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CSU seeks court order to protect faculty and others who complained about Chico professor

Trinity Hall (TRNT) is seen on Sunday, June 12, 2022 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)
Jason Halley
California State University, Chico
Trinity Hall (TRNT) is seen on Sunday, June 12, 2022 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)

This story was updated on Feb. 9 with new information on a judge granting the order on a temporary basis and scheduling a hearing.

The California State University system on Wednesday sought a court order to protect three Chico State academics and a graduate student from a suspended biology professor who allegedly threatened campus gun violence.

The request seeks to protect two professors, a lecturer and a graduate student from David Stachura, who has been accused of making gun violence threats that roiled the campus when they were revealed in December.

According to Butte County Superior Court’s website, the order was granted on a temporary basis Thursday morning. A hearing before Judge Virginia Gingery is scheduled for Feb. 27th at 1:30 p.m.

Stachura has been on paid suspension since Dec. 9 following an EdSource report that he allegedly told his estranged wife he wanted to shoot two co-workers who cooperated in a 2020 investigation that found he had an affair with a graduate student he supervised that included sex in his Holt Hall office. Colleagues complained that they heard the couple having sex through the walls.

The Superior Court filing requesting a workplace-violence restraining order claims there is “a grave concern” among Chico State’s faculty and students that Stachura is a “disgruntled employee” who will retaliate for his suspension “via mass gun violence.”

Stachura has both denied making the threats and having any violent intent.

If granted, the order would require Stachura to stay 300 yards away from four employees named in the request, their families and their homes. It would also require him to stay a quarter-mile away from the Chico State campus and its parking facilities.

It was not immediately clear late Wednesday when a judge will hear the request. It was filed in Butte County Superior Court two months after Chico State students and faculty reacted with outrage over how the school responded to the alleged threats in 2021. They also objected that Stachura received light punishment for the affair and was later promoted to full professor.

“Stachura is likely to undergo further review and assessments over the coming months. He remains on administrative leave for an undetermined period of time pending further review of his conduct by Chico State,” Deputy Attorney General Shanna McDaniel at the California Department of Justice wrote in the 124-page court filing.

“The concern for Stachura becoming more disgruntled and potentially violent against the protected people has greatly increased in the last two months,” McDaniel wrote. Stachura, she wrote has lost “esteem in the community, raising the potential risk of violence.”

Neither Stachura nor his attorney, Kasra Parsad, of Santa Rosa, immediately responded to messages late Wednesday.

Asked why the court order was sought, a Chico State spokesman wrote in an email Wednesday, “Chico State evaluates all possible means to provide our employees with a safe and comfortable working environment.”

The filing includes statements from the professors who cooperated in the investigation of Stachura’s affair, Emily Fleming and Kristen Gorman, as well as lecturer Betsey Tamietti, and a graduate student, Jackelin Villalobos.

Both Gorman and Fleming stated that they have a deep fear of Stachura since they spoke with a campus investigator in 2020 about his affair with the graduate student.

“I am very concerned that Dr. Stachura is under acute stressors that make him vulnerable to committing violence to his workplace and specifically to me,” Gorman wrote.

The filing includes a letter and draft of a threatened lawsuit sent by Stachura’s lawyer to Tamietti. The letter demands she retracts the public statements she made in December about Stachura talking of gun violence, claiming they were false. The Jan. 24 letter states that if she did make the retraction within seven days the suit would not be filed. As of Wednesday, no suit against her has been filed in Butte Superior Court. She has made no public retraction.

Villalobos wrote that after the December revelations, “graduate students in the biology department got together to express their concerns.” She wrote that they echoed concerns she had “for over a year” about “feeling unsafe on campus because of Dr. Stachura.”

Before Wednesday’s court filing, Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson said in numerous statements that Stachura wouldn’t teach in the spring semester and is banned from campus. The school’s academic senate voted in December to ask the school to obtain the restraining order.

Chico State settled the sex case with Stachura by suspending him without pay for a third of a semester. Shortly after that, he was promoted to full professor and named the school’s “outstanding professor” of the 2020-21 academic year. The award was rescinded in December. Provost Debra Larson, who approved the settlement, resigned in December but is working as a consultant to her replacement until May.

Stachura’s estranged wife later sought a restraining order against him in 2021 amid a contentious divorce. In a declaration filed in Butte County Superior Court, she told a judge that Stachura threatened to shoot Gorman and Fleming. He “confided in me that he had purchased (a) semi-automatic shotgun, a handgun, and hollow-point bullets to kill his two co-workers and then himself,” his wife, Miranda King, told the court. Stachura, she added, “said he was planning on shooting them.”

A receipt from a Chico gun store filed as an exhibit in the restraining order case showed Stachura bought hollow-point pistol ammunition and 50 rounds of .12 gauge buckshot on Oct. 15, 2020 — the day he received notice that his appeal of the findings in the sex investigation was rejected by the CSU chancellor’s office. In an interview with EdSource, he twice said he didn’t remember the purchase, then said he did recall it, but that the timing was a coincidence. The munitions, he said, were for home protection.

Jake Hutchison, a reporter for the Chico Enterprise-Record, contributed to this report.

Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter at EdSource. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter.
EdSource believes that access to a quality education is an important right of all children. We further believe that an informed, involved public is necessary to strengthen California’s schools for the benefit of the state’s children, its civic life, and its economy.