Jealousy. Abuse. Stalking. An end. What led to the tragedy at House of Oliver  

Vita Joga

In Placer County’s main courthouse, just past its front metal detector, there is a document pick-up area with stacked metal baskets. One basket is marked “Domestic Violence Restraining Orders.” It is filled with white paperwork that’s a foot high: The one below it is labeled “Domestic Violence Restraining Orders After Hearing.” The bulk of its half-spilling documents is nearly as daunting. Next week, Judge Angus Saint-Evens is expected to bring an end to a case that shows what happens when the protective system that those thin-wired baskets represent just isn’t enough.

The terrible trajectory that cost Vita Nikolayevna Joga her life first hit law enforcement’s radar in April of 2021. That’s when Joga, who was 51, made her initial domestic violence report against her live-in boyfriend, 51-year-old Johnnie Jordan.

Joga was known as an effervescent woman who could inspire friendships with nearly everyone. Originally from Ukraine, she flashed sunny smiles and gave big hugs. And she loved being a server because of the many connections and conversations that came with it. Joga had worked at House of Oliver wine bar in East Roseville from its earliest days: The place was a natural fit for her style and sensibilities. Joga also had a knack for cultural design. Those close to her say that she’d turned her Rocklin house in into what they endearingly referred to as “the Russian Palace.” Joga was well-travelled. She spoke fluent Japanese and had worked for a time in that country. She’d been living in the Sacramento region for roughly two decades.

“Not only did she have a lot of friends, she was pretty well-known, and well-liked, and loved by lots of customers,” Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire reflected after having to learn about Joga under the worst of circumstances. “I just had somebody yesterday at a random event – an attorney in town – say to me, ‘She was a friend of mine, and just one of those people that everybody called a friend.’”  

A few years before contacting the Rocklin Police Department in the spring of 2021, Joga had reluctantly agreed to go on a coffee date with Jordan, who was originally from Los Angeles. Friends say that Jordan presented himself as a high-rolling professional gambler with exquisite tastes. He took Joga on trips to Las Vegas where they’d ride around in limousines and stay at upscale hotels with breathtaking views. He charmed her inner circle and bought her gifts from Chanel and Louis Vuitton. He became a well-liked regular at House of Oliver as well. But Jordan had a past that Joga didn’t know about. He’d been convicted in Southern California of shooting a gun at a house in 1997, then of being a felon in possession of a gun in 2014, then of making criminal threats in 2016. It would be a while before Joga became aware of any of this.

Over time, the couple got engaged as Jordan moved into Joga’s home. But then, according people familiar with them, Jordan started running into financial problems and asking Joga for gambling money. He was also allegedly cheating on her.

At some point in the spring, Joga told Jordan he had to move out. She took him off her phone plan and put his things out on the porch. Around this time, she called Rocklin police officers to report a domestic violence incident. Joga’s friends say that Rocklin officers spoke with Jordan at the time, but nothing came of it.  

On May 4, 2021, Joga was working at House of Oliver when Jordan appeared in the bar’s corridor for employees and started menacing her. According to what Joga said at the time, Jordan had noticed a photo on her Facebook page from six years prior – some three years before she even met him – of her posing with two male friends and a female friend. “Who is this!” Jordan demanded as he confronted her. When Joga tried to explain the mundane picture, Jordan called her “a lying bitch” and grabbed her by her right shoulder. He pushed her. Then he threatened to kill her. Specifically, Jordan said that he would choke her to death.

House of Oliver employees watched Jordan leave as Joga tried to recover from her shock. Thirty minutes later, Jordan reappeared at the business. He sat on its umbrella-covered patio with a flask of vodka – an unsettling presence that stayed for more than two hours.

Roseville police officers would later view video footage from that day, recorded on the business’s cameras, which captured Jordan terrorizing his former fiancé.

House of Oliver, an intimate bar with crimson and ebony curtains, high walnut cabinets and paintings lit by the glow of crystal chandeliers, does not strike its patrons as a place of disruption. But if Jordan’s confrontation was an outlier for the tranquil socializing spot, owner Matthew Oliver and his staff couldn’t have known what would happen next.    

Joga stopped going home after the incident. She was living in constant fear. She called Rocklin officers again, and, acting on their advice, walked into the Roseville Police Department three days later.

Joga sat down with Officer Lisa Sophie and recounted what went down at work. She mentioned that Jordan had been threatening to kill her “all the time.” Joga then revealed that he had choked her on at least three occasions. At that point, she’d already gotten an emergency protective order against him. Sophie spoke with the victim about the process for extending it. The officer would later remember Joga telling her, ominously, that if the order wasn’t extended, “I’m dead.”

After Joga left the police department, Sophie drove to Rocklin and arrested Jordan. On June 11, 2021, the Placer County District Attorney’s Office charged Jordan with domestic violence. Like many suspects facing similar charges in California, Jordan was allowed to be out-of-custody as he awaited his arraignment.

Joga and those close to her were stressed about what Jordan might be up to in the meantime. Friends urged her to change her gate code and avoid going to work until Jordan was off the streets. Joga didn’t want to let him have that level of control over her. But for those who loved Joga, what she’d told Office Sophie still echoed in their minds. “I’m dead.”

From nowhere

The House of Oliver in East Roseville. Photo by Scott Thomas Anderson

At 3:15 p.m. on June 21, 2021, a call went over the Roseville police dispatch. Every cop working in the city heard it: Violence was erupting at House of Oliver.

Officer Shannon Rauls was in her patrol car at the time. She threw on her lights and siren, racing for the business near the corner of Douglas and Sierra College boulevards. “Where is he?” Ruals called to a bystander as she got out. Seconds later, Rauls was moving into the wine bar with her rifle. The main thing she clocked was a woman lying on the floor.

“I was looking inside to see if I saw a threat, or heard anything,” Rauls testified at a preliminary hearing, “And when I didn’t, I bent down. And my first instinct was to find a pulse or attempt to find a pulse.”

When Rauls knelt and got a better look, she realized that the woman had a catastrophic gunshot wound to the head.

“I had assumed it wasn’t survivable; but still attempted to find a pulse,” Rauls recalled on the stand. “My first instinct was to do her carotid, and her head was a little bit looking to the left, so that her right side of her neck was exposed. But when I looked there to try to find a pulse, I noticed a hole. So, I transitioned and tried to find a pulse on her left radial artery.”

“And when you say hole, did that appear to be a gunshot wound?” Gire asked from the prosecutor’s table.

“Yes,” Rauls said.

“And where was that on the body?”

“From what I remember, it was the right side of the neck at the same area where I would attempt to find a pulse,” Rauls went on.

Officers were now converging on House of Oliver from all directions. They could see 40-caliber shell casings near the victim’s ankle – and on top of the bar. One member of the force arriving was Cassandra Mohring. She was the first officer to learn that the execution had happened right in front of owner Matthew Oliver and at least one of his servers, Jalen Lewis. Mohring spoke with both of them.

“At the time, [Lewis] was inside the club room, which is kind of a glass box area near the dining area with a door,” Mohring testified. “He observed somebody by the name of Johnnie enter into the restaurant and approach another coworker by the name of Vita. They had a brief interaction. And Jalen heard three loud pops, and Vita went to the floor … He saw Johnnie exit through the back part of the restaurant.”

“Then what did he do at that point?” Gire asked.

“There was chaos at that point,” Mohring noted, “so, he exited with the rest of the employees.”

Oliver saw the horror from an even closer vantage point.

“[Oliver] was standing close to the club room in the dining area,” Mohring explained. “He observed Johnnie come through the restaurant and approach Vita. He tried to intercept the initial contact between Johnnie and Vita. Before he could get the words out, ‘There’s a restraining order,’ he saw that Johnnie had produced a firearm and shot Vita … Four or five times.”


Roseville homicide detectives had Jordan covered at gunpoint from every direction. After fleeing the scene, and driving recklessly through Roseville and Rocklin, Jordan eventually pulled up to the South Placer County Jail. He had decided to turn himself in. The investigators made sure that nothing else went haywire as they got the cuffs on him and searched for his missing pistol. They’d soon learned that they had an airtight case. Vita Joga’s assassination was captured on camera. The footage has been described, even by seasoned detectives, as extremely upsetting. It was clear from testimony that police could only feel sorry for House of Oliver employee Bret Thomas, who assisted them in locating it.

“I watched it along with Officer Gaines: I believe Mr. Thomas did not watch it with us,” Captain Kelby Newton mentioned on the stand. “He knew the victim, and he really struggled with helping us because of what was on the video … He was pretty shaken up with what had happened.”

“Certainly,” Giles agreed.

“The defendant walks in towards the front doors, makes an immediate left towards the south wall where the victim and the restaurant owner, Mr. Oliver, are located having a conversation,” Newton continued, breaking down the footage. “He walks towards Mr. Oliver and the victim, pulls a black handgun out of his front part of his sweatshirt or hoodie, and shoots the victim at – from about a foot to a foot-and-a-half away. And then turns, fires more shots and exits back out the route to where he came into view.”

Joga’s family and friends were thunderstruck by what happened that day, though in their aguish, they could see a terrible irony. The day Jordan walked into House of Oliver and made good on his threats was the very day he was supposed to be arraigned on his domestic violence charges.

Law enforcement and victims’ advocates had seen a story like this take place in Placer County before. Four years prior, a woman named Renee O’Neal had moved to Lincoln with her two young kids as she awaited her ex-boyfriend Jarrod Hill being sentenced on felony stalking charges. Authorities say O’Neal followed the best advice around having an escape plan from her tormentor. She had filed a restraining order against him. Moreover, she’d moved from Sacramento County to Placer County and went off-grid as best she could. O’Neal had tried to disappear while the wheels of justice slowly moved Hill towards a prison cell. But, on May 18, the very day that Hill was scheduled to walk into a Sacramento courtroom and be sentenced, he was instead lying-in-wait outside of O’Neal’s new home. When she walked into her garage, he shot her down, leaving her two young twins motherless for rest of their lives.   

In Joga’s case, she leaves behind a daughter in college and scores of close friends.

The day after what would have been Joga’s birthday, Gire talked to SN&R about searching for meaning – and lessons – in such situations.

“These are some of the most-frightening and most-dangerous situations – intimate partner violence,” Gire acknowledged. “And it shows the limits, sadly, of the criminal justice system. I think it also shows how much work still needs to be done on the front end of these things. We need to do a better job of getting to our community about the risk factors, and raising awareness of these issues.”

Before becoming the top law enforcement officer in Placer County, Gire worked for years in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. That agency routinely puts out what it calls the Domestic Violence Death Review report, chronicling every case in which domestic violence or stalking within a relationship led to murder that year. Its last report, for 2021, identified ten incidents of that happening in Sacramento, with the victims’ ages ranging from 31 to 65.  

Gire’s office recently sponsored legislation to build teen dating violence education into public school curriculum. The topic of domestic violence spiraling into homicide has been on the DA’s mind for quite a while. He says one of the first cases of his 20-year career was a low-level misdemeanor domestic situation that involved a man grabbing and shoving his girlfriend. Gire prosecuted it, but remembers the judge putting a stay on the sentencing phase since the victim was uncooperative and never testified.

“Four weeks later, he murdered her,” Gire stressed. “It shook me … It’s one of those things where it can begin and end in a relatively minor way, or it can continue and escalate and ultimately end in absolute tragedy.”

Next week, Gire and Joga’ family expect Jordan to be sentenced to 50-years-to life for what he did.

“You put your faith, especially as a career prosecutor and everybody in our domestic violence unit who care so deeply about these cases, into trying to let the system work,” Gire explained. “And we’re constantly trying to instill faith and confidence in our survivors and our victims to participate in the process, and go through it all. But to see the extreme examples of when the mechanisms in place to keep people safe, fail, it does shake your faith in the system a little bit.”

He added, “But it’s all we can do: Our take-aways from that is to continue to try to improve, and to continue to try to empower our victims so they don’t have to put up with it, so they can decide to re-write their story and escape those environments before it’s too late; but it’s always disheartening when people just chose to do evil and there’s not much you can do about it when they’re hell-bend on doing it.”   

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2 Comments on "Jealousy. Abuse. Stalking. An end. What led to the tragedy at House of Oliver  "

  1. Why doesn’t law enforcement treat domestic violence the same as suicide? We ask suicidal persons if they have a plan and access to resources to kill themselves. Why not domestic violence perpetrators?
    If you want to kill her, how would you do it?
    And do you have access to that tool?

    Suicidal persons can be restrained per Ca PC section 5150. Why not perpetrators of domestic violence?

  2. I wonder why Jordan wasn’t arrested for PC section 422, criminal/terrorist threats as a felony, and WTF is the reason he couldn’t be held without bail considering Joga’s restraining order had been in existence prior to the subsequent threats to kill?

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