Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The county’s district attorney expects additional information to be gathered in connection with the death April 15 of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson, 19.
The knife that police recovered at the scene will be examined further and blood samples found on various items of clothing will be analyzed, DA Maggie Fleming said in a prepared statement May 5, issued to the press shortly after Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen dismissed the murder complaint against Kyle Zoellner for insufficient evidence.
Any future charges will hinge on available evidence, Fleming said.
She appealed again for anyone with additional and relevant information to come forward.
Fleming said her office contacted Lawson’s mother and her pastor with word that the investigation remains open.
Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said his focus would remain on the criminal investigation, echoing past statements that the probe of his department’s handling or mishandling of the case will have to wait until further notice.
Vice-Mayor Sofia Pereira repeated that the city will review “all aspects of our response to this tragedy.”
Her solo statement carried no public endorsement, however, by Mayor Susan Ornelas and the rest of the city council.
Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, who attended the May 5 court ruling, supported continuing the investigation, particularly more witnesses. The court heard from 17 witnesses in marathon testimony last week, but estimates of the crowd at the crime scene span 50-100 people. Standing next to Diemer just outside the courtroom, HSU President Lisa Rossbacher appealed for patience “in the pursuit of justice.”
The university’s student-run newspaper, The Lumberjack, called on the administration to establish new offices of community integration and off-campus student safety.
In an institutional editorial, the paper inveighed against racial discrimination left unchecked by “town and gown.”
“We have been conversing for years now,” the paper lamented. “It is time for HSU and the community to stop shying away from the real struggles people of color in the community face.”
The editorial zeroed in on off-campus living space. “For every year students of color are denied simple amenities like housing, based on their skin tone; for every semester a minority student feels ostracized and forced out by the community; and for every day a minority student is afraid to walk certain streets, the city of Arcata and Humboldt County and HSU have all failed.”
A high-ranking municipal official, speaking without attribution about a sensitive issue, volunteered that housing discrimination against people of color has been rampant for years in Arcata and remains as vigorous and entrenched as ever. Students and others go through the formalities to secure dwellings, the official said, only to be told space is not available after all. Excuses are predictable and transparent.
The Lumberjack, citing HSU’s quarterly forums and annual “social justice summits” about race discrimination, said talking “does little more than create a short-term, unresolved conversation about an issue that continues from one generation to the next.”
Students of color are adamant that Rossbacher is rarely available on a regular basis and bereft of direct acquaintance with their struggles against bigotry and discrimination.
Handbills circulate on campus with her picture, captioned “Missing.”
Update: On Monday, May 8, the District Attorney's Office issued the following statement:
The recently completed preliminary hearing concerning the tragic death of David Josiah Lawson did not result in Kyle Zoellner being held to answer for the charge of murder.
In the hearing, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office presented all the information available, including testimony by seventeen witnesses with distinct accounts of key events. In addition, all available physical evidence was presented to the Court.
The hearing proceeded while the investigation is ongoing because a person has the right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of arraignment. The information presented in the hearing differed from the information available when the case was charged and additional information is expected, including more analysis of the knife found at the scene and analysis of blood samples found on clothing.
Like the initial charging decision, any future charges in the case will be determined by available evidence. Anyone with additional information relevant to the investigation should immediately bring that to the Arcata Police Department.
The District Attorney contacted the victim’s mother and her pastor to discuss the outcome of the hearing and advised her the investigation remains open.