Sonoma Greens resident Steven Rothschild appeared briefly before Judge Robert LaForge in Sonoma County Superior Court last Wednesday, Aug. 16, but he was not ready to enter a plea to the charge of murdering his wife Juanita “Nita” Gullahorn Rothschild, 67.
Granted more time to consult with his lawyer, Rothschild, 72, is expected to remain in custody at the Main Adult Detention Facility until his next court date on Sept. 13. Bail has been set at $2 million.
Javier Vaca of the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has been assigned to the case.
The charges against Rothschild stem from events late on Friday, Aug. 4.
According to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, at approximately 11:40 p.m. that night, Rothschild called 911 requesting a deputy to his home. He told the dispatcher that he and his wife had been in a fight and she was dead. Deputies and emergency medical personnel were dispatched to the condo.
Deputies found Juanita Rothschild unresponsive on the living room couch. According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office released the next day, she appeared to be seriously beaten but no ?obvious weapons were found. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.
Despite one source in the Sheriff’s Office describing the murder as “an open and shut case,” Rothschild has hired Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney Stephen Gallenson to represent him.
According to his website, during Gallenson’s 30-year career as a defense attorney in Sonoma County, his “efforts have caused many serious cases including sexual assault, murder and drug cases, to be dismissed prior to trial.”
Most recently, Gallenson represented Gayle Gray, the 77-year-old Santa Rosa grandmother who was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for driving under the influence of both alcohol and prescription medication, killing one Oakmont woman and injuring a second.
Juanita Rothschild’s autopsy took place on Tuesday, Aug. 8. The Coroner’s Office said that the results will not be available for several weeks.
As of late last week, Rothschild’s body had not been released or prepared for burial. According to public information officer Sgt. Spencer Crum, in the absence of any relatives being located, Juanita Rothschild’s body may be released to Steven Rothschild as her next of kin.
It is possible that Rothschild will “make bail” in the weeks ahead, according to Gallenson. He said that Rothschild is “in shock” but would like to make his wife’s funeral arrangements.
Neighbors and friends hope for news of a memorial service. Juanita Rothschild is remembered fondly by members of the Sonoma Newcomers Club and at Pets Lifeline, where she was an active and enthusiastic volunteer according to her friends.
The couple lived on Amherst Circle in the quiet Sonoma Greens neighborhood in Boyes Hot Springs.
According to a childhood friend, Nita graduated from Sandy Springs High School outside Atlanta in 1967, and from the small all-women’s Wesleyan College, in Georgia, in 1971. She had a brief first marriage in the 1970s.
Friends believe the Rothschilds met in San Francisco and lived there in the 1980s, where she worked for the Automobile Association of America. They retired to Tahoe Donner, then moved first to Marysville, Washington, in 2005 and then Edmonds, Washington, in 2009; before settling in Sonoma in 2013.
While neighbors described the couple as “very private,” they attended neighborhood parties and Juanita was a familiar sight walking the couple’s cream-colored labradoodle, Gracie.
Updates to the case will be posted at sonomanews.com when available.
Contact Lorna at email@example.com.