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Billowing disaster blazes trail to a family tragedy in Nye County

Editor’s Note: The Pahrump Valley Times has spent the last several weeks researching public and other records, along with making public records requests for this story. Some of the defendants involved in the James Remster case were interviewed by the Times in 2018 during the highly-destructive Camp Fire in California.

A chapter is about to close on a 2018 murder case in Nye County, one that led investigators from the local area, to across the California state line and other parts of the country.

Tonopah resident Jeannie Newberry is last of three individuals making their way through the justice system in a case surrounding the murder of James Dean Remster, 62, of Tonopah, in the fall of 2018. Newberry, under a plea agreement, pleaded guilty to information of accessory to the murder in the death of Remster in August and is scheduled to appear in court in mid-November for sentencing.

Newberry’s brother, Thomas Schwartz, also pleaded guilty earlier this year to obstruction charges surrounding the case through a plea agreement. Schwartz is facing a six-month suspended sentence in the case, as long as he stays out of trouble for the next two years, according to court records.

Schwartz, taking refuge in Tonopah, as were two other close relatives, from the raging Camp Fire that was threatening his California home in Oroville in 2018, had only been in Tonopah for a matter of weeks when Remster was slain and later thrown down an abandoned mine shaft near Tonopah.

The case also involved another family connection, though unrelated to the siblings.

Remster’s son-in-law, Jeremmy Burch, was sentenced this summer, pursuant a plea agreement, to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 10 years for second-degree murder. The Tonopah resident was also sentenced to two to five years in prison for accessory to murder under the plea agreement, according to a release earlier in 2019 from the Nye County District Attorney.

The convictions end months of investigation by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office and work by the county’s district attorney.

Cases close

But closure in the court system isn’t always absolute closure for those touched by such cases.

Remster’s daughter, Jamie, who Remster was living with before his death, is still dealing with the effects of what happened to her father and Burch’s actions, she says.

“I’m pretty much still lost at words for it,” Jamie said. “I’ve just been going through a whole lot with the whole situation. I haven’t really wrapped my mind around the whole thing yet.”

She continued: “It’s tragic, I tell you that.”

Jamie said she is still unaware of many of the details in the case.

“I had no idea that my ex-husband even had this in him,” Jamie said. “Still today, it goes through my mind, like why did he do this?”

Jamie said she lost everything.

“Right now, I’m living by myself,” she said. “Having to start over from losing everything, to start over from scratch, is a scary thing.”

Jamie is also still working on the divorce process from her husband of roughly a decade.

She’s been working on getting things back into place.

“I’m getting there one day at a time,” she said. “It’s hard. It’s rough, but I’ve seen other people do it, and I know I can.”

Jamie has never been charged with a crime surrounding her father’s murder.

Susie Taylor-Hibbs, Remster’s stepdaughter, remembered Remster positively.

Remster was previously married to Taylor-Hibbs’ mother. Taylor-Hibbs went to live with her biological father when she was seven.

Taylor-Hibbs, now 44, kept up with her stepfather through Facebook and through phone calls over the last several years.

“He was a great guy, and he did not deserve to be murdered, absolutely did not,” she said. “Nobody does, but he was a very nice, generous person, and that’s what’s really hard for everybody.”

Taylor-Hibbs of Bend, Oregon, questions why her stepfather was murdered.

“He literally did not do anything to hurt anybody physically or emotionally or verbally, super nice guy,” she said.

Taylor-Hibbs has been estranged from her half-sister Jamie for the last several years. Remster and Taylor-Hibbs’ mother had Jamie together, she said.

Taylor-Hibbs said many family connected to Remster wanted him to come home or leave Nevada and Jamie and Jeremmy. Remster also has multiple children and an ex-wife in Longview, Washington, where he lived for several years.

Taylor-Hibbs said she and other family members felt Remster living with Jamie and Jeremmy was not a good living situation for him to be in.

Missing person

Remster was first reported missing on Dec. 19, 2018 to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, according to a video release from the sheriff’s office at the end of March.

Nye County investigators approached Jeremmy Burch at his Tonopah residence after Remster was reported missing, where Burch told detectives he’d last seen Remster on Dec. 3, 2018 and could be catching a bus to Tennessee.

Following that interview with detectives, Jeremmy and Jamie left Tonopah “hastily” and traveled to Amarillo, Texas, where Jeremmy was arrested in mid-March, according to the sheriff’s office’s release.

“I jumped in the truck with my husband at the time, not knowing what he had done and why he was so… quickly out of town,” Jamie said about leaving town. She also says she believed her father to have been in Tennessee at that time, later finding out what had happened.

Remster had a history of moving around often, and Tennessee was one of his destinations, according to family members.

“After numerous interviews, detectives identified that in early of January 2019, that (Jeremmy) Burch had told people that he killed Mr. Remster and threw him in a mine shaft,” according to the release. “Burch allegedly told people that after killing Mr. Remster, he went to the bank and withdrew cash from Mr. Remster’s bank account. He was also allegedly in possession of Mr. Remster’s identification and food stamp card.”

Through followup investigation and interviews, detectives were able to find the mine Remster was in.

The detectives, assisted by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Hasty Rescue Mine Recovery team, located several blood-stained items of clothing in an abandoned mine roughly 30 miles east of Tonopah, along with the body of James Remster on March 16, according to the sheriff’s office release.

The following day, March 17, Burch was arrested in Amarillo and booked into the Potter County Detention Center, where he was to be extradited.

California Connection

In July, Newberry and Schwartz were arrested for their connection to the murder of Remster.

At the time of the murder Schwartz had taken refuge with Newberry in Tonopah to escape the raging Camp Fire that broke out in Paradise, California in early November 2018. According to Cal Fire’s website, the Camp Fire was the most destructive fire in the state’s history.

Schwartz was also with his mother, Sharon Robinson-Schwartz. She came to escape the flames and smoke in the area; Robinson-Schwartz’s home was just outside the mandatory evacuation line in Oroville, California.

Also fleeing the fire to Tonopah was James Schwartz, another sibling of Newberry and Thomas.

Within weeks of the family’s arrival, their lives would be altered forever, and not just from the flames that had devastated thousands of structures in their Butte County, California home and were threatening to destroy theirs.

On July 22, Thomas Schwartz and Newberry were both arrested.

According to a video release by the sheriff’s office in July, the office retrieved a cell phone from the forensic lab of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department belonging to Newberry.

Upon review of text messages from Newberry to her brother, Thomas, it appeared related to the case. To follow up, detectives had traveled to California to question Thomas, according to the video release from the sheriff’s office.

Thomas told detectives that Newberry, Burch and Remster went to the mine shaft together, said Nye County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Ann Horak in the release.

“Newberry then left Burch and Remster, and when she returned to the mine shaft, Burch had killed Remster,” Horak said. “Newberry assisted Burch in cutting barbed wire from the outside of the mine shaft so that Burch could throw Remster inside. Burch and Newberry left the scene, went back to their residence and disclosed this information to Schwartz. Newberry told Schwartz not to tell anyone about the murder.”

At that time, Burch asked Thomas to go burn items that belonged to Remster in the desert, Horak said Thomas told Nye County and Oroville authorities.

“Burch told Schwartz that he hoped to make it appear as though Remster had left town,” Horak said in the video release. “Schwartz told detectives that he entered Remster’s apartment with Burch and the two burned several items in the desert, to include clothing, various belongings, and Remster’s cell phone.

Newberry is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19 in Tonopah District Court.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com, on Twitter @MeehanLv

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