FERNLEY, Nev. (AP) — A judge in rural Nevada decided Friday that a man accused of kidnapping and killing an 18-year-old woman last month will remain in jail without bail ahead of another court date on murder and other charges.
Irion’s body was found March 30 in a remote, high-desert grave in neighboring Churchill County. Prosecutors say Driver, a mining services worker living in Fallon, abducted Irion in her car from a Walmart parking lot in Fernley, fatally shot her and buried her body.
Richard Davies, a Reno lawyer appointed as Driver’s public defender, said Driver maintains his innocence but did not object to remaining in jail while Davies reviews evidence collected by authorities and conducts his own investigation.
The defense attorney hinted that he may seek a change-of-venue for the case based on the intense interest it has drawn in the small town of about 20,000 residents a 30-minute drive east of Reno.
“Certainly this is a terrible tragedy which has caused a ripple effect throughout the community, so that may affect the potential jury pool down the road,” Davies told reporters outside court.
“Right now, everybody is jumping to conclusions,” he said. “But I want to urge everybody to be patient. Right now, there is very little evidence, very little information.”
Driver also faces multiple kidnapping and destruction of evidence charges. He could be indicted or face a preliminary hearing of evidence in a Fernley court to determine whether there is enough evidence for trial in state court.
Justice of the Peace Lori Matheus set his next court date for May 10.
Irion lived in Fernley with her brother, Casey Valley. He led the search for his sister after she left home before dawn March 12 to catch a bus from the Walmart parking lot to work at a Panasonic plant.
Valley alerted sheriff’s deputies that Irions was missing, spoke with the media and for more than two weeks organized multiple search parties in remote high desert areas.
He told reporters Friday that it was a relief that Driver would not be released from jail and said Irion’s parents and siblings were trying to cope with her death.
“Every day we’re trying to make sure we do whatever we need to do to make sure Naomi gets justice,” Valley said. “Naomi is not suffering. We need to take whatever peace we can get from that.”
Fernley is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Reno. Fallon is about 28 miles (45 kilometers) east of Fernley.
Associated Press reporter Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.