Press Release: Two prosecutors win Placer County award, 9/28/10

September 28, 2010
Bradford R. Fenocchio

District Attorney


10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678

For Immediate Release
Date: September 28, 2010


Art Campos

Public Information Officer


Scott Owens

Assistant District Attorney



David Tellman and Doug Van Breemen, two veterans of the District Attorney’s Office, have been named Placer County’s Prosecutors of the Year.

The two received the award today at a meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

Tellman and Van Breemen received the honor on the strength of their jury trial convictions in 2009 of two men who murdered another man in a case that also involved illegal drugs and the torturing of the victim.

District Attorney-elect Scott Owens, who presented plaques to the two prosecutors, said the torture-murder case had been “incredibly complex” but that Tellman and Van Breemen worked patiently and diligently in gaining the convictions.

“This was a homicide that produced more than 13,000 pages of reports,” Owens said after the awards presentation. “The hard work and dedication of these two prosecutors, along with that of the investigative agencies, led to the successful conclusion of the case.”

Kirk Uhler, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, praised Placer County law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office for their teamwork in fighting crime, calling them “the envy” of other counties in California.

“We’ve got a hell of a team in our county,” he said.

For Tellman, a senior deputy district attorney, it is the second consecutive year that he has been a co-recipient of the county’s Prosecutor of the Year award.

In 2009, he and Senior Deputy District Attorney Suzanne Gazzaniga shared the award for their successful prosecution of a former Placer County Sheriff’s sergeant in a murder case that had been unsolved for more than 26 years.

Tellman and Gazzaniga also won statewide honors for their success in that trial. The two were named Prosecutors of the Year for medium-sized counties by the California District Attorneys Association.

In the latest Placer County award, Tellman and Van Breemen were honored for proving to separate juries in a single trial last year that defendants Donald Hugh Sherman and Peter Schoemig were involved in the 2006 slaying of Sherman’s cousin.

The case was unusual in that it involved the separate juries, spanned two jurisdictions in California and Nevada and had a trial that ran five months with the inclusion of attorney motions, jury selection and testimony from witnesses.

Tellman said investigators from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada and the Placer District Attorney’s Office spent “thousands of hours” on the case after the body of the victim was discovered in a mine shaft in Nevada in 2006.

“Investigators also served hundreds of subpoenas and warrants, many of them on reluctant and hostile witnesses,” Tellman said.

In the trial, one jury convicted Sherman of first-degree murder and of the torture of his cousin, Guy Farmer, whom Sherman believed had stolen chemicals needed in an illegal drug-manufacturing operation in Penryn. Sherman is now serving two consecutive life sentences in prison without parole.

The second jury convicted Schoemig of first-degree murder after determining that he too was involved in the killing of the victim, who had been poisoned. Schoemig was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Tellman, a 16-year veteran of the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, is a graduate of Colfax High School and of the University of California at Santa Barbara. He earned his law degree from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

In 2006, Tellman was named regional Prosecutor of the Year for Central California by the California Narcotics Officers Association.

In late 2008, Tellman and Gazzaniga began the trial of former Sheriff’s Sgt. Paul R. Kovacich, whose wife disappeared in 1982. Evidence, which included the top portion of the missing woman’s skull, eventually surfaced and allowed Auburn police to arrest Kovacich.

The partial skull, which had a bullet hole in it, was found in 1995 in a dry lakebed of Rollins Lake in Colfax. The jury determined that Kovocich used a firearm to shoot his wife in the head and convicted him of first-degree murder.

The jury reached its verdict in January 2009 and Kovacich is now serving a state prison sentence of 27 years to life.

Van Breemen, a nine-year veteran of the Placer DA’s Office, is a graduate of La Habra High School in Southern California and of Cal Poly Pomona. He attended night classes at Western State School of Law in Fullerton while working fulltime in the insurance business.

He earned his law degree in 1996 and joined the Placer District Attorney’s staff in 2001, winning honors from Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 2004 for his work on DUI cases.

During his tenure in the office, Van Breemen has handled a variety of felony cases, including gang-related crimes and three-strikes cases. Since January of this year, he has handled major narcotics cases and worked as the lead liaison between county narcotics officers and the District Attorney’s Office.