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February 6, 2011

Janitor of Placerville School shooting gets murder charges filed with intent using a .357-caliber revolver

Janitor, John Luebbers, age 44, was charged with murder after telling investigators he fired two shots and struck Principal Sam LaCara, age 50, in the office at Louisiana Schnell Elementary School in Placerville, police said. Luebbers told police that Mr. LaCara had fired him Wednesday just days after the two friends had gone golfing. Placerville Union School District Superintendent Nancy Lynch said Thursday that LaCara had sent Luebbers home for the day after the janitor became upset over a personnel matter. Vicki Barber, superintendent of the El Dorado County Office of Education, said the two men apparently had a dispute about the nighttime custodian. "Mr. LaCara thought he needed to go home and cool off for the day," Lynch said.

Luebbers entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment Friday afternoon and was held without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for early March. Luebbers faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life if convicted.

Students returned to school Friday for the first time since the shooting. The school district had counselors on hand.

A memorial service for LaCara has been scheduled for Tuesday at a Placerville church. A makeshift memorial was set up at the school entrance following the shooting. Residents had gathered the night of the shooting to mourn LaCara, a married father of three daughters.

LaCara's brother-in-law, Guy Clark, told reporters Friday that the family is devastated, especially LaCara's wife. "They were totally in love," Clark said. "She's crushed."

School district officials described LaCara as a beloved educator who got his start as a gym teacher and worked his way up to principal in 2003. "Sam had an extensive network of friends and colleagues who affectionately called him 'the mayor,'" the district wrote in a statement. "This affectionate title referred to the way Sam knew how to get things done in ways to benefit the students he served."
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