August 8, 2023 - 11:43 am
YERINGTON — Troy Driver, the man accused of abducting an 18-year-old woman from a Walmart parking lot in Fernley and killing her at a remote mine site, died by suicide Sunday in his jail cell.
Deputies assigned to the Lyon County jail discovered Driver, 43, unresponsive in his maximum-security cell during a routine check at 6:17 p.m. on Sunday.
“Deputies immediately entered the cell and started lifesaving measures to include CPR,” Lyon County Sheriff Brad Pope said in a news release.
The sheriff called Driver’s death a suicide and said the murder suspect “had no contact with other inmates.”
Driver stood accused of abducting Naomi Irion on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
“I feel like his suicide is an admission of guilt,” said Irion’s 34-year-old stepbrother, Casey Valley, in a phone interview on Monday. “But I wish the justice system had the chance to give a verdict.”
Abducted before dawn
Irion was relaxing in her car before boarding a shuttle bus to the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, where she was employed by Panasonic.
Surveillance video showed a man entering Irion’s 1992 Mercury Sable at 5:24 a.m. The car then was seen leaving the parking lot.
Minutes earlier, Irion had been active on social media — something her stepbrother said she often did while waiting to board the shuttle bus.
The next night, Valley called the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office and tried to file a missing person report.
“The deputy wouldn’t take the report,” Valley said during a July interview in Fernley. “He said call back tomorrow.”
Irion, whose parents were residing in South Africa while her father was on diplomatic assignment for the U.S. State Department, lived with her stepbrother at his ranch-style home in Fernley.
On Monday, March 14, Valley drove to Walmart, where he persuaded security personnel to review the store’s surveillance footage of the parking lot.
The grainy video showed a person in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt walking through the parking lot in the early morning darkness on March 12.
“We saw the guy force his way into her car,” Valley said.
Sheriff’s investigators concluded that Driver, who lived in Fallon, about 30 minutes from the Walmart in Fernley, was the man seen in the video.
Dumped in a desert grave
Valley said evidence suggested that Driver drove Irion’s car west toward Reno before destroying her cellphone and that afterward, Driver headed east on Interstate 80 past Lovelock, then drove south on a rural road for 25 miles to a remote part of Churchill County.
The stepbrother also said Driver, whose LinkedIn page identified him as a superintendent for Ledcor Group, a heavy equipment contractor involved in mining projects, had access to an inactive mine site.
A criminal complaint filed against Driver by Lyon County District Attorney Stephen Rye alleged that after transporting Irion to the remote mine site, Driver raped her.
Irion was fatally shot, and her body was dumped in a makeshift grave.
‘Help us find Naomi Irion’
On March 15, 2022, sheriff’s deputies located Irion’s Mercury Sable near the Sherwin-Williams Western Emulsion Plant about a mile from the Walmart in Fernley.
Word quickly spread about the missing young woman, and a flyer that pleaded “Help Us Find Naomi Irion” went viral on social media.
Ten days after Irion’s apparent abduction, a candlelight vigil at Fernley Out of Town Park drew hundreds of participants.
Meanwhile, on March 16, the Sheriff’s Office released a surveillance photo of a black, recent model Chevrolet High Country pickup truck, saying investigators believed the driver of the truck had “a direct connection to Naomi’s disappearance.”
Nevada vehicle records from 2022 identified Driver as the registered owner of a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado K3500 High Country pickup.
On March 25, 2022, the Sheriff’s Office arrested Driver and impounded the pickup.
Four days later, acting on a tip, authorities recovered Irion’s body from the remote mine site in Churchill County.
Pope and Tyrell Joyner, a detective assigned to the case, declined to comment on the investigation.
Previous suicide rumors
Driver was charged by the Lyon County district attorney with murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and related crimes.
The criminal complaint also alleged that he destroyed or concealed evidence by burying Irion’s body, discarding her cellphone, and changing the tires on his pickup.
A year ago, rumors spread online that Driver had killed himself in jail, prompting the Sheriff’s Office to issue a denial.
This time around, the suicide was confirmed by Pope in a news release on Sunday evening.
Trial in the case had been scheduled for July 9, 2024, in Lyon County District Court in Yerington, but now the evidence against Driver may never become public.
“It’s another miscarriage of justice,” Valley said on Monday.
Irion’s stepbrother had previously criticized Lyon County’s handling of the case.
When asked why Driver wasn’t on suicide watch, Pope replied, “I am not trying to be aloof, but we are in the process of packaging all of the information.”
In his news release, the sheriff said the Nevada State Police Division of Investigations will undertake “a full and thorough investigation surrounding the events leading to Driver’s death.”
If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a friend or loved one, help is available 24/7 by calling or texting the Lifeline network at 988. Live chat is available at 988lifeline.org.