Judge's ruling narrows chance of inquest in 1997 death

A woman seeking a probe into the 1997 death of a 16-year-old girl vowed Wednesday to recall District Attorney Noel Waters.

"I'm just going to recall Waters. That's the best use of my time," said Karen Perdue, whose effort to seek an inquest into the death of Natasha Jennings was denied by a visiting judge on Tuesday.

Perdue promises that within the next couple of weeks she will make the first attempts to circulate a petition for a recall election for Waters. "It's not going to be a try, it's going to be a do," she said.

Waters ran unopposed in the1998 election. He wasn't available Wednesday for comment.

In order to begin the recall process, at least three registered voters who cast ballots in the last election must file a notice with the Carson City clerk. According to Nevada Revised Statutes, petitioners would then have 60 days to collect signatures representing 25 percent of the voters who voted in the last election.

The judge's ruling this week represents another setback in Perdue's effort to force a probe into the death of the 16-year-old girl.

Perdue was told by fill-in District Court Judge Mario G. Reconzone that Waters did not overstep his discretionary powers by not calling for the inquest.

Jennings was on vacation from California and staying in her father's apartment when she died on July 1, 1997.

A coroner's report and evaluation of the scene could not determine the cause of death, which has remained a mystery.

Perdue said she took an interest in the case when she learned of information that might suggest foul play. She said rumors the girl was raped just days before her death should have caught the attention of law enforcement officials.

The next step for Perdue is to make a plea to both Carson City district court judges to force Waters to call an inquest, a process that is similar to a grand jury. During an inquest, a panel of citizens looks at evidence and decides if there is enough suspicion to necessitate an investigation.

"The judge ruled that we failed to show that the DA made a bad decision," she said about Tuesday's decision. "My feeling is that there is information that the district attorney may not be aware of. You don't know until you look."

About requesting action from the district judges, Perdue said she is not holding her breath.

"I just wanted to show that there are things that we cannot figure out," she said.

She was part of a failed bid last year to petition a grand jury. The results of that bid were not valid because Tammy Stelton, mother of Jennings, is not Nevada taxpayer. Stelton lives in Northern California.

Earlier this year, Perdue also filed and then dropped a civil-rights lawsuit against several officials who work at the Carson City Courthouse. She claimed that she was unlawfully asked to leave the courthouse while she was protesting outside. Bailiffs at the courthouse have said that she was asked to move to avoid her interference with jury members involved in a trial.

Waters has conceded that the circumstances surrounding Jennings's death were mysterious, but he has said that mystery doesn't necessarily create suspicion of foul play.


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