If Melissa Sanchez-Johnson didn’t learn until she reached Redding that her son was fleeing after murdering three people on the Bear River Rancheria, can she plead guilty in Humboldt County to being an accessory to his crime?

That was the dilemma today for Judge Kelly Neel, who said she’s not sure she can accept Sanchez-Johnson’s plea when the alleged crime occurred in Shasta County.

“I am not certain that this court has jurisdiction,” Neel told attorneys today. She said it’s possible Shasta County may have to “cede jurisdiction” before the case can be resolved here.

In February 2021 Sanchez-Johnson’s son, Mauricio Johnson, shot three people to death and then fled east with his mother’s boyfriend, Von Keener, in the car with him. Sanchez-Johnson followed them in a separate car, but says she didn’t realize until checking her cellphone at a Redding gas station that her 18-year-old son was wanted for murder.

She continued following him, however, and all three were arrested the following day in Utah.

Sanchez-Johnson was prepared to plead guilty this morning, but the plea was postponed until logistics can be sorted out. Keener also is expected to admit being an accessory, but his case is more complicated because he has a separate charge of failure to register as a sex offender.

Keener remains in jail, but Sanchez-Johnson is out of custody. Mauricio Johnson has already been sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Margarett Lee Moon, her fiance Nikki Dion Metcalf and her 16-year-old daughter, Shelly Moon.

Sanchez-Johnson is represented by attorney Kathleen Bryson and Von Keener by attorney Joe Judge. The prosecutor is Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, who was not at the hearing today because he is out of the office.

The next hearing is set for May 10.