It may be awhile before Kyle Zoellner gets back property seized by law enforcement during the investigation of David Josiah Lawson’s murder.
This morning visiting Judge David DeVore denied Zoellner’s request for the return of his cellphone and three laptop computers, taken by police after Zoellner was charged with killing Lawson at a party on April 15. Deputy Public Defender Luke Brownfield filed the motion, arguing that law enforcement has had the property for more than two months.
DeVore responded that “even in the state of Jefferson,” two months is not unreasonable.
Zoellner, 23, was released from jail after his preliminary hearing, at which Judge Dale Reinholtsen ruled the district attorney had not presented enough evidence to hold him to answer.
Today Zoellner, dressed in a baggy sweatshirt and torn jeans, stood silently as the judge and attorneys discussed whether his property should be returned. Outside the courtroom afterward, he said he didn’t want to comment.
Deputy District Attorney Stacey Eads had objected to having the items returned, saying that “at this point there is an ongoing investigation.”
Lawson, a 19-year-old Humboldt State University student, died shortly after he was stabbed during an Arcata house party attended by an estimated 100 people. Arcata police have said they are still actively investigating the slaying.
Zoellner had come to the party to pick up his girlfriend, whose cellphone had gone missing. By all accounts he was polite when asking a group of people, including Lawson, whether they had seen the lost phone. But witnesses at the preliminary hearing said Zoellner’s girlfriend accused the group of lying and demanded they turn out their pockets.
Soon Lawson’s girlfriend was in a physical fight with Zoellner’s girlfriend, and Zoellner was attacked by one or more men. Lawson and his girlfriend were pepper-sprayed and left the party, but then returned. The stabbing happened shortly afterward.
At the preliminary hearing, Reinholtsen said it’s unclear whether a knife police found at the crime scene was even the one used in the killing. A fingerprint and fibers found on the knife were not from Zoellner. Also, no-one witnessed the stabbing or saw Zoellner with a knife.
Outside the courtroom this morning, a woman accompanying Zoellner told Brownfield she owns the property in dispute, and she doesn’t understand why investigators can’t just download the wanted information and give the items back.
At that point the conversation moved down the hallway and away from a LoCO reporter.