In a sad, sad cautionary tale that reads like a really violent after-school special, 24-year-old Sheldon Steward of Oakland was convicted this week in Plumas County in a case involving LSD and the murder of his best friend. As CBS 5 reports, Steward and then-20-year-old Trevor Holminski went on a camping trip near Bucks Lake in Plumas County National Forest, dropped acid, and in the early morning hours of August 22, 2015, Steward is believed to have stabbed his friend to death, and then tried to burn his body to conceal the crime.
Steward then also set some of the surrounding woods on fire as well.
Steward's defense attorney argued that he committed the act in self-defense, but jurors were obviously convinced otherwise. As the East Bay Times reported from the trial last month, Steward had initially made the self-defense claim, pointing to 10 puncture wounds on his neck. But authorities said the wounds were in a perfect row and appeared self-inflicted. Steward had given a story involving Holminski making unwanted sexual advances toward him that were rebuffed, making him angry. But later, confronted by police, Steward changed his story, describing the conversation he had with his dying friend in the woods. "He keeps tellin’ me to leave him, leave him. I'm like, ‘Trevor I can’t leave you. This doesn’t look good for me. This doesn’t look good for either one of us, Trevor. I can’t just leave you out here in the forest like this.’ And he asked me to put him out of his misery and I did it,” Steward reportedly said.
A jury deliberated less than a full day before reaching their verdict on Tuesday, and came back with a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder, with the added enhancements of using a knife and setting a fire during a drought emergency.
Steward's sentencing date has not been set, but Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister says he could face 26 years to life in prison.
Holminski was a musician who attended Ex’pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, and he lived in Emeryville at the time. He was originally from Antioch. He and Steward had met at the school about 18 months prior to the murder. The two reportedly liked to do acid together.
Below is a brief documentary Holminski made in 2013 about his own experience with being sent to a wilderness rehabilitation program by his parents, in order to combat his depression and bad behavior as a teenager.