Dinsmore teen charged with killing his former foster father in
October 2017 was held to answer today on charges of first-degree
murder, carjacking, robbery and burglary.
Judge Larry Killoran issued the ruling after listening to preliminary hearing testimony from Duane Dean Gillespie’s former girlfriend, who was with Gillespie the day 68-year-old Richard Dennis Falk was shot to death outside his rural home near Dinsmore. “Jane Doe” said Gillespie, now 18, went through Falk’s pockets and took his wallet, credit cards and car keys as Falk lay dead. He had been shot four times with a rifle, with two of the bullets passing through his head.
Jane Doe said that on the morning of Oct. 5, 2017, she went with Gillespie to Falk’s home. She thought the plan was to get some gasoline for the van they had been camping in, a van Gillespie allegedly stole about three weeks earlier from his former foster mother in Arcata. Instead, Doe heard four rapid shots and then saw Falk on the ground near the side of his house.
“I saw blood on his forehead,” Doe testified under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Jessica Watson.
“On his chest.”
Doe said she and Gillespie, whom she had known for just three months, had waited and watched in the woods for about an hour before the shooting. Then Gillespie decided to “create a distraction.”
“He started throwing trash cans,” Doe recalled. “Then he cut water pipes and he threw a rock at (Falk’s) Jeep.”
She said Gillespie told her to go to the back of the house and to wait and be quiet. She complied.
“The next thing I know I hear a door open,” she testified, “and the next thing I know hear four gunshots go off.”
A few minutes before that, she had looked through a window in Falk’s house and saw Gillespie holding a gun. She hadn’t seen him with a weapon before this.
“It looked like a camo gun,” she said. “It was a really long gun.”
“Was it a handgun?” the prosecutor asked.
“No it looked bigger. I think it was a shotgun.”
Doe said Gillespie came to where she was waiting and told her “It’s clear.”
They walked around the side of the house, Gillespie still carrying the gun, and “I saw Richard on the ground.”
Doe said the two of them went into Falk’s house, where Gillespie “took some money that was laying around.”
“Did he take anything from Richard’s body?” Watson asked.
“He took his wallet and he took his car keys to the Jeep.”
Doe said she had never seen Falk before seeing him dead. Gillespie never told her why he shot his former foster father, and she never asked. Doe recalled that the one time Gillespie said anything negative about Falk, it was to complain that he had built something on Falk’s property and was never paid.
Although she never saw Gillespie shoot Falk, she later heard him tell a friend, “Zach,” that he shot his former foster father four times in the head and chest. “Zach” later confirmed that to law enforcement.
Sheriff’s Investigator Scott Hicks, testifying under questioning by the co-prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, said two firearms were missing from Falk’s home after the killing. One was a camouflage-colored shotgun and the other a 30-30 rifle. Three 30-30 casings were found near Falk’s body, along with a screwdriver and a cowboy hat. Hicks said it’s believed the screwdriver had been in Falk’s pocket.
When investigators unzipped Falk’s jacket, they found a semiautomatic pistol. It was unholstered and loose, between Falk’s shirt and jacket. There was no evidence it had been fired.
The day of the killing and the following day, Gillespie was videotaped making transactions at ATM machines in Eureka and Fortuna. Hicks said Gillespie withdrew a total of $1,120 from Falk’s Coast Central Credit Union accounts.
During his cross-examination of Jane Doe, Deputy Public Defender Ben McLaughlin asked whether Gillespie was planning to harm Falk when they went to his house.
“You didn’t have a plan to go and shoot and rob Mr. Falk, did you?”
“On the drive (to Falk’s place) did Mr. Gillespie express any anger?”
Asked how Doe and Gillespie were supporting themselves while camping in the stolen van, Doe said Gillespie had been using money from the purse he stole from his former foster mother in Arcata. That burglary occurred in September 2017. The former foster mother, Paula Mattocks, testified she awoke to find her cellphone and purse missing. Later she realized her Dodge minivan was also gone.
After Falk was killed, Doe testified, she and Gillespie took Falk’s Jeep. They transferred their belongings from the stolen van to the stolen Jeep and drove to Arcata. Gillespie buried Falk’s wallet near a bench in Redwood Park, Doe recalled.
Investigator Hicks said he spoke to Falk’s son, who told him the relationship between his father and Gillespie had gone sour a couple of years earlier. The Falk family suspected Gillespie of stealing a gun and selling it to a high school classmate. Gillespie had “caused disturbances,” Hicks said, and the family was afraid of him.
Initially Doe was arrested along with Gillespie. Hicks said that as far as he knows, she was not promised anything in exchange for her testimony.
Gillespie is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges March 20. He faces life in prison if convicted.