Evidence proves men innocent in Fallon man’s death
Appeal Staff Writer
FERNLEY – Fearing no one would believe that their friend shot himself inside a car on a rural road in Fernley late Saturday night, two co-workers made up an unlikely story that was disproved by the evidence, prompting their arrest on murder charges. But when the panic and smoke cleared, that same evidence revealed they had nothing to do with the death.
Charges of open murder were dropped against Jason Muir, 25, and Jeffrey Ebeling, 30, after an autopsy revealed Anthony Balderas, 27, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth.
“Both men said that they saw Balderas place the pistol to the left side of his head and shoot himself in the temple, but we knew that didn’t happen,” said Lyon County Detective Rob Hall. “With that, the glass being broken inside the car and picking up the gun and throwing it into the canal, they became suspects.”
When officers arrived at the scene about 11:19 p.m., the only wound visible on Balderas was a single wound to the back of the neck, the gun was missing and the passenger window was shattered with a large portion of the glass inside the vehicle suggesting the bullet may have been fired from outside the car, Hall said.
“Both Ebeling and Muir maintained their stories, even after being confronted with the evidence,” he said.
The two were held without bail through the weekend.
But an autopsy Monday showed the neck wound was an exit wound. And when the Muir and Ebeling finally told the truth, it matched the evidence, Hall said.
According to Muir’s and Ebeling’s second statements, the three had been drinking most of the night at bars in Fernley. Balderas had a history of becoming depressed when he drank and in recent weeks, his depression had increased. At some point, the group decided to take Muir’s .40 cal. pistol shooting in an isolated area north of Fernley.
After running out of ammunition, the trio returned to Fernley, where Ebeling allegedly burglarized a motel room of a suitcase. They returned to the rural road, where Balderas stayed in the vehicle, Ebeling was outside going through the stolen suitcase, and Muir was standing near the driver’s door smoking a cigarette.
Both men said they’d heard the shot and window shatter, but finally admitted they didn’t see Balderas shoot himself, Hall said.
Ebeling told investigators he jerked the door open, grabbed the gun from Balderas’ lap, and threw it into a canal. Muir attempted to aid Balderas, Hall said.
Hall said the exiting bullet shattered the passenger window and when Ebeling opened and shut the door, the glass fell inside.
The two then ran to a farmhouse nearby and called 911.
“Both subjects panicked and Ebeling was afraid they would not be believed so they made up the story about witnessing (the shooting),” Hall said. It’s not clear why Ebeling was so afraid of not being believed.
“Their stories were so inconsistent with the evidence, but in the end, the evidence revealed the truth,” Hall said. “Even if the truth sounds strange, the evidence is going to prove it. You make yourself look like suspect as opposed to a witness. Sometimes people feel like they have to do that, but the truth is always the best way to go.”
Muir was released. Ebeling is being held on the burglary charge.
n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.