash-oil lab; and Arron Mohr, one of the three hash-oil makers who were severely burned when the butane-fueled lab exploded in November 2016. Mohr’s lifelong friend Xavier Paul Renner, 21, died in a hospital a few weeks later. A third suspect escaped and remains a fugitive.
The Pauls and Mohr were originally charged with murder.
Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada asked Feeney today to impose prison sentences on Mohr, who admitted voluntary manslaughter, and Tamara Paul, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, drug charges and child endangerment.
Instead Feeney sentenced Mohr to five years of supervised probation and 500 hours of community service and the Pauls to four years of supervised probation.
Several members of Renner’s family were in court this morning to support Mohr, including the aunt who raised Renner.
“Arron Mohr is not responsible for Xavier’s death,” Veronica Beaumont told the judge. “Xavier is responsible for his own death. He chose the wrong path.”
Beaumont said her nephew came from a good family that always provided him with everything. He moved to Humboldt County because “he wanted to take care of himself because he was relying on us too much…. he just picked the wrong career.”
Beaumont also pointed out that on the night of the explosion, Renner was alert and speaking with rescue workers.
“He was well on his way to recovery,” she said. What ultimately killed him, Beaumont said, was an infection and mistakes made at the hospital. Renner was being treated at a burn center out of the area when he died.
Kamada asked the judge to sentence Mohr to prison, if only to send a message to the community about the consequences of operating hash labs.
“One of the purposes of a sentence is deterrence,” Kamada said. He said a video of the incident “looks like you’re in the middle of a war zone.”
Neighbors were traumatized, he said, as were first-responders who had to enter the blazing structure “and save Mr. Mohr’s life at great peril.”
Defense attorney Ben Okin said Mohr, 24, was just 22 when the crime occurred. He has only one prior conviction (a “wet reckless” four years ago), and successfully completed probation.
Okin said the men involved came from good families and had positive goals in life.
“All three of them just got a little sidetracked,” he said.
Okin also noted hash-oil labs “are going to be legal in the coming year.” Kamada agreed, but said the labs will be in regulated industrial zones, not in residential neighborhoods.
Mohr was ordered released today from jail, where he has spent the last six months.
Unlike its recommendation for Mohr, the Probation Department wanted a four-year prison term for 33-year-old Tamara Paul, who has two prior felony convictions. Her attorney, Larry Killoran, said both crimes occurred when Tamara Paul was 20 years old and in a “low period of her life.” She was first arrested for stealing a gun from her father, then for possession of drugs for sale. Killoran said she successfully completed probation and drug rehabilitation.
Killoran also referred to a letter from a family member of Renner’s, who stated “as for the homeowners, it’s difficult to request a harsh disposition while asking for leniency (for Mohr).”
Kamada, arguing for the prison term, said Tamara Paul not only knew what was going on in her garage, she participated in the operation.
“She was involved in getting the marijuana trim that was necessary,” the prosecutor said, “and in selling the oil that was produced.”
During that time, Kamada said, the Pauls had a 5-year-old child in their home.
“I don’t see how this is an unusual circumstance at all,” he told the judge.
But Feeney ultimately decided hers was an unusual case, noting that the previous felony convictions are 13 years old. The judge didn’t mention her children, but she has not only a young daughter but an 11-month-old baby at home.
Kamada agreed with the outcome in 38-year-old David Paul’s case, noting he was working as a truck driver and wasn’t always home.
“He wasn’t there on a day-to-day basis to know what was happening in that garage,” he said.
David Paul pleaded guilty to a drug charge and child endangerment.
Both David and Tamara Paul, as part of their four years of probation, must enroll in a child-abuse prevention program for at least a year. David Paul is already out of jail and back to work. His wife, however, must remain behind bars until the Probation Department comes up with terms and conditions for her probation. She is expected back in court on April 18.
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