Burning man

The plotline in one of Butte County’s most brutal murders in recent memory took a dramatic twist Monday, as allegations surfaced that Kelly David Fredericksen, 27, who is accused of killing and immolating Ronald Bailey, may have done so because he believed Bailey had molested a 14-year-old girl who was the daughter of a close friend.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey confirmed that his office was working to evaluate claims that Bailey had molested a girl whose sister made that claim to Fredericksen on the afternoon of Bailey’s murder. Dennis Forland, Fredericksen’s attorney, said on Tuesday that he intends to prove that the revelation of Bailey’s conduct may have caused his client to enter a mental state in which he could not be held fully accountable for his actions. Forland has entered a not-guilty plea on his client’s behalf and said he is angling for a mental-health defense involving “methamphetamine-induced psychosis.”

Fredericksen is accused of luring Bailey to a semi-remote area near the Oro-Bangor Highway on the pretext of making a drug deal and then stabbing him more than two dozen times in the head, neck, torso and arms. Fredericksen then allegedly doused Bailey in gasoline while he lay bleeding on the roadway and set him ablaze. Bailey’s charred and blackened body, discovered March 22 by a morning commuter, was rendered so unrecognizable that authorities at first thought the victim to be a child or young man, when in fact Bailey was in his 50s.

Fredericksen appeared in court Monday in a standard-issue jail jumpsuit, his head freshly shaven, facing forward and remaining silent throughout his brief appearance. As he took his seat, Bailey’s relatives in the back of the courtroom muttered curses under their breath.

Bailey’s brother, Ray Calonge, along with his wife, Jenny Calonge, made impromptu statements outside the courtroom, saying they had seen the evidence against Fredericksen, which Ramsey confirmed included Bailey’s bloody clothes found in Fredericksen’s apartment. The Calonges said the killing had shaken their whole family.

“My children are afraid to go to sleep at night,” Jenny Calonge said. “We want justice for Ronnie. He may not have been a saint, but we all have fallen short of the glory of God. He did not deserve this.”

Pulling from his backpack a tiny ceramic vase with an image of two praying hands on the side, Ray Calonge, his eyes tearing behind sunglasses, said he had carried his brother’s ashes in the vase to court with him.

“This is all I have left of my brother,” he said. “Because of what he [the killer] did, this is all there is left.”

The Calonges said they couldn’t discuss publicly the accusations against Bailey.

Investigators initially had described the motive for the killing as a dope deal gone sour but quickly distanced themselves from that theory when the molestation allegations began to surface. A source close to Bailey’s family who would talk only on condition of anonymity confirmed that Bailey had been accused of at least three and possibly more instances of child molestation going back several years. The source also said Bailey was being hunted by another party in connection with a prior alleged molestation.

Forland said county Child Protective Services had also known about Bailey and had stepped in to protect a young girl who may have been living with him. If the case goes before a jury, as Forland expects it will, he may call one or more of Bailey’s alleged victims to the stand.

Bailey is known to have been a long-time methamphetamine user and may also have been involved in manufacturing the drug. Because the allegations of child molestation all came from kids whose parents were also heavy meth users, authorities were never contacted in the cases the source was aware of.

Butte County Sheriff’s Detective Andy Duch said it was common for hardcore meth users to “handle their business” vigilante-style.

“They don’t want to talk to us,” he said. “We ask too many questions.”

Duch also revealed that the investigation has turned up an eyewitness to the killing as well as other evidence that he said makes for an almost "airtight" case. Authorities are still searching for the murder weapon, a large hunting knife that they believe was dropped from the Upper Thermalito Bridge.