Alderpoint murder suspect tells cops he shot a man in the head to save his pup, investigator testifies | Lost Coast Outpost
Murder suspect Jake Henry Combs has freely admitted to shooting Trevor Earley in the head, saying Earley threatened to kill his dog after the pup bit him in the face.
“He wasn’t going to let Mr. Earley kill his dog, so he shot him,” Sheriff’s Investigator Brandon Head said this morning at Combs’ preliminary hearing.
After the brief hearing, visiting judge Marjorie Lord Carter held Combs, 29, to face a murder charge. His arraignment and eventual trial are scheduled for June 2. He is also accused of personally discharging a firearm, a Glock 9mm pistol.
The courtroom was almost packed with friends and family of Earley. Many wore shirts bearing his photograph.
The evidence presented today by Assistant District Attorneys Shelly Small and Jessica Acosta was pretty straightforward: An eyewitness told law enforcement that Combs put a gun to Earley’s head and pulled the trigger, and Combs fully confessed to Investigator Head on January 6, the day of the murder.
The shooting happened early in the morning at the home of Elias Antunez in Alderpoint, who said he was face to face with Earley, chatting on an outdoor patio, when Combs approached and shot him above. The bullet entered above Earley’s left eye and exited below his right ear.
Deputy Coroner Chad Zeck, who is also testifying today, said the bullet hole was a ‘contact wound’, with burn marks around it.
According to Head’s testimony, Combs, Earley, Antunez and Earley’s best friend Zeb Humphrey had been drinking since early afternoon. Around 7 p.m., they arrived at a bar in Garberville and spent two or three hours there. They set off together in Earley’s Toyota Tacoma and drove to Antunez’s on Sixth Street in Alderpoint.
The four got along well. But minutes after arriving in Alderpoint, Combs’ Cane Corso puppy bit Earley near his right eye, drawing blood. According to Combs, Earley said he was going to kill the dog. No one saw Earley with a gun. His pistol was later found in his truck outside.
After Earley was shot, Combs, along with his dog and Antunez, drove off in Combs’ Ford SUV. Humphrey had left the house earlier and was not there when Earley was killed. He came back to find his best friend dead on the terrace.
Antunez went with Combs because “he was concerned about what Mr. Combs might do to him,” Head said during questioning by Small.
“He was scared.”
At some point on Highway 36, Combs lost control of the SUV and it crashed. Combs told Head that he had looked for the gun after the wreckage and had not found it.
“He said he was going to throw it in the river if he found it,” Head said. He said Combs told him he was considering going to his brother’s house in Chico or Mexico, but realized it was “an unlikely or unworkable situation.”
After the accident, the two men walked in the dark for about an hour, until they came across a house with lights on. Antunez asked Combs if they could part ways, and Combs agreed. Antunez went to the house and told the locals what had happened that morning.
Combs, when talking to Head, called Earley “this guy who came to my house like we were friends. My dog bit this person. This person said they were going to have to kill my dog, so I went upstairs and shot this person in the head.
At the end of the hearing, Small maintained that Combs had a clear intent to kill, as well as a consciousness of guilt. McLaughlin did not object to Combs responding, saying he believed Combs had been candid with law enforcement.
“I think Mr. Combs was candid,” McLaughlin said, adding that this case will focus more on the circumstances just before the murder.
Tests showed Earley, 25, had a blood alcohol level of 0.24 when he died. That’s three times the legal limit for driving. No drugs were found in his system.
Cane Corso is an Italian mastiff breed. No mention was made today of the size of the dog, although Head said his impression was that the animal was still a puppy.