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Death penalty decision delayed in Roseville murder

Suspect's family speaks
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal staff writer
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The decision as to whether or not a 25-year-old woman will face the death penalty was delayed again Thursday morning. Stephanie Erends is charged with a single felony count of murder for the March death of 24-year-old Alicia Ernst, whose body was found in Roseville. Prosecutor Garen Horst filed a second amended felony complaint in April alleging a special circumstance of lying in wait. The complaint means Erends could face the death penalty. Horst and defense attorney John Spurling both told Judge Richard Couzens Thursday that they needed more time to conduct their investigations before the prosecution would announce whether it would seek the death penalty. Couzens set another status conference for August but said it was “realistic to expect a decision” by that time. Alicia’s Ernst’s mother, who was sitting in the front row holding a framed picture of Ernst, nodded several times and said “yes” after Couzens’ remarks. Other family members or friends of Ernst were also in the courtroom. Supporters for Erends attended the Auburn court hearing too. “Our deepest sympathy goes out to Alicia’s family and Stephanie as well,” said James Erends, Stephanie Erends’ father. Ernst worked alongside her mother as a nurse’s aide at Siena Care in Auburn for nearly two years. A Department of Public Works employee found her body in rural Roseville alongside Walerga Road near Old Walerga Road on March 10. Authorities reported that she was killed in the early morning of March 8. Erends is charged with using a sharp-edged utility tool to murder Ernst. Erends has a prior felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance. The two reportedly knew one another. Erends will appear again in Placer County Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 14 in Dept. 13.