Protest over girl's death continues

Holding a sign that read "Stop City Corruption" in one hand and a picture of Sadie Natasha Jennings in the other, Karen Perdue stood Friday in front of Carson City Hall in a one-woman protest.

"If city officials would quit lying long enough to do their jobs, we could find out what happened to Natasha," Perdue said. "It's no accident I'm standing outside the mayor's office. It's ridiculous to me what the effort has been to get answers to what happened. I wish as much effort would be put into helping us instead of fighting us. Then we could get something done."

Jennings, 16, of Brea, Calif., was found dead in her father's Carson City apartment July 8, 1997. Carson City sheriff's detectives and the district attorney's office investigated the death. A cause of death was never determined and authorities have said there was no evidence of foul play.

Perdue, of Carson City, is a friend of Jennings' mother, Tammy Stelton, of Manteca, Calif. Perdue and Stelton say city officials won't give them answers about what really happened to Jennings.

Perdue's protest comes two days after the Nevada Supreme Court rejected Stelton's petition to form a grand jury to investigate Jennings' death.

The State Supreme Court ruling upheld a Sept. 2 decision by Carson City District Court judges Michael Griffin and Michael Fondi. The judges denied Stelton's petition to form a grand jury saying the petition was flawed and a grand jury would be too expensive.

Perdue believes the city has the money to pay for a grand jury, but city officials won't do anything about it. She said she has written letters to city supervisors and the mayor asking for help that resulted in a letter from the mayor saying he couldn't help.

"They could come up with the money, they're just not going it," Perdue said. "They say there's no money in the budget, but it's their job to find the money.

"The message they're sending is that if you're murdered here, don't count on local officials to find out what happened to you. In absence of a good police investigation, we'll never have an answer."

Mayor Ray Masayko said he responded on behalf of the board of supervisors saying convening a grand jury was not a decision supervisors could make. Masayko said because both District Attorney Noel Waters and Sheriff Rod Banister were elected officials, supervisors had no control over their actions.

"The sheriff and district attorney don't come over here and tell supervisors what to do," Masayko said. "I have to trust that the voters of Carson City elected the best people to those offices."

A grand jury can be formed only by a judge or by a voter petition. Masayko said the city didn't budget for a grand jury and has not received a request to budget for one in Jennings' case.

"Even if we were completely sympathetic, we still couldn't do anything," Masayko said. "We can't of our own volition call a grand jury and we don't interpret ordinances and law. That's the system of check's and balances. All we can do is listen. We have no authority to solve the problem."

Stelton said regardless of the city and state's position on the issue, she will not stop until she finds out what happened to her daughter.

"I'm just a mother of a daughter they found dead," Stelton said. "What is so hard about them giving me the answers I need? If it were one of them, they'd want answers, too."


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