Gridley man faces possibility of life in prison for no-contest plea in crisis looting case

October 24, 2017

OROVILLE – A Gridley man faces the possibility of life in prison after pleading no contest to charges he broke into an evacuated home during the Oroville Dam crisis in February, court papers show.

John Beebe Jr., 39, pleaded no contest last week in Butte County Superior Court to a felony count of first-degree residential burglary and admitted to several sentencing enhancements related to his prior felony convictions, according to court documents.

Beebe faces a maximum prison term of 32 years to life because he could be sentenced under California’s “three strikes” law for a third strike, according to the documents.

But it’s not yet clear whether Beebe will be punished as such. A Nov. 8 hearing is scheduled for a judge to consider Beebe’s prior convictions and strikes before sentencing.

According to court documents, Beebe has previously been convicted in Sacramento County of six first-degree burglaries and an attempted first-degree burglary.

The District Attorney’s Office has said it would argue for Beebe to be sentenced to life in prison, saying his “prior extensive theft record and his predatory nature of taking advantage of the community during the emergency evacuation demand the most severe sentence to demonstrate that the Butte County community should remain free of such criminals.”

Beebe’s most recent charge stems from the burglary of an evacuated home in Gridley sometime between Feb. 12-14, when more than 180,000 residents downstream of Oroville Dam were ordered to flee the area.

Officials feared the dam’s emergency spillway could fail and send a wall of water into Oroville and additional communities along the Feather River.

Prosecutors have said more than $2,000 in personal effects were taken from the home, including boots, jewelry and electronics.

Gridley-Biggs police later arrested Beebe on suspicion of the burglary, and he allegedly confessed to the crime.

Prosecutors have been seeking the maximum punishments possible in looting and looting-type cases stemming from the dam evacuations.

The District Attorney’s Office has said it has been handling at least eight such cases connected to the spillway crisis.