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APD Chief Vows to Keep Investigating Lawson Case Despite Grand Jury's Refusal to Indict


Shortly after the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced this afternoon that a criminal grand jury had declined to indict anyone in connection with the 2017 stabbing death of David Josiah Lawson, Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn told the Journal that his department is committed to continuing its investigation into the 19 year old’s slaying. Ahearn, who took over APD in January, roughly two months after APD turned its investigation over to the DA’s office, said his department has so far fallen short in providing prosecutors with the proof needed to hold somebody accountable in the case. But Ahearn pledged that APD will continue working the case, re-interviewing witnesses, identifying anyone with whom police have not yet spoken from the party where Lawson was stabbed, and returning to old leads. He added that, with the support of the DA’s office, no expense will be spared on the case. “This case is solvable,” Ahearn said. “We are going to have justice and we are going to hold someone accountable.” Lawson, a sophomore at Humboldt State University, was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party before dawn April 15, 2017, reportedly after being involved in at least two physical altercations with a McKinleyville man — Kyle Zoellner — and his female friends. Police arrested Zoellner at the scene but a murder charge against him was dismissed weeks later by a Humboldt County Superior Court judge who found there was insufficient evidence to hold him to stand trial. A press release from the DA’s office today said a criminal grand jury empanelled Feb. 28 to look into Lawson’s death heard testimony from 25 witnesses, including experts in forensics and DNA, but declined to indict “any person” in Lawson’s death and “therefore, no charges will be filed in the case.” The Journal reached Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, this afternoon but she declined to comment, adding that she would be in Humboldt County this weekend. Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming did not respond to an email seeking comment this afternoon. Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham, who handled the criminal grand jury process for Fleming’s office, said confidentiality laws prevent him from speaking about anything that happened inside the grand jury room. Generally speaking, he said criminal grand jurors are given information about the potential suspects in a case and about potential charges that could be…

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