Woman lives to tell her story

Sandra Campbell talks about being shot in her Berry Creek home

Michael Bills was transported to Butte County Jail late Tuesday afternoon. He turned himself in after allegedly shooting a couple he worked for in Berry Creek.

Michael Bills was transported to Butte County Jail late Tuesday afternoon. He turned himself in after allegedly shooting a couple he worked for in Berry Creek.

PHOTO courtesy of Butte County District Attorney’s Office

When stories surfaced about the shooting of Sandra and Allen Campbell in Berry Creek this past weekend, everyone assumed it was over pot. The couple have a medical-marijuana garden, and the man they say shot them was Sandra’s caretaker. Even Butte County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Hail, who headed the investigation, said he thought they’d had an argument over the plants.

Sandra doesn’t think that’s the case. In fact, when she and her husband notified Michael Bills—her caretaker and a friend for more than five years—that he would have to leave their residence, part of their reasoning was that she said he’d threatened them before.

“He’d threatened to kill me three times before this,” Sandra said by phone Wednesday morning. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted him gone.”

It was Saturday when the Campbells confronted Bills and told him he’d have to leave, Sandra said. Despite some angry comments that evening, he seemed calm the next day. His daughter, who’d also been living at the home in Berry Creek, in the foothills to the northeast of Lake Oroville, left in the morning with her things and Bills’ six medical-marijuana plants. After packing up his things, Bills, 57, went into the house and made himself a sandwich, Sandra recalled.

Then bullets started flying.

Allen was shot in the ear. Sandra was shot multiple times in the head and arm.

“I ran out of my house, around the back, screaming at the kids to run,” said Sandra, 53. She was referring to two 20-year-olds who were camping in the yard. Then she ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911. “I was totally aware of everything. It was weird.”

Meanwhile, Allen was calling 911 from his own home. It wasn’t long before law enforcement arrived and transported the Campbells to paramedics nearby.

“We secured the scene, processed evidence, and issued a statewide bulletin for Michael Bills, who’d been seen driving the victims’ white Camry,” said Sgt. Hail. They had a warrant for Bills by Sunday night, and he turned himself in at the Nevada County Jail Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, he’d been transferred to Butte County Jail, where he’s being held on $3 million bail.

“I was a little shocked,” Sandra said of Bills turning himself in. “He told me one time that he’d shoot my husband, me, kill all my birds and then shoot himself. So I’m kind of surprised he didn’t shoot himself.”

For her part, Sandra sounded in good spirits Wednesday morning, despite the violent ordeal she’d been through just days before. She was released from the hospital Monday and said that Allen was set to be released Friday, following surgery. For the next few weeks she’ll have friends staying with her, both to help with Allen’s care and to ease her fears of being alone in her house.

“It’s kind of creepy for me being here alone,” she admitted, quickly adding, “I tell myself to snap out of it! It takes more than that to take an old mountain woman down!”

She expressed extreme gratitude to those who helped her and Allen get to safety. Her neighbor, she said, “saved my life.” Also, the law-enforcement and paramedic personnel “were wonderful people. They were all very kind.”

So, was the shooting related to the small garden the Campbells shared with Bills?

“We each had six little plants,” Sandra said. “It ain’t like it was worth lots and lots of money.

“Psychologically speaking, I’ve been trying to figure him out,” she continued. “His daughter was here. Maybe he felt belittled by being fired in front of her.”

That’s her best guess, but it’ll be up to the court to decide what motive, if any, there was to shoot the Campbells. Bills will likely be charged by the end of this week.

“I hope he has a nice, long life in prison,” Sandra said.