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Husband charged with wife’s murder after police shooting in Ukiah

Mary and Joseph Mantynen (FACEBOOK)

NICK RAHAIM,

Mary Mantynen called her mother in Pahrump, Nevada, three times Dec. 21 while law enforcement surrounded the Ukiah motel room she was sharing that night with her husband Joseph Mantynen.

The 23-year-old Las Vegas mother of two young sons and a stepdaughter left two messages before finally getting through to her mother, Lori Harvey, around 8 p.m.

“She was crying hysterically and told me to say goodbye to her sons,” Harvey said. “The last thing I said to her was, ‘Don’t be silly, just turn yourself in.’”

But before 9 p.m. Mary Mantynen was dead in the bathroom at the Sunrise Inn with at least one gunshot wound, and her husband was charged with murder, even though a spokesman for the Mendocino County District’s Attorney’s Office said the “presumed” fatal shot was fired by a member of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office SWAT unit.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies had tracked the couple to the Ukiah motel because they were suspected of stealing multiple weapons Dec. 20 from a family member in Sonoma.

The motel standoff involved not only Sonoma County deputies but also Ukiah police and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s SWAT unit.

Two deputies — one each from Sonoma and Mendocino county sheriff’s offices — have been placed on paid leave as part of officer-involved shooting protocol, said Mike Geniella, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the shooting.

Prosecutors have charged Joseph Mantynen, 32, with murder in the death of his wife, even though he is not believed to have fired any shots during the hourlong standoff.

“They were yelling about going down not surrendering and he pointed his gun toward an officer,” Geniella said of the standoff. “If you provoke law enforcement to shoot, and someone is killed, you can be held responsible.”

The California Supreme Court reasserted in a 2009 opinion that a person can be charged with murder if his “provocative act” leads to the death of an associate or bystander in a police shooting.

When deputies arrived at the Sunrise Inn with Ukiah police around 7 p.m. Dec. 21, Joseph Mantynen was standing outside the motel, Geniella said. He then ran into his motel room and allegedly grabbed a Remington .22-caliber rifle. At that point, for reasons still unclear, Geniella said Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott McKinnon fired an undisclosed number of shots at Mantynen.

Geniella said the following sequence of events then unfolded:

The motel room’s front door remained open and the couple retreated to the bathroom. A standoff ensued, with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s SWAT unit arriving to support law enforcement.

Mary Mantynen, who was wanted for parole violations in Nevada, screamed at officers and deputies that she did not want to go back to jail.

Around 8 p.m., Joseph Mantynen pointed the .22-caliber rifle at law enforcement from the bathroom. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy James Elmore responded with an undisclosed number of shots. Geniella said Joseph Mantynen was unharmed and turned himself in to deputies when he saw his wife had been struck by at least one bullet. Mary Mantynen was found dead in the bathroom. Her official cause of death has not been released.

Both Elmore and McKinnon were placed on paid leave as part of officer-involved shooting protocol. Mary Mantynen’s panicked call to her mother during the standoff was the first time the two had spoken in nearly two months, Harvey said.

“I think she called to say goodbye,” Harvey said of her daughter, who grew up in Pahrump, near the California border and 45 minutes west of Las Vegas.

Neither Geniella nor Harvey knew what brought the couple from their Las Vegas home to Northern California, but Harvey said Joseph Mantynen’s grandparents live in Sonoma County.

She suspects the couple were on the run because her daughter had fallen back into substance abuse and wouldn’t be able to pass a drug test required by the terms of her parole. It could not be determined Thursday why she was on parole.

Officials with the Nevada Department of Public Safety refused to release information or comment on Mary Mantynen’s criminal history in the state.

A GoFundMe page created by Mary Mantynen’s friends and family to raise money for a memorial service sheds light on her life growing up in a small desert town best known for its legal brothels.

“Mary suffered a traggic (sic) life being subject to sexual assault at a very young age that left her dead inside no matter how hard she tried to act like she was happy,” Christina Riehm posted.

The post also claims Mary Mantynen was “shot by the cops after having put her weapon down.” It’s unclear whether she was armed.

Joseph and Mary Mantynen had been married for about six months, according to multiple sources. Shortly after they married Joseph Mantynen was fired from his job at Southern Nevada Fire Protection where he installed sprinkler systems, said Don J. Blunt, owner of the Las Vegas-based company.

“He came in one day and said ‘I got way too drunk last night and got married,’” Blunt said. “That’s when the wheels came off the wagon.”

Blunt said Joseph Mantynen had worked for him on-and-off over the years and was reliable. But in early 2017 he started showing signs of drug abuse and was fired for not showing up to work on numerous occasions, Blunt said.

Mantynen remains in Mendocino County Jail with bail set at $825,000 and is due in court Jan. 17.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com.