71-Year-Old Arrested, Accused of Killing Ex-Wife in Nevada City

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NEVADA CITY -- Investigators arrested a 71-year-old man Tuesday on suspicion of murdering his estranged wife back in February.

The Nevada County Horsemen’s Club is a little slice of paradise for a small town filled with self-proclaimed horse people.

"Being a horse person and being honest and helpful she kept the friendship going," said Char Antuzzi.

So speculation that one of their lifelong members could have been murdered by the man she divorced 40 years ago had been the talk of the town long before his arrest.

"There were some problems and I believe that’s why she separated from him," Antuzzi said.

But not at the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

"But it was never a, 'He was a person of interest.' It was a, 'We cast the net wide,'" said Capt. Shannan Moon.

Michael Sturgell, 71 (Credit: Nevada County Sheriff's Office)

Tuesday morning, almost three months into the homicide investigation, detectives arrested 71-year-old Michael Kent Sturgell for the February murder of 67-year-old Pamela Tobiassen DeGrio, his ex-wife.

"We found that he had pawned a gun in the county of Butte," Capt. Moon said.

Moon said it was that stolen gun from an unrelated burglary that eventually helped link Sturgell to DeGrio’s murder. When detectives searched Sturgell’s home she says they found another gun, one that had been stolen from DeGrio’s Nevada City home during her murder.

"He just wasn’t the person for her and he just couldn’t let go, I guess," Antuzzi said.

For Antuzzi, the pain of losing DeGrio, her good friend, runs as deep as her family’s roots in her community.

Back in 1950, her grandfather, Sheriff Carl Tobiassen, turned the Nevada County Sheriff’s Posse into the Nevada County Horseman’s Club. Generations later, DeGrio ran the town rodeos, upholding her family’s values as long as she could.

"Be good to people and it comes back," Antuzzi said. "At least we thought it would. In Pam’s case, it didn’t.”

According to officials, a rifle and two shotguns taken in the burglary are still missing.

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