A Tuolumne County Superior Court judge ruled a Jupiter man be tried on murder charges in the shooting death of his neighbor in a marijuana garden on Oct. 16, 2018.
Judge Donald Segerstrom said Wednesday there was no reason for Matthew Grogg, 23, to have trespassed onto the Jupiter-area property of Scott Rockey, 31, who authorities found dead in the garden hours after the shooting.
“There is no question from the court that a homicide took place,” Segerstrom said.
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office detective Brandon Green testified he heard a 43-second audio recording that originated from Grogg’s phone detailing the moments just before the shooting.
The audio was grainy and sometimes hard to hear, but Green could make out a voice yell “hey” and another voice responded “how’s it going?”
A voice yelled “thief” and there were inaudible, indistinguishable sounds before a voice believed to be Rockey screamed the name of Rockey’s girlfriend in a nearby trailer.
The phone call was placed to a Jupiter man who lived on the same property as Grogg, Green said, off Italian Bar Road north of Rose Creek Circle outside Twain Harte.
When Green told Grogg he had audio of the scuffle, he said Grogg responded, “woah, that’s insane.”
The girlfriend told authorities she and Rockey were watching a movie while his son was asleep in another room when his dog barked at someone outside. Rockey went outside and his girlfriend soon followed.
She said she saw two people grappling in the darkness and she went inside because Rockey asked her to get his gun. She heard gunshots from inside the trailer and then the sound of a motorized vehicle leaving the property, Green said.
“She said she had never seen Scott Rockey scared before and the way he was screaming, he sounded terrified,” Green said.
Throughout the testimony, Grogg, in black glasses and a red Tuolumne County Jail jumpsuit, sat silent and motionless.
Grogg was arrested on Oct. 23 by the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.
Green said Grogg’s statement to him was inconsistent as to why he went to the property and what happened. Grogg said he was asked by Rockey’s ex-girlfriend, who also lived on a property with Grogg, to check on marijuana plants she put there following a code compliance bust on her property in summer 2018. Grogg told Green he planned to go on a walk and brought a mairjuana cigarette to share with Rockey. If Rockey was rude to him, he was going to use a bag of baking powder and seasonings to break Rockey’s generators.
“It changed, the timeline went back and forth,” Green said. “We went over the timeline several times and it changed every time.”
Grogg later admitted to bringing a handgun with him to Rockey’s property, which he said he got from a table at his property-mate’s residence. He said he returned the firearm to the table after the shooting.
A search warrant was executed on the trailer, but the handgun was not located, Green said.
Investigators located a white powdery substance in a bag, a cigarette butt, a flashlight and an open, wood-handled 3-inch blade knife at the shooting site. They also found a pair of earbuds in Rockey’s hand, a bullet on the ground and evidence of a bullet through a marijuana planter container.
There were two seperate marijuana gardens on Rockey’s property and a greenhouse, which was mostly empty, Green said.
An autopsy determined Rockey sustained a bullet wound on his right clavicle with a partial exit wound and a bullet entry wound on the right top of his head with a bullet lodged in his jaw, Green said.
Grogg’s attorney, Hallie Campbell, argued Grogg was acting in self defense when he shot Rockey.
“He was going to be choked out until he was going to fall asleep,” she said of the fight.
Segerstrom determined that the alleged distance between Grogg and Rockey during the shooting — approximately six to seven feet — indicated Grogg was not acting in self defense.
Grogg’s arraignment was set for April 2 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 2 of the Tuolumne County Superior Court.