Brother of slain Nevada woman seeks positive after death | Nevada News
By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press
FERNLEY, Nev. (AP) — A Navy veteran who served as an engineer on a nuclear submarine is on an even bigger mission now — searching for a way to help others on behalf of his little sister , who was kidnapped, killed and buried last month in the high desert of northern Nevada.
“At the end of the day, I just don’t want this to happen to other families,” Casey Valley told The Associated Press. “I want to do everything I can to make sure no one ever has to go through this.”
Hundreds of townspeople turned out for a weekend celebration of the life of 18-year-old Naomi Irion at a country park in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.
The daughter of US State Department employees, Irion left South Africa last summer to live with her brother. She disappeared after CCTV in a Walmart parking lot showed a man getting into her car and driving them away in the early morning of March 12.
Troy E. Driver, a 41-year-old man from nearby Fallon with a violent criminal history, was arrested and jailed for kidnapping on March 25. Driver has already served more than a decade in a California prison.
Four days after his arrest, a tip led investigators to a remote grave more than 60 miles away, where Irion’s body was found in neighboring Churchill County. Driver was arraigned in Fernley on an amended criminal complaint on Friday and was held without bond on first-degree murder, kidnapping, destruction of evidence and other charges.
Valley, a soft-spoken man with a bushy red beard, said he was frustrated that sheriff’s deputies didn’t act quickly enough to file a missing person report when he first contacted them. March 13.
He drove the next day to Walmart near US Interstate 80 where Irion had gone to wait for a shuttle to take him to his job at a Panasonic factory. Signs posted in the parking lot warn buyers of “cameras in use.”
Valley knew he needed to find out if there was surveillance video of his sister, so he tracked down a store security guard.
“At first, he didn’t take me seriously. But finally he said, ‘What do you want?’ Valley said. “We sat in the security office and watched the tape and were convinced it showed the suspect getting into his car. I called the sheriff, and they were there in 15 or 20 minutes.”
Valley said he then spent “probably two hours” reviewing the footage with a deputy.
Prosecutors say in the amended complaint that Driver shot Irion northeast of Fernley, where he took her “for the purpose of committing a sexual assault and/or for the purpose of killing her.” In addition to burying Wrathion’s body, Driver dumped the tires of his truck in an effort to eliminate the prosecution evidence, prosecutors say.
Driver’s public defender Richard Davies said Driver maintains his innocence.
“We’re ready to generate an aggressive defense,” he told reporters on Friday. “Right now, everyone is jumping to conclusions.”
Although he was initially critical of the investigation, Valley told reporters in court on Friday that the discovery of his sister’s body was “incredible detective work.” He said the family traveled to the remote grave, which “looks like any other part of the Nevada desert.”
“It’s a drop in the Pacific Ocean,” he said. “It’s really a miracle that we closed” and “Naomi is not in pain.”
“We have to take all the peace we can get from this,” he said.
Sunday’s rally was surrounded by rainbow-colored ribbons — Irion’s favorites — that continue to flutter from street signs along Main Street just off I-80. The city was founded more than a century ago along a canal that was built as part of the first irrigation project in the American West, intended to help “make the desert bloom” and attract settlers.
Valley, 42, served as a Navy Undersea Nuclear Machinist Journeyman stationed in Bangor, Wash., from 2009-16 and now works as a critical facilities engineer for Apple.
He emphasized from the start that Driver is a “human being” who is innocent until proven guilty. He said that after the initial kidnapping arrest he feared for the driver’s safety if released from jail.
Davies said prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty, but acknowledged “all options are on the table.”
At this time, Irion’s family is not advocating for Driver’s execution, Valley said.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said, adding that he knows death penalty cases can drag on with years of appeals.
“It complicates the process. That being said, it’s the prosecutor’s decision. If this guy is tried and found guilty, I just don’t want the abuser to be able to do this to another person.”
Irion lived with his parents in American embassies around the world growing up. When she was 13, they moved to Moscow, then Frankfurt, Germany, then South Africa, where she graduated from high school before moving last summer to Fernley.
Valley, who was 14 when her sister was born, changed her diapers and became her de facto babysitter, said her family and friends had already started working to create a scholarship in her name.
“I would like people to know that Naomi would want positive change to come out of this. We want to let people know that this can happen to anyone,” he said.
“Naomi was my responsibility. I am his big brother. It’s my job.”
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