Prosecutors in Sierra County on Monday charged 40-year-old John T. Conway with murder in connection with the July 3 killing of Ari Gershman, a pulmonary doctor and Jewish father of three from Danville.
Gershman was killed while off-roading in Tahoe National Forest near Downieville over the Fourth of July weekend with his teenage son Jack. In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Jack said his dad was attacked after asking for directions.
“The shooter pulls out a pistol and starts shooting,” Jack said. “And then after two or three shots, he was hit.”
Jack fled into the forest, where he spent the night alone before being rescued.
Conway is facing nine felony counts in total, including two for attempted murder for the alleged shooting of two other people in an apparent July 3 rampage in a remote part of Sierra County, using a Taurus 9-mm handgun. No motive has been identified.
Prosecutors also charged Conway with robbery for allegedly stealing property from one of the victims.
Conway, of Oroville, was a wanted fugitive in Butte County, where he was charged with felony vehicle theft in January. He received a split sentence on Feb. 26, meaning part of his sentence would be spent in confinement and part under supervised release.
Prosecutors alleged that Conway violated the conditions of his supervised release, filing a petition in Butte County Superior Court to that effect on May 27, court records show. Conway then failed to appear at an arraignment on June 10, leading to a warrant for his arrest.
Conway has a lengthy rap sheet in Butte County dating to 2001, including charges for vandalism, battery, reckless driving, resisting arrest and DUI. On May 1 of last year, a judge questioned Conway’s mental competency at an arraignment and ordered a psychological evaluation. On Oct. 2 a judge ordered he attend anger management class.
Sierra County District Attorney Sandra Groven this week filed the criminal complaint outlining the charges against Conway. “The investigation is ongoing and involves multiple crime scenes,” her office said in a press release.
Rural Sierra County, which borders Nevada, is one of California’s most sparsely populated, with a population of around 3,000. It recorded only one violent crime last year, an aggravated assault, and five in 2018, according to statistics from the California Department of Justice. The county seat is located in the unincorporated town of Downieville, about 70 miles north of Lake Tahoe.
A GoFundMe campaign for the Gershman family, which is affiliated with Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, has raised more than $575,000. Gershman’s wife, Paige, is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.