Suspect in Carson City judge threats dies in custody

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) UPDATE: Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury reports John Aston, the suspect in threats against Judge John Tatro, has died while in prison, where he was already serving time for other charges.

He died in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City while serving 28 to 90 months for Possession of Short-Barreled Firearm and Carrying a Concealed Weapon.

Trial in the threat case had been set for May 2018.

There is no word yet on a cause of death, but the 74-year-old Aston had been in visible poor health at recent court appearances.

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UPDATE: A Carson City judge has set a trial date of May 30, 2018 for the suspect in several threats against Judge John Tatro.

September 19, 2017, John Aston pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a trial within 60 days.

Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing, which led to the plea, showed DNA evidence on milk jugs with flammable material left outside Tatro's garage has a one in 1.65 quadrillion chance of belonging to anyone but Aston.

Specific charges are firing into an occupied dwelling, 4th-degree arson and aggravated stalking, all felonies.

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ORIGINAL STORY:
It began on a December night in 2012.

A loud crash woke Judge John Tatro and his wife, Kathy, in their Carson City home. Someone had fired two shots through their front door. The bullets, we now know, passed through the home and shattered a glass door to the backyard.

Wednesday, Kathy Tatro, speaking publicly for the first time about the event, told the court she believed at that moment that she and her husband would be killed.

The Tatros would spend the next four years looking over their shoulders as other incidents--a threatening Christmas card two years later and a crude firebombing attempt the following spring--kept them on edge.

"Even with the resolution that we appear to be at right now, that the family can sit back and take a breath, I just can't imagine," says Sheriff Ken Furlong, who has known the Tatros for a long time. "The scar is too deep and went on too long."

His investigators had physical evidence. Security camera footage with a brief glimpse of the person responsible, his car, seen cruising by the home, coming and going apparently from the Reno area on traffic camera.

They even had DNA on the stamp on the envelope containing the card, but no motive and, without a motive, the identity of the man they were looking for proved elusive.

It might have remained so, but for an attentive detective at the VA hospital investigating a possible identity theft discovering a newspaper clipping about the Tatro case in 74-year-old John Aston's belongings.

"Just a newspaper clipping," says Furlong. "Our investigators were so excited, they jumped on it right away."

It was the thread that led to a mountain of evidence in a Sparks storage unit, much of which we learned of at the preliminary hearing, day two of which was September 7, 2017.

It included a car matching the one police had scoured the area for for years, bearing apparently fake, handmade licenses plates.

Other evidence included numerous bottles of isopropyl alcohol like that found in the crude firebombs found at the home in 2015, instructions on making phony IDs, notes on details of the personal lives of the Tatros, ammunition and weapons, including a .357 rifle shown in court in its evidence box.

The second day of the hearing was a parade of witnesses, officers who gathered and handled all that evidence that led to Aston's arrest earlier in 2017.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Aston listened to the testimony, his interest difficult to gauge.

If, at the end, he is bound over for trial, it will be the long list of evidence we saw, the thousands of man hours of investigation, perhaps the most extensive in Carson City history, which will decide his fate.

The length of time, the man hours put on this case alone were astronomical.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to end Friday, probably with testimony on the DNA left on that stamp.

Click for earlier stories about this case.


Mugshot courtesy Nevada Department of Corrections
Mugshot courtesy Carson City jail