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High profile cases return to court

February 17, 2011

Arson and vandalism suspect John Thomas Christiana (far left) and murder suspects in two separate cases Louis LePlat and Edward Keller, Jr. (l-r). The three are set to appear today at the Inyo County Superior Court in Independence. The court will determine trial dates for LePlat and Keller. Christiana, acting as his own defense, will be sentenced. File photos

Three high-profile criminal cases will be returning to Inyo County Superior Court today. Murder suspects Louis LePlat and Edward Keller, Jr. along with self-confessed arsonist John Christiana will appear before a judge today in Independence.
Christiana was scheduled to appear for sentencing Tuesday, Feb. 8 but, according to the Court Clerk’s Office, his date was pushed back due to a long calendar that day. The office also said he is acting as his own counsel, or pro per.
Christiana has confessed to burning down the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitors Center in September of 2008, along with committing a spree of vandalism in Inyo and Mono counties during the summer of 2008.
He was found incompetent to stand trial in Inyo on the arson and vandalism charges, but competent in Mono County on vandalism charges. Christiana has said he believes he has a government implanted chip in his brain that causes him great pain, which, in turn, causes him to lash out against government entities and government-owned property, such as the visitors center.
Christiana entered into a plea agreement with Mono County District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 23 2010, for felony vandalism which carried a sentence of one year in custody, five years formal probation and $7,217 in restitution plus multiple fees.
The sentence handed down by Mono County was equal to time served. He was then transferred to Inyo County Jail. He was eventually found competent to stand trial.
The court will also determine trial dates for two murder suspects, Keller and LePlat.
Keller was charged with a single count of murder from an incident that happened Thanksgiving Day, 2009.Keller allegedly killed James Eugene Williams at a house party. Alcohol was reportedly involved in the incident and an alleged altercation between several parties at the scene resulted in the death of Williams. Keller was arrested Dec. 2.
Although Keller was only 17 years old at the time, he is being tried as an adult.
Keller appeared in court on March 2010, and later that evening, a pipe bomb blew up the mailbox of Ed Keller, Sr.
In another case, LePlat, 18 at the time of his arrest, is facing first-degree murder charges for the fatal stabbing of James Eric Rambeau, Jr., 23 of Bishop. LePlat was originally arrested on June 19, 2009 following a report of a stabbing on Winuba Lane, west of Bishop.
In January 2010, Leplat’s girlfriend, Nichole Lomaintewa, and his sister, Megan LePlat, were charged with eight counts of threatening District Attorney Art Maillet, numerous sheriff’s deputies and members of the Inyo Narcotics Enforcement Team, as well as making a false bomb report to Inyo County Jail.
The two were sentenced Jan. 4, 2010.
County offices were closed on Friday, Feb. 11 and the District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment.

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