Additional resources for Lawson case

Mad River Union

ARCATA – Detectives are re-investigating every lead previously brought forth in the stabbing death of David Josiah Lawson on April 15, 2017, and they’re pursing new leads as well.

David Josiah Lawson

Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer outlined the Arcata Police Department’s ongoing efforts to solve the homicide case in a memorandum recently provided to the Arcata City Council.

“Per the City Council’s support, the Arcata Police Department has secured additional outside resources to enhance the David Josiah Lawson investigation. I wanted to update the council on the status of these resources,” Diemer wrote in a Sept. 1o memorandum.

Under the “original case resources,” the investigation has been overseen by Interim Police Chief Rick Ehle with support from Lt. Todd Dokweiler. Sgt. Chris Ortega, who has worked on the case from the beginning, was reassigned “so that his time is solely devoted to the case,” according to Diemer.

But now there are additional resources. An investigative case analyst, a police investigation consultant with more than 25 years of experience, seven of those in homicides, has completed a thorough case review and action plan for detectives to initiate.

The department has also assigned to the case two detectives, “each with over 30 years in law enforcement including extensive homicide investigation and critical case analysis experience.”

Detectives are also getting help from a Humboldt State Police sergeant, who has been assigned to the case part time. Lawson, 19, was a student at Humboldt State, where he was studying criminal justice.

“This enhanced investigative team is following up and re-investigating every lead previously brought forth in the case, as well as new leads they have developed from their case reviews,” Diemer wrote. “They have been very active in the community and if you receive questions about their work in the community, please meet with the Chief or I.”

Diemer  also updated the council on a discussion she had with Tom Parker, a former FBI agent who volunteered to work on the case, but resigned last April.  Protesters at Arcata City Council meetings have repeatedly asked that Parker be rehired by the city to help solve the case. 

When Parker resigned, he accused Arcata Police of conducting a lackluster investigation. The city, however, accused Parker of sharing confidential case information.

“As discussed with the community on August 15th, I had a follow up conversation with Tom Parker,” Diemer wrote. “I updated him on the case progress and additional resources added to the investigative team. This conversation further confirmed for me that the Detectives/Investigative Specialists we have hired, with their background and expertise, are what the case needs to progress.”

The city has also hired the Police Foundation to conduct a review of the department’s response to the April 15, 2017 stabbing death of Lawson at a house party on Spear Avenue in Arcata.

“The Police Foundation was hired to review the Police Department’s response and to make recommendations for improving major criminal events, including response to, and investigation of catastrophic, multiple victim and/or multiple witness incidents in the future. They have completed the intown review of case material and spent a week in the region conducting interviews for their response analysis. I would anticipate a report to you by the end of the year,” Diemer wrote.

During a protest which disrupted the Aug. 15 Arcata City Council meeting, Interim Chief Ehle told a crowd that the department is “very close” to solving the case.

McKinleyville resident Kyle Zoellner was arrested on suspicion of murder back in April 2017, but with conflicting testimony, no eyewitnesses and a lack of evidence, the case against him was dismissed without prejudice in May 2017.

At the Aug. 15 meeting, Ehle suggested that charges might be refiled against Zoellner by the District Attorney after the investigation is complete.


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