A man accused last month of homicide in Nevada City pleaded not guilty Thursday, even as investigators are still working to identify a body in the case.
Russell Harvey Rippetoe, 57, from Barstow, is being charged by the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office with first-degree murder in the death of Raul Iturralde, 43. After entering his not guilty plea, Rippetoe’s next court date will be a conference on Aug. 5.
Rippetoe was arrested June 17 at a property on the 26000 block of North Bloomfield Road on suspicion of murder in the death of 43-year-old Iturralde.
Authorities had not located a body when they arrested Rippetoe, but after searching the property for two days, deputies with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office found the body of an adult male who appeared to have been recently buried on the premises.
That body has not yet been officially identified as Iturralde, as investigators are conducting DNA testing to confirm the deceased man’s identity. However, the coroner’s office has already discovered some information indicating that the deceased man is Iturralde, according to sheriff’s Lt. Sean Scales.
No motive has been established for the alleged homicide, and investigators have not revealed what evidence they obtained that gave them probable cause to arrest Rippetoe despite the lack of a body at the time of the arrest.
The Sheriff’s Office said it received a tip a few days before Rippetoe’s arrest from an anonymous source who purported to have knowledge of the situation. This individual apparently told investigators that Rippetoe had killed Iturralde after an argument between the two men had escalated, although it is not clear what the disagreement was over.
Authorities have subsequently established that Rippetoe and Iturralde were both working on an illegal marijuana grow at