El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson Announces the Conviction of Nolen Keith Buchanan for Three Counts of First Degree Murder

Posted: June 14, 2018

On June 13, 2018, an El Dorado County jury made up of seven men and five women convicted Nolen Keith Buchanan of three counts of First Degree Murder with multiple enhancements for the use of a firearm in the commission of his crimes. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning their verdict. After the verdicts, the Honorable Suzanne Kingsbury remanded the defendant into the El Dorado County jail pending the July 12, 2018, sentencing hearing. 

In the early morning hours of September 13, 2015, Nolen Buchanan shot and killed his father (Adam Buchanan), step-mother (Molly McAfee), and his 8 year-old brother (Gavin Buchanan) at their vacation cabin in Greenwood, CA. Nolen Buchanan then proceeded to douse the bodies and the cabin in gasoline and set everything on fire, burning the cabin to its foundation. The then sixteen year-old drove the family truck back to their home in Benicia, CA and denied being at the cabin, concocting intricate lies to avoid detection.

The evidence at trial showed that Nolen Buchanan planned the killings before leaving for the cabin that weekend. He attempted to establish an alibi, manipulated police, friends and family into believing he was shocked to hear of his family's deaths, and made plans to take over the family business. The jury, in finding Nolen Buchanan guilty of First Degree Murder, determined that the killings were willful, premeditated, and deliberate. 

Nolen Buchanan testified at the jury trial that his father was the actual killer. His new story was detailed and explained that his father first shot his stepmother, then shot his brother, and, when his father turned the gun on the defendant, he wrestled the gun away from his father and shot him in self-defense. However, evidence proved that Defendant's new story was another lie because critical details of his story were determined to be forensically impossible.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Jamie Pesce and Deputy District Attorney Kassie Cardullo.  Investigator Joe Ramsey and Victim Advocates Christy Canclini and Patti Harrington assisted during the prosecution.  The case  was investigated by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, with special assistance by the Sacramento County Coroner's Office, the California Department of Justice and the Benicia Police Department.

District Attorney Vern Pierson stated, "My hope is that these convictions can bring about some sense of justice and closure for the family members of the victims."