Arcata Police Chief Says 'Josiah' Investigation is Close to Completion

Nov 1, 2018

Charmaine Lawson and supporters during a press conference about the unsolved murder of her son David Josiah Lawson.
Credit KHSU File

The unsolved murder of  19-year-old Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson, is showing some signs of closure, at least for the Arcata Police Department. They plan to send more findings from an additional investigation to the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office by this upcoming Thursday.  

Arcata Interim Police Chief Richard Ehle said he’s worked to get more resources to help further the investigation and solve the murder case. He noted previously the department had limited resources.

“It was problematic from the very beginning for a number of reasons. I came here in June and it was 14 months old. Obviously there was a tremendous amount of pressure to resolve the case and get it done," he said.

Within his first few months on the job, Ehle hired two outside investigators from the bay area- a cold case specialist and a homicide detective. He also kept constant communication with the District Attorney, met with the FBI and asked for additional resources form the Attorney General and state Department of Justice.

Arcata Interim Police Chief Richard Ehle.
Credit Arcata Police Department

“We’ve probably done 25 or 30 additional search warrants. We’ve done dozens of additional interviews and re-interviews. We’ve processed a lot of the evidence. So we’ve really done everything that we can think of," he said. 

The chief said he analyzed the murder case prior to starting his position and concluded that previously their small department was not fully prepared to take on a case like this.

“Prior to 2013, I think they averaged less than one murder there. I think the last murder was like 2005 so they went a protracted period of time, like 7 or 8 years, without a murder," Ehle said. “It was a perfect storm. We didn’t have a technician. We didn’t have a regular homicide sergeant for a period of time. We didn’t have a detective with requisite training. Now having said that, that’s not unusual for many small agencies, because you just don’t have the resources you need.”

Ehle said he and his department are committed to solving the case and working with Lawson’s mother Charmaine as diligently as possible.

Meanwhile, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California issued a letter to the Arcata City Council members asking them to reduce what they call “the excessive and intimidating police presence at city council meetings ahead of the November 7th meeting.” Charmaine Lawson is also set to meet with CSU Board of Trustees president on Monday in Humboldt County.