Jury finds Weed man guilty of first-degree murder; DA credits neighbors for raising concern

Mike Chapman
Siskiyou Daily News

A Weed man was found guilty of first-degree murder on Friday in a case that gives credit to "watchful and caring neighbors" for coming forward.

Robert Henry Tessmer Jr., 38, was convicted of murdering 70-year-old Donald Hobrecht, who lived in Weed's Carrick Addition. The jury also found Tessmer guilty of elder abuse.

A Siskiyou County jury on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, found Robert Tessmer Jr. of Weed guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 70-year-old Donald Holbrecht.

Tessmer faces 25 years to life in prison — which could be doubled due to a prior strike conviction — when he's sentenced March 1 at the Siskiyou County Courthouse.

Tessmer was acquainted with Hobrecht because he had done yardwork and other odd jobs for the victim, according to the Siskiyou County District Attorney's Office.

Hobrecht's friends and neighbors began raising alarms in late September 2019 when they lost contact with the man. They told the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office they hadn't seen or heard from Hobrecht since Sept. 17, 2019, but noticed Tessmer was living in his house.

Deputies said they went to the home to conduct welfare checks and encountered Tessmer "numerous times" where he was living with his girlfriend.

"Tessmer told the SCSO deputies conflicting and false information about where Hobrecht was and called the SCSO twice impersonating Hobrecht," the DA's office said.

While living in Hobrecht's home, prosecutors said Tessmer drove Hobrecht's vehicles and sold some of the man's belongings.

Deputies were able to search the home after obtaining a search warrant and on Oct. 10, 2019, they discovered Hobrecht's body buried in a shallow grave in the backyard.

That same day, Detective Sgt. James Randall — now the undersheriff — interviewed Tessmer and he confessed to the killing, the DA's office said.

“The role of watchful and caring neighbors played an important role," District Attorney Kirk Andrus said. "And once the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office became involved, the investigators, let by Undersheriff Randall, did outstanding work.”

Assistant District Attorney Martha Aker, who prosecuted the case, described Hobrecht as unassuming, but his absence was definitely noticed.

Aker said Hobrecht was “a quiet, elderly man who lived alone and kept to himself, and who the killer probably thought would not be missed.  But he was missed.” 

Judge William Davis presided over the trial, which got underway in November. 

Tessmer's trial originally was set to begin April 19, but Andrus previously said the court would wait for the new courthouse to be finished.

Mike Chapman is an award-winning reporter and photographer for the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif. His newspaper career spans Yreka and Eureka in Northern California and Bellingham, Wash. Support local journalism by subscribing today.