New details in Mariposa museum heist

April 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
One of the men who robbed a museum filled with gold and other minerals in Mariposa testified against another suspect in the case. Also, the alleged mastermind of the historic heist took a plea deal.

Michael Gomes entered the historic Mariposa County courthouse having already taken a plea deal that will send him to prison for about five years. This time he testified in a hearing to decide if another suspect, Jonathan Matis will go to trial. The two men and three others are accused of stealing more than a million dollars in specimens from the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in September.

Logan McKechnie said, "The gold came to about 6,000 dollars. The estimate of 1.3 million is based on the artistic value of the stones, not for the gold."

Attorney Logan McKechnie represents Edward Rushing. Investigators say he used a pick-axe during the robbery to smash the case holding the nearly 14 pound fricot nugget. But when that didn't work, the robbers settled for smaller pieces of gold. Rushing pleaded no contest Monday to six felony counts.

"Maximum sentence for the charges would be 30 years," said McKechnie. "We have an agreement on what his sentence is going to be. He'll be sentenced to 15 years in prison."

Two employees at the museum also testified Monday. The curator said one masked man yelled "I'll shoot, I have a gun!" She also said the case holding the fricot nugget had at least ten strike marks and was starting to break before the vault doors began to close, and the robbers ran away.

"They came pretty close, a few more hits and they probably would have gotten that fricot nugget," said Ron Iudice.

ABC30 asked, "How glad are you that they didn't?"

Ron Iudice replied, "I'm very glad that they didn't get it."

Matthew Campbell was the final person to take the stand Monday. He testified about a failed attempt to rob the museum just five days prior to the crime. Campbell recently accepted a plea deal with a maximum of one year in jail and will now be released until his sentencing date in June.

The preliminary hearing for Jonathan Matis will continue Tuesday morning. Matis and Christopher Sheffield are the only two defendants who have not taken plea deals.

It's still not clear exactly how much of the stolen gold may have been recovered.