New witnesses have come forward and police are receiving forensic testing results that will assist the investigation into the April 15 killing of 19-year-old Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson. The Arcata Police Department is also working with a private investigator, who will be contracted to assist with the investigation into the stabbing death that took place at a house party on Spear Avenue in Arcata.

David Josiah Lawson

Charmaine Lawson, the mother of the victim, drove from her Southern California home to Arcata last week to plead to the Arcata City Council to push forward with the investigation and arrest the person responsible for killing her son.

“I’m constantly on the phone talking to city officials and it’s really frustrating, it’s really difficult,” she told the council during public comment portion of the Aug. 2 meeting. “I’m going to continue coming until I find justice for my son.”

At the meeting, Arcata Mayor Susan Ornelas read a statement from Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman on the status of the Lawson investigation.

“The investigation is open and ongoing. Additional witnesses have recently come forward. We are beginning to receive forensic testing results from the Department of Justice,” said Ornelas, reading from the police chief’s statement. “Lastly, we are consulting with a highly regarded private investigator who was recommended to us by the Lawson family attorney. The private investigator is a retired FBI [agent] who has extensive investigative experience.”


Responding to public comments asking what the city is doing to make people of color feel safer in town, Ornelas said that the city has budgeted for “implicit bias training” for all city staff in the current fiscal year.  “As a city, we’re just trying to keep educating ourselves and keep getting better,” Ornelas said.

As for public safety, Councilmember Michael Winkler noted that the city has created the Public Safety Task Force, which is charged with addressing the issue.

City Manager Karen Diemer said the city is still working on a contract for the private detective who is working on the Lawson case.

Kyle Zoellner, 23, of McKinleyville was arrested at the scene of the stabbing and was charged with murder. But after a week of preliminary hearings, a judge threw out the charges against Zoellner due to lack of evidence and conflicting testimony from those who were present at the party.


Jack Durham is the editor of the Mad River Union. Subscribe here.