2 Bodega Bay men voluntarily help investigators in Jenner killings, say rights violated
Friday, September 3, 2004
By DEREK J. MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Detectives investigating the slayings of two young campers on a Jenner beach have visited the homes of at least two Sonoma County residents this week, seeking permission to test their handguns.
Sheriff’s officials wouldn’t discuss why the people were contacted, but a Bodega Bay man said he voluntarily handed over two guns.
Bruce, who asked that only his first name be used, wouldn’t divulge the make or caliber of the weapons, saying detectives asked him not to reveal that information.
He said he cooperated with investigators because he wants the killings of Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall to be solved. But he also believes that he was unfairly questioned simply for being listed in government records on gun owners.
He said other than a drunken driving conviction in 1990 he has no criminal record.”If this is going to help them, great,” he said. “But while they’re in here, they’re asking, ‘Hey, you got anything illegal we need to know about? No, except for the meth lab in my bathroom.’ C’mon guys. This is a fishing expedition.”
Sheriff’s investigators have said they’re chasing hundreds of leads but haven’t identified a suspect or a motive in the slayings. They also have said they haven’t found the firearm used to kill Allen and Cutshall, youth camp counselors whose bodies were found Aug. 18 by sheriff’s deputies.
Bruce is one of two men from Bodega Bay who said two detectives showed up at their homes unannounced this week to inquire about guns the men own. They said the detectives asked if they could come inside to make sure the weapons were “safe and accounted for.”
Both men said they were then interviewed about the Jenner case for more than an hour. Bruce said he was asked if he had been in Jenner recently and was asked for personal details about his family and friends.
He said detectives told him they wanted the guns for ballistic testing.
He said he fears his neighbors will learn that he has the firearms, which he said were obtained legally and stored in a secure place.
“I’m not the kind of person to advertise I have guns,” he said.
The other man whose guns were taken said he, too, feels like his rights were violated.
“This is the kind of stuff that makes gun owners jump up and down,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s like having the Wehrmacht knock on your door.”
Investigators have acknowledged contacting at least one other gun owner.
Sheriff’s officials confirmed at a news conference last week that they had checked on another man’s weapons, but they didn’t identify him or say whether that information proved useful.
Sheriff’s Lt. Roger Rude wouldn’t say how detectives identified the men or why they were interviewed, saying investigators want to protect the “sanctity of the investigation.”
But he said detectives acted properly and that not all Sonoma County gun owners are suddenly under suspicion, though he acknowledged that more people would be contacted.
“I do not believe that we have been exploiting a database in order to check everybody in the world that has a gun,” he said. “I think folks are barking up the wrong tree there.”No, you’re exploiting a database in order to check everybody who has a specific make and caliber.
It’s a long-standing law enforcement technique to knock on doors to try to find weapons used in a crime when other evidence, such as recovered bullet fragments,
points to a certain kind of gun.Oh really? And don’t you do that only in the immediate vicinity of the homicide?
That’s particularly true in cases such as the Jenner homicides when other evidence apparently is lacking.
Bullets or bullet fragments found at the crime scene could help detectives determine the type of weapon used or in some cases even identify its owner.
“All guns have a different ballistic signature,” said Hugh Wilson, a former Marin County sheriff’s detective and an associate professor in the criminal justice department at California State University, Sacramento.
“The Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has a large database to check recovered rounds from a crime scene to ultimately narrow the gun (used).”
He said the fact that sheriff’s detectives are contacting Sonoma County gun owners likely means they have recovered enough evidence to determine the type of weapon used to kill Allen and Cutshall.
“They’re checking everyone who owns a gun like this in Sonoma County,” he said. “They’re going to assign detectives in the morning to follow up the leads. It’s a very exhaustive process, but when you don’t have a lot of other good things to go on, you’ve got to eliminate that.”
So, if you own the make and caliber of weapon used – regardless of any other evidence or lack thereof, expect a visit from the cops and expect them to take your weapon away while they do ballistic tests – which they’ll keep the results from, just in case you ever decide to commit homicide with it in the future.
Hell, maybe they’ll be able to build a comprehensive “ballistic fingerprint” database eventually after all. They’ll just need one homicide with each model and caliber of handgun ever made!
Wilson said he and his colleagues banged on a lot of Bay Area doors in the late 1970s and early ’80s while searching for the gun used by the infamous Trailside Killer.
The gun was eventually recovered – in the possession of David Carpenter, who was convicted of the killings. They make it sound like they found the gun by “knocking on doors” and the gun lead to the conviction. Not so, according to this site:
On May 15, 1981, David Joseph Carpenter was arrested at 38 Sussex Street in Glen Park, ending the siege of the Trailside Killer. Carpenter’s history included a conviction in 1961 at the age of 34 for attacking a woman with a hammer and a knife. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison and was released after seven years. Carpenter returned to prison on a kidnapping conviction in 1970. Released again in 1977, the severe stutterer and sex addict began his reign as a serial killer beginning with the 1979 murder of Anne Kelly Menjivar, whose body was found in Mt. Tamalpais Park in Marin. As police searched for Menjivar’s unknown killer, Mt. Tam became the scene of three more murders. In August, 1979 Edda Kane vanished while hiking. She was found shot in the back of the head, execution style. In March, 1980 Barbara Schwartz, 23, was found dead of stab wounds to the chest. Next, 26-year old Anne Alderson was found shot in the head after she disappeared while jogging. More victims followed: Shawna May, 25, Diane O’Connell, 22, Cynthia Moreland, 18, and Richard Towers, 19. When the last four bodies were discovered in a single day in 1980, extensive media coverage stoked the fears of an anxious public. In March, 1981 the Trailside Killer claimed his next victim, Ellen Hansen, in a park near Santa Cruz. Hansen’s boyfriend survived the attack and provided police with a description of a suspect. Witness reports of a small red car in the area during the attack also provided a clue to the killer’s identity. Next victim: Heather Scaggs, 20, a co-worker of Carpenter’s at a San Francisco print shop who disappeared on May 1, 1981. When police came to Carpenter’s home on Sussex Street to question him about Scaggs, they immediately connected him to the composite sketch of the Trailside Killer. Carpenter, who drove a red Fiat, was arrested after Scaggs’ body was found in Big Basin State Park. A man admitted selling Carpenter a gun that was used in several of the killings, though the gun was not found. A second gun used in the last two killings was found by investigators and entered into evidence by prosecutors. Carpenter was convicted of the murders of Hansen and Scaggs on July 6, 1984. In a separate trial he was convicted of five murders in Marin County. On Nov. 16, 1984, Trailside Killer David Carpenter was sentenced to death.
Not exactly what the story implies, is it?
“This is very labor intensive, but in a case like (Jenner) they’re going to pull out all the stops,” he said. “You can bet that type of thing is going on if they’ve got ballistics evidence, and it sounds like they do. That’s lead No. 1.”
He said there is nothing illegal about using gun registry information in a criminal investigation, and that detectives don’t need a search warrant unless they are denied entry or a person refuses to answer questions. In other words, “fishing expeditions are A-OK!”
The information used in such cases can be obtained through the state Department of Justice, which keeps a record of all gun purchases made through licensed dealers in California. The information can be cross-checked with criminal records and other data from background checks that must be conducted when anyone buys a firearm, said Hallye Jordan, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
She said law enforcement agencies can access this information through a variety of state and federal databases, including the Automated Firearm System, which includes records of guns that are purchased as well as those that are booked as evidence or reported lost or stolen.
I will not register – EVER.