MADERA — A North Fork man charged with murder in the shooting death of prominent Mono Indian tribal elder Gaylen Lee made a brief appearance in Madera County Superior Court Thursday morning.
Robert Eugene Moye Jr., 47, has been held in the Madera County Jail on a $3.75 million bond since his arrest July 6 in the hours immediately following the shooting.
In addition to the murder charge, Moye also currently faces two counts of “attempted murder, being a felon/addict in possession of a firearm, and possession of marijuana/hashish for sale (over 2 ounces).”
Moye has entered a plea of not guilty and appeared Thursday morning before Judge Dale Blea in Department 22 for a hearing known as a “prelim setting.”
Handcuffed and wearing a yellow and white striped jailhouse jumpsuit and bright orange plastic sandals, Moye stood quietly beside his court-appointed lawyer and said nothing during the four-minute-long proceeding.
Moye’s lawyer, Craig Collins of the Madera law firm Ciummo & Associates, told the judge and lead prosecutor, Madera County Deputy District Attorney Brooke Bergman, “things are moving along nicely” in his firm’s efforts to prepare for trial.
Judge Blea ordered Moye to return to court on Sept. 9 for another prelim setting proceeding.
About a half dozen members of Lee’s family came to Madera today to observe the hearing. Accompanied by a victim’s advocate, they sat quietly in the second row, about 15 feet from the defendant.
Several members of Moye’s family also attended Thursday’s hearing.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Moye’s attorney said his firm’s investigation into the incident likely will lead to an argument for self-defense.
“A bunch of big guys were coming at him,” Collins said.
Lee, 70, was killed on July 6 near his home off Road 233 in North Fork. Among his many accomplishments, he was the author of “Walking Where We Lived,” a personal history of his North Fork Mono family.
More than 400 people attended a Celebration of Life for Lee held July 22 at the North Fork Recreation Center. The ceremony also honored Lee’s mother, Ruby Pomona, who died just two days before her son.
In the weeks prior to Lee’s death, MCSO deputies had responded to multiple calls in the 33000 block of Mission Drive where the shooting occurred, including earlier on the day of the incident when the Sheriff’s Office received reports Moye had been firing shots in the area.
When contacted, Moye denied the allegation.
“Following that call and prior to the incident, Moye was driving his vehicle up the shared driveway when, according to witnesses, he nearly struck a child,” a report from the Sheriff’s Office stated. “Mr. Lee and two nephews confronted Moye and words were exchanged. Moye said, ‘Don’t follow me [up the driveway]’, threatened them and drove away.”
According to the MCSO report, all three men followed Moye up the driveway on foot. Shortly after that, Moye allegedly began firing at the men from a wooded area near the residence.
A medevac helicopter flew into North Fork to airlift Lee but he died prior to being transported.