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Pope, Rye Declare Driver’s Guilt in Murder of Naomi Irion

When Troy Driver committed suicide in the Lyon County jail on Aug. 6, he deprived the family of Naomi Irion of the opportunity to hear a jury pronounce him guilty of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering her.
Pope, Rye Declare Driver’s Guilt in Murder of Naomi Irion
Sheriff Brad Pope and district attorney Steve Rye who held a press conference Wednesday morning at the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office in Yerington

Author: Robert Perea

Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

When Troy Driver committed suicide in the Lyon County jail on Aug. 6, he deprived the family of Naomi Irion of the opportunity to hear a jury pronounce him guilty of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering her.

Instead, it was Sheriff Brad Pope and district attorney Steve Rye who declared Driver’s guilt at a press conference Wednesday morning at the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office in Yerington.

“The evidence in this case of guilt of Troy Driver in the kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder of Naomi Irion is overwhelming. There was nobody else involved,” Rye said. “We, like the sheriff’s office, wanted to see justice for Naomi and her family with a guilty verdict and death sentence for Troy Driver. Unfortunately, that will not happen in this case. However, it is important that the family know about what happened to Naomi and what Driver did to her.”

Pope opened the press conference by providing a detailed timeline of Driver’s time in the Lyon County jail after his arrest on March 25, 2022. Pope said that on March 31, Driver refused mental health services from Lyon County’s Forensic Assessment Service Team. On Aug. 18, 2022, detectives were made aware of what they called a confession letter and suicide note written by Driver. On Aug. 20, 2022, Driver attempted suicide by trying to hang himself from his cell block, but that attempt was observed by jail staff, who provided immediate medical attention.

Driver was treated at a hospital, and then placed in an isolation cell and placed on suicide watch. However, Driver met with medical health professionals several times and denied being suicidal and was eventually moved out of isolation and into a maximum-security cell. Pope said that on March 7, Driver attempted suicide again by slashing his wrists, but again that attempt was observed by jail staff and Driver received immediate medical attention. Pope said that in a meeting with a psych nurse four days later, Driver denied that he was suicidal and said he fell on a shampoo bottle.

He was placed back in an isolation cell, but in April he told a psych nurse that he was frustrated being in an isolation cell and claimed sleep deprivation from the constant checks by deputies.

On June 3 he was discharged from isolation and on June 4 he was placed back in a maximum-security cell.

Pope said from June 4 to August 6, Driver showed no signs of depression, crisis or suicidal intentions. But on August 6, after Driver was seen by a deputy drinking water in his cell at 5:22 p.m. a deputy found him hanging in his cell at 6:17 p.m. Driver was found unresponsive and efforts to revive him failed. He was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m.

“The evidence is insurmountable that he was the perpetrator of this despicable act, and he is dead,” Pope said. “He continually chose the path of a coward and ended his life with a cowardly act. I know this is not the closure the family or law enforcement wanted or anticipated. I empathize with them; however, I do not have any empathy for the damned soul of Troy Driver.”

Following Pope’s comments, Detective Lt. Tyrell Joyner presented a video timeline of the investigation, which was narrated by Joyner.

“After Troy Driver committed suicide, we knew that the case should not die with Driver and that the truth of his guilt needed to be told,” Joyner said.

The video began with surveillance video from Walmart, where Irion arrived at the east side of the parking lot at 5:09 a.m. in her Mercury Sable. Irion worked at Panasonic in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and rode a shuttle bus to work from the Walmart parking lot.

The video showed the suspect stalking Irion’s car, then approaching the driver’s side of the car from behind. A few seconds later, the car backs out of the parking spot and drives away.

The car was found on March 15 in a dirt lot on the east side of Duffy Rd. between Lowe’s and Sherwin Williams.

It was Irion’s brother, Casey Valley, who alerted the sheriff’s office to the surveillance video after he went to Walmart when she didn’t return and asked to see the surveillance video to see if she had shown up to catch the bus to work. Deputies then began scouring surveillance video from several businesses around Walmart and on Stanley Drive.

That’s where they saw that on March 12 at 3:31 p.m., about 10 hours after the kidnapping, Irion’s car is seen on video driving south on Duffy Rd. and is parked on a dirt lot on the east side of Duffy Rd. An unknown suspect is seen walking away from her car and walking southbound on Duffy Rd. At 4:12 p.m., a grayish-blue truck was seen on video driving on Duffy Rd. and parking near Irion’s car. The driver parked near the car and walked from the truck to the car, moved the car to a different dirt lot, and then left in the truck.

Detectives took screenshots of the truck to multiple Chevrolet dealerships in the area, where it was identified as a 2020 to 2022 Chevrolet High Country 2500 or 3500 model, metallic blue or metallic gray in color with several other distinguishing features. Detectives then got a list of all of the registered models of that truck in the western Nevada area and began to attempt to locate each of them with a similar color.

Joyner said detectives learned of one particular truck registered to an address in Silver Springs, and they became suspicious when they saw that address had numerous broke down, damaged, and haphazardly parked vehicles, which he said was not consistent with what detectives observed from other owners of the same model truck. They found that the owner of that truck was Troy Edward Driver.

When they looked into Driver’s background, they found that he matched the physical description of the suspect on surveillance video, that he was the suspect in a sexual assault in Elko in 2021, and that he had an extensive criminal history. At the age of 17 he was involved in a robbery and homicide in California. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He moved to Nevada when he was released from prison in 2012. He completed Parole and Probation in 2015. They found that he was living in Fallon and working as a supervisor for Ledcor, a mining exploration company.

“Driver’s truck was the first truck on the DMV list to match the suspect vehicle point for point,” Joyner said.

While detectives were trying to track down the truck, other detectives were scouring additional surveillance video, and they found video of the suspect’s truck arriving in the area of Walmart at 4:22 a.m. March 12, nearly an hour before Irion arrived. The truck was parked on a dirt lot on the south side of the Walmart parking lot, between Wells Fargo and Greater Nevada Credit Union.

On the afternoon of March 12, after the suspect walked southbound away from Irion’s car, detectives were able to piece together his movements by combining different video surveillance of the area, which showed the suspect walk from Irion’s car to the truck parked in the dirt lot south of Walmart. He walked across Stanley Drive near Greater Nevada Credit Union, where he walked past a surveillance camera that gave a clear view of his face, and the detectives working on finding the truck recognized him as Troy Driver. The surveillance footage confirmed that the truck had not been moved since being parked in the dirt lot at 4:22 a.m. After returning to his truck, the suspect returned to Irion’s car and moved it.

Joyner said that after positively identifying Driver as the person walking away from Irion’s car, detectives believed probable cause existed that Driver was responsible for the kidnapping. On March 25, Driver was arrested and booked into the Lyon County Jail. He refused to speak with detectives.

Simultaneous to his arrest, detectives also served a search warrant on his home in Fallon and seized his truck as evidence. Detectives immediately noticed the truck had brand new tires. Detectives found that Driver had replaced his tires on March 19, which was after LCSO had released the surveillance photos of the truck to the media. He had replaced the tires at a Les Schwab in Winnemucca. Joyner said detectives believe he replaced the tires in Winnemucca rather than in Fallon because of local media coverage, in fear of drawing attention to himself. Detectives were able to recover the original tires from Les Schwab in Winnemucca.

After Driver was arrested and his name was released to the media, law enforcement began to receive tips about Driver. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office received a tip that in February of 2022, a semi-truck hauling an excavator had been trying to deliver the excavator to Troy Driver at the Relief Canyon Mine outside of Lovelock for a Ledcor operation. The employee who spoke to the delivery driver called Troy Driver, who asked that the excavator be delivered to the Buena Vista Iron Mine, about 15 miles south of the Relief Canyon Mine. The Buena Vista Iron Mine is an abandoned mine located in a remote area southeast of Lovelock, in the northern part of Churchill County.

In February, Ledcor had been hired to dig samples at the mine site, which is why Driver had been there waiting for the delivery of the excavator. After receiving that tip, a PCSO sergeant drove to the mine site, where he found freshly turned-over dirt on the north side of the mine that did not seem consistent with mining. On March 28, the PCSO sergeant passed the information to detectives in Churchill and Lyon.

The next day, detectives from Churchill and Lyon Counties responded to the mine site and found freshly dug dirt mounded into the shape of a grave. It had rocks scattered around the top to make it appear natural. Detectives began to dig and discovered that it was a grave site.

With the assistance of forensic technicians from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, detectives exhumed the grave and found Irion buried approximately 4-5 feet deep, with two gunshot wounds. Joyner said the evidence showed that she had been shot in the head outside of the grave, then she was dragged into the grave and shot in the chest.

Joyner said evidence indicated the grave had been dug by an excavator. Tire impressions from both Irion’s car and the tires from Driver’s truck recovered from the Winnemucca Les Schawb were found at the mine site.

Driver’s girlfriend told detectives that he had gone camping on the weekend of March 12 and had left his cell phones at home. He had left their house on the evening of March 11 and returned on the night of March 12. Joyner said Driver’s girlfriend also said he was infatuated with serial killers and was constantly reading books or listening to podcasts about serial killers and had recently been questioning his girlfriend’s daughter about the shuttle bus to Panasonic and Tesla, such as about the stops and how many people ride the bus.

She also confirmed that Driver had operated an excavator at the Buena Vista Iron Mine on February 22 and even provided a picture of the excavator from a text message that Driver had sent her. Detectives also confirmed with Ledcor that Driver had been working at the Buena Vista Iron Mine that day, digging sample holes on the southern boundary of the mine.

Joyner said evidence showed that when the other employees working at the mine that day left, Driver had used the excavator to dig a grave on the north side of the mine site, a long distance from the sample holes, which showed the grave was dug with premeditation almost a month before the crime.

Joyner said detectives believe Driver left home on March 11 and drove his truck to the Buena Vista Iron Mine, where he had the location of the kill site planned with a pre-dug grave site, to make sure the mine was still abandoned and to make final preparations. He said the mine site was gated and locked, but Driver had access to the combination lock from recent work at the mine. Then during the early morning hours of March 12, he drove to the Fernley Walmart.

“Driver picked a kidnap location that was dark and secluded, that had a high possibility of locating a single young woman, alone in a vehicle,” Joyner said.

Joyner said Driver approached the car and likely brandished a firearm to quickly gain control of Irion. He then broke and disabled her cell phone and drove Irion in her car to the Buena Vista Iron Mine, which is approximately 90 minutes from Fernley. After the killing, Driver burned Naomi’s clothing and some of his own. He then returned in her car to Fernley, where he parked it, walked back to his truck, and left the area.

In June of 2022, DNA results taken from Irion as part of the autopsy and sexual assault examination were confirmed as a match to DNA taken from Driver.

Joyner said the investigation did not reveal any previous connection between Driver and Irion. Driver seemed to confirm that in the suicide note detectives recovered on Aug. 18, 2022.

The letter was smuggled out of the jail in a deck of playing cards and was hand-delivered to Driver’s ex-girlfriend, by an inmate who had been released from custody. Driver’s ex-girlfriend immediately turned over the note to law enforcement. Joyner read excerpts from the note, where Driver wrote “There has always been a terrible darkness inside of me,” and “The guilt is crushing. I didn’t know anything about her until too late.” The note also stated that Driver intended on killing himself rather than exposing his loved ones to what he had done.

Joyner said Driver’s suicide was as extensively and carefully planned as the kidnapping and murder.

“Driver kept meticulous notes on day-to-day activities within the jail and committed suicide in a narrow window of time when he was not observed,” he said.

Rye also addressed the motion to dismiss filed by Driver’s attorneys in an attempt to change the trial venue to Churchill County by saying his office is certain the appropriate jurisdiction to try the case was Lyon County

“Driver started his brutal crime spree in Lyon County and he finished in Lyon County,” Rye said. “Naomi lived in Lyon County and the community most impacted by this case was Fernley in Lyon County.”

In addition, Rye said that even if a change of venue had been granted, the Churchill County district attorney’s office would have continued the prosecution and sought the death penalty for Troy Driver.

Rye closed his comments by paying special tribute to Naomi.

“There is evil in this world and Troy Driver reflects that evil,” he said. “But there is also hope, and Naomi reflects that.

Valley, who was at Wednesday’s press conference, said he watched the video summation of the investigation with Pope and Rye on Monday.

“I didn’t know that they had literally gotten his face on camera like that, that was new to me, and some of the details of the letter were new to me,” he said. “Other than that, I knew most of it.”

Valley said he has no question that Driver was the person who killed his sister.

“I would feel better if he had been convicted by a jury,” he said. “I’m no lawyer or anything, but with that level of evidence, I don’t see how anybody could have fought that.”

Now that the case is over, even though it wasn’t the ending they were hoping for, Valley said he believes that Naomi would want her family to live their lives.

“Definitely anytime I have interactions with people I wouldn’t normally interact with, I just think about what Naomi would think about or do in that situation,” he said. “She was just such a kind and loving person, that she’s kind of a guiding light in a lot of ways. I hope I can reflect that.”

 

 

 

 


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Jane Bates 08/17/2023 10:11 AM
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