On Thursday, Sept. 26, a jury found the 38-year-old Reno man guilty of murder and seven other felonies stemming from a car chase that ended in a hail of bullets from Wallin-Reed’s AR-15 assault rifle.Gregory Chad Wallin-Reed will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for the July 2011 shooting death of Rory McGuire.
After hearing nearly a month of testimony, the jury (10 women and two men) took just three hours to find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder.
The verdict indicated that the jurors didn’t believe Wallin-Reed’s claim that someone in McGuire’s car shot at him during a 7.6-mile car chase on the night of July 2, 2011. The chase began at the defendant’s cabin along the Janesville Grade.
Wallin-Reed chased the six Susanville men — all aged 19 to 20 at the time — after he caught them stealing solar lights from his driveway.
Wallin-Reed started by firing one AR-15 shot from the deck of his cabin. He used a handgun during the first part of the chase and switched back to the assault rifle when McGuire turned around on a dirt road and tried to escape in the opposite direction.
As the car passed Wallin-Reed, he fired nine rounds from the AR-15 from about 50 feet away. One of the shots hit McGuire in the head. Two passengers were shot in the leg.
McGuire died two days later.
Wallin-Reed showed no emotion as the court clerk read the verdict in a hushed courtroom, which included family and friends of both McGuire and Wallin-Reed.
Wallin-Reed is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 21. Because of enhancements for using a firearm and causing great bodily injury, he faces a minimum sentence of 50 years to life.
When Superior Court Judge Ira Kaufman read the instructions to the jurors, they were given the option of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or not guilty.
The jury chose murder in the first degree.
They also found Wallin-Reed guilty of shooting at an inhabited vehicle, five counts of assault with a firearm and possession of an assault weapon.
McGuire’s parents, Carol Starzer and Dave McGuire, were in the courtroom every day of the trial, which began Sept. 3.
Starzer wept as the court clerk read the jury’s decision.
In an interview the day after the verdict was announced, Starzer said the verdict was “bittersweet.”
“I feel like justice was served,” Starzer said. “The person who did this to these boys will be paying the price until the day he dies — probably even after.
“I hope the five boys who went through this can get whatever help and assistance they need so that it doesn’t come back on them in the future. Something like this never goes away completely.”
Starzer talked extensively about the support she and her family received from District Attorney David Hollister. She said she was “absolutely amazed” by the amount of time and attention he devoted to her family.
“David Hollister is one notch down from God as far as I’m concerned,” Starzer said. “He has just been so good, so kind. And he always kept us informed. Even if the verdict hadn’t turned out the way it did, he left no stone unturned. We never left the courtroom feeling like things were going bad. We were all amazed.”
Hollister, who spent two years preparing for the trial and said he lost 12 pounds during the trial itself, said he was relieved.
“The whole thing was just very much a tragedy; there’s no way around that,” Hollister said. “The fact that we were able to bring some level of justice to the family of that 20-year-old who died means a great deal to me.”
Hollister faced a tag-team defense by Reno attorneys John Ohlson and Richard Young. The prosecution called more than two dozen witnesses over three weeks, while the defense called just four witnesses over a day.
“There were a great many people who felt that this would end up in an acquittal,” Hollister said. “I firmly believed from the very start, without equivocation, that the defendant committed the crime of murder when he did what he did.”
The prosecution’s witnesses — which included deputies, detectives, forensics experts and two of the men who were in the fleeing car — underwent tenacious cross-examination throughout the trial. But, ultimately, the defense failed to prove the men in McGuire’s car had a gun.
“I think (the defense attorneys) are decent guys and good attorneys and they did the best with what they had,” Hollister said.
Ohlson and Young appeared subdued as they left the courtroom where their handcuffed client stood surrounded by sheriff’s deputies.
“We’re disappointed in the verdict, obviously,” Young said softly.
When asked if they intended to file an appeal, Young said, “We are considering an appeal. We are considering a motion for a retrial. But we don’t know yet.”
The district attorney said the Wallin-Reed case brought out the best in Plumas County’s criminal justice system. He said he was thankful and proud.
“Very much so,” he said. “I am exceptionally proud of the outstanding work of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, particularly the detectives division for their work in investigating the case and working it through to a just end.”
Hollister said he was also proud of his staff in prosecuting the case and the way the case was handled through the court process.
“Judge Kaufman and his staff were fair and professional and provided the forum necessary for a fair trial.
“This was an important case for our office and the community in another way,” Hollister said. “I firmly believe it is essential to a good DA’s office and a just community that we are able to try difficult cases and try them effectively. Since I took office, that is a tenet I wanted to firmly establish. I believe this result does a great deal in achieving that goal.”