Slain HSU student’s mother offers $10,000 reward

David Josiah Lawson

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

ARCATA— Charmaine Michelle Lawson is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who stabbed to death her son, Humboldt State University David Josiah Lawson, 19, at an Easter weekend house party here.

Hosting an outdoor press conference today, May 18 at HSU, Lawson appealed to the community at large and anyone who attended the Spear Avenue gathering of some 50-100 people where her son was stabbed to death to speak up in a case that that has been stalled by conflicting and insufficient evidence.

In particular, “I’m speaking to the mothers of every person who was at that party that night,” Lawson entreated, standing tearfully in bright afternoon sunshine in HSU’s Bell Tower Quadrangle.

“Sit down with your children again,” she pressed. “I don’t care how small it is, just ask them, ‘What happened? What happened?’ Someone knows what happened to my son. And as a mother I am pleading with you to come forward.”

Reinforcing Lawson’s appeal, HSU student Elijah Chandler, a friend and schoolmate of Josiah Lawson, sought to allay fears of arrest or jail for speaking up after the fact. There will be no punishment, he promised, and the issue is much larger than that: the full truth of what happened.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to come forward,” Chandler admonished, urging potential witnesses at the party to set aside the shame or guilt they might feel for holding off.

“Have the courage to do the right thing,” added Chandler, who gave his friend CPR in the last minutes of his life. “People are hurting right now and they will continue to hurt deeply until they know the answers to what happened that night.”

He said persons of color, including HSU students, do not feel safe in Arcata in the knowledge that the “people who did this are still walking around” free and at large.

In announcing the $10,000 reward, Charmaine Michelle Lawson told reporters and several dozen HSU staff, “This is a mother’s worst nightmare.”

Recounting the horror she suffered at word of her son’s fate, she said, “No mom should ever receive the phone call I received that morning [April 15], telling her that her son is dead.”

Grieving aloud, she said she received no phone call from her son on Mother’s Day and would not be able to congratulate him on his 20th birthday this month.

Lawson was accompanied at the press conference by a cousin, Matt Weaver, a second cousin, Keesha Weaver of Galt, Calif. and by Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman, who ruled out questions.

HSU President Lisa Rossbacher spoke briefly with Lawson afterward.

Chapman and Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming are seeking additional evidence in the stabbing case. More forensic analysis is being done of a knife recovered by APD Officer Krystle Arminio from underneath a car parked in the 1120 Spear Avenue cul-de-sac, shortly after Lawson was taken by ambulance to Mad River Community Hospital.

Neither a single fingerprint nor fibers found on the knife were linked to Kyle Zoellner, 23, of McKinleyville. Charges against him were dropped after a recent preliminary hearing. He admitted to being in a fight with Lawson, but pleaded not guilty to murdering him.

Further items of clothing—only Zoellner’s sweatshirt or hoodie was examined in the immediate aftermath—will be examined for blood samples, Fleming said May 5, hours after Zoellner was released from custody.

Any future charges will hinge on available evidence, Fleming said. Hence the Lawson family’s May 18 offer of a reward and a solicitation for donations on Facebook and a Gofundme page.

Information about the stabbing can be submitted to investigators at the Arcata Police Department (707/822-2428), the District Attorney's Office (707) 445-7411) or to Lawson's attorney, Justin Sanders, at (213) 426-5000, ext. 1000.


Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT STATE – At an afternoon press conference on the Humboldt State Quad, Charmaine Lawson offered a $10,000 reward for information in connection with the knife slaying of her son, David Josiah Lawson, on Easter weekend at an Arcata house party.

She also appealed for donations in any amount on her Facebook page.Donations to the family may be offered via a Gofundme page.

Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman accompanied Lawson at the press conference and urged anyone with information to dial APD at (707) 822-2428.

Those with information may also call the District Attorney's Office at (707) 445-7411 or Lawson's attorney, Justin Sanders, at (213) 426-5000 ext. 1000.

More details later today.


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