Report: Man held in Nevada Highway Patrol killing had coronavirus obsession

The roof of a police patrol car at night, with the blue and red lights flashing.

The roof of a police patrol car at night, with the blue and red lights flashing.

LAS VEGAS — A 65-year-old man accused of shooting and killing a veteran highway patrol sergeant on a remote road in northeast Nevada had been on a frenzied quest for several weeks, saying that he thought coronavirus was spreading through water and sewer systems, a newspaper reported.

John Leonard Dabritz, of the tiny mining town of Ruth, made an initial appearance Wednesday before a judge in Ely on murder, arson, vehicle theft and weapon charges in the March 27 killing of Sgt. Ben Jenkins on U.S. Highway 93 in White Pine County.

Dabritz did not enter a plea. White Pine County Public Defender Richard Sears was appointed as his attorney.

White Pine County District Attorney Michael Wheable said prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Dabritz's ex-wife, Haydee Dabritz, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal her ex-husband was a research scientist in the 1980s who was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Local sewer and water district office manager Amy Garcia told the newspaper that Dabritz arrived March 4 at the office in McGill wearing a large mask, demanding to talk with officials about the virus.

Dabritz was later hospitalized for several days at William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely, the Review-Journal reported; appeared March 23 at the office of the Ely Times newspaper; and left a box March 24 with what court documents call "concerning content" at the Ely courthouse. Officials have not specified the contents.

The Washoe County sheriff's office and Las Vegas police are leading the investigation.

Haydee Dabritz, an epidemiologist in California, told the Review-Journal her ex-husband also sent her a stream of rambling emails that she characterized as strange and incoherent. The couple divorced in 2013. She said she deleted most of the messages.

Jenkins was alone on duty when he was killed just before dawn Friday after stopping to check on a motorist in a rented 2020 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup on the side of U.S. 93, according to Dabritz's arrest report and criminal complaint.

Jenkins was stripped of his uniform and handgun, the Dodge pickup was set on fire and Dabritz fled in the sergeant's patrol pickup truck, authorities said. Dabritz was arrested about four hours later after crashing the patrol vehicle in the small White Pine County town of Cherry Creek.

Dabritz was being held without bail at the White Pine County jail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled April 16.


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