Update: Murder in Carlsbad

I wasn’t able to attend the preliminary hearing for the horrific home invasion murder of Carlsbad resident Marjorie Gawitt, but I’ve pulled together some details of that day.

As I previously wrote, she lived in my neighborhood and her death shook the community. We weren’t close friends, but had I had been invited to a couple of parties that she also attended and we briefly chatted. https://enchantedseashells.com/2019/03/11/not-in-carlsbad-home-invasion-and-murder/

The defendants, both transients, were arrested in a known homeless encampment near Agua Hedionda Lagoon, not far from the scene of the home invasion, hours after the attack, and blocks away from where I live.

Initially, at the arraignment on March 13, the prosecutor testified that she was stabbed about fifty times.

However, the murder was even more brutal than originally reported. The autopsy of Marj Gawitt indicated she suffered 142 knife wounds.

142 knife wounds. Let that sink in for a few minutes…

Leslie Anderson, a forensic pathology fellow with the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, said Marjorie Gawitt had 142 knife wounds, including 95 deep stabs, on her body and head from a March 11 attack in her home on Outrigger Lane.

Prosecutors in the March 13 arraignment for defendants Ian Bushee, 37, and Malissa James, 26, had said Gawitt had up to 50 knife wounds, causing people in the courtroom to gasp.

During a preliminary hearing Thursday, Anderson said the wounds were so extensive that the autopsy took two days to conduct, while most take one.

The attack itself was forceful, according to Anderson, who said one facial stab knocked a cap from one of Gawitt’s teeth. Some stabs were made so violently that they penetrated four inches deep, although the knife believed to be the weapon was only three inches, she said.

At the end of the two-day hearing Superior Court Judge Brad Weinreb said that there was enough evidence for the defendants to stand trial on charges of murder and special-circumstance allegations that the killing happened during a burglary.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney argued there was ample evidence, including DNA on the knife, to show James wielded the weapon that killed Gawitt.

James’ attorney, John Patterson, asked the judge to dismiss a charge of torture against his client. The judge declined to do so.

Dan Segura, Bushee’s attorney, argued that there was no evidence that Bushee was with James at the scene of the killing.

Rooney said DNA and other evidence links Bushee to the crime. The prosecutor also said Gawitt used the word “they,” and may have said “people,” when she called 911 to report the attack, indicating there was more than one assailant.

The District Attorney called several witnesses, playing 911 calls and never-before-seen police body camera footage in the courtroom. The 911 call was from the victim, Marjorie Gawitt.

Dispatcher: 911. What’s your emergency?
Marjorie: (inaudible) I’ve been attacked.

That was the beginning of Gawitt’s dying message on the morning of March 11, 2019. The 63-year-old woman was sleeping in her Carlsbad home alone when police said Bushee and James tortured and stabbed her fifty times in the face, neck, and back.

Dispatcher: We’ve got help sent out to you, Marjorie. Who did this?
Marjorie: I don’t know.

It took everything Gawitt had left in her to make that 911 call. The call was so tragic, officers testifying on the stand became choked up while listening to Gawitt’s voice. Because of her final act of courage, Officer Randy Noa found her minutes later, still alive. On his body camera video, you can hear him trying to speak to Gawitt.

“You okay ma’am? Oh. Ma’am. Is he still in here or did he leave? (PAUSE) I can’t hear you, ma’am,” Officer Noa said, breathing heavily.

“It looked like she was trying to say to me that he was gone. But it was hard,” Officer Not testified inside the courtroom.

The District Attorney also played a second body camera video, worn by Officer Derek Harvey. On it, you can hear him trying to console the victim.

“Ma’am, you’re going to be okay. The paramedics are going to be here, any second, okay?” Officer Harvey said. Minutes later, Harvey’s camera recorded him finding what looked to be the weapon on the counter.

“Her eyes were clouded, dilated and fixed,” Officer Harvey said. “I knew she was… probably not going to make it.”

Sadly, he was right. Despite the paramedics arriving quickly, Gawitt died at Scripps La Jolla Hospital.

Trying to piece together what evidence they had, police was that the victim’s boyfriend’s car was missing. Hours later, surveillance video captured the stolen car in San Marcos. The suspects were taped walking around near a masonry warehouse and at a 7–11 store. Investigators said the two later ditched the car in San Marcos, and for some reason, ended up back in Carlsbad.

Police said it turns out Gawitt’s home was not the first the pair had ransacked that day.

“I looked up, and I said something is missing here,” neighbor Patricia Gapik said.

That same morning, Gapik noticed her sewing basket and her daughter’s flute were gone. Random items were also scattered near her sliding glass door.

“I then realized that someone was in my house,” Gapik testified. “I was scared.”

Luckily, Gapik was asleep the entire time, and never confronted the burglars. But investigators later found that the two cases were connected. They found some of Gapik’s belongings inside the car left in San Marcos.

According to court documents, the next trial date is scheduled for late December. If I’m in town, I’ll be sure to attend. I feel like I need to know why and how someone could commit just a heinous crime against an innocent woman and maybe I’ll discover some answers to this senseless murder.

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Not in Carlsbad. Home Invasion and Murder.

***UPDATED***

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This doesn’t happen in Carlsbad.

I’ve lived here for about thirty-five years, and was obviously lulled into a sense of complacency and maybe even a tad smug…we don’t have THIS kind of violence in our little beach town.

This is the kind of place where neighbors talk to each other, host “get-to-know-your-neighbor” parties, and watch everyone’s children and grandchildren grow up and have their own families.

But it did happen and it was blocks away from where I live.

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There was an initial report of a home invasion where the victim, a woman, was stabbed multiple times but was able to call 911.

Despite the best efforts to save her, she died at the hospital.

She had been home alone.

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(Out of respect for the victim and her family, I’m purposely not posting her name.)

Later we learned that there were two suspects. Her car was stolen and eventually abandoned near Highway 78 in San Marcos.

In hearing this shocking news going on in my town, I checked the address and was horrified because it was the exact street where a good friend of mine lived.

I tried to text her, but got no immediate response, and immediately started to worry.

I headed over to the street which was now a crime scene with a command post and yellow tape blocking access.

Hanging around the many news vans and journalists, I learned that it was not my friend, but a woman who lived two doors away from my friend, someone I had known from attending neighborhood parties.

This is not an easy area to locate. It’s comprised of many little cul de sacs tucked away in a lovely community of attached homes overlooking Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

According to information provided by Carlsbad Police, “Through the preliminary investigation, it appears a male and female suspect attempted to burglarize the victim’s home. ”

I got a tip from a reporter that a man and woman had been arrested just minutes before I arrived. They had been hiding under some bushes in the lagoon. The police that were on scene confirmed that there were two arrests but would not confirm that it was connected to the murder.

I am concerned that the local elementary school very close to the lagoon was not put on lockdown.

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My friend finally texted me back and confirmed that it was her neighbor who had been murdered, someone with whom she had dinner just a couple nights ago.

We are all waiting for more information, but I wanted to post what I have initially learned, and will update as more details are released.

This doesn’t happen in Carlsbad. But it does. Even though it shouldn’t. And if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

Please be extra careful, friends, and look out for your neighbors

Statement from Carlsbad Police Department:

Update – Two Arrested for Homicide on Outrigger Lane

CARLSBAD, Calif – Update – “The Police Department shares the communities’ concern over such a tragic incident,” stated Police Chief Neil Gallucci. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s family.”

It is important for the community to know that, with the assistance of the community, investigators have made arrests in association with the Outrigger Lane incident.  The suspects were arrested in the 4800 block of Park Drive.

The suspects are identified as 37-year-old Ian Bushee and 26-year-old Malissa James, both transients.  Bushee and James are both on probation in San Bernardino for residential burglary.

Bushee was arrested for Homicide, Burglary, Conspiracy, Auto Theft and Accessory after the Fact. James was arrested for Homicide, Burglary, Conspiracy and Auto Theft. Both will be booked into the Vista Detention Facility.

At this time, investigators believe there are no additional suspects. The investigation is ongoing.

If a community member has additional information about the incident, they are asked to call the Police Department at 760-931-2197.

The department would like to help the community cope with the concern caused by this incident. Most residents know, Carlsbad has always had one of the lowest violent crime rates in the county.

A last note from Chief Gallucci, “Be certain, officers are out-and-about patrolling our neighborhoods 24/7 and are just a phone call away. Call us if you need us. We are all a part of the community of Carlsbad.”

A little research revealed more info on the suspects…

April 12, 2018T

wo transients — including one who authorities say tried to discard a sock containing $70,000 worth of valuable coins — were arrested after an Upland-area homeowner walked in on a burglary.

The incident happened Tuesday, April 10, in the 2600 block of North Mountain Avenue in San Antonio Heights, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.

The burglars, after being confronted by the resident, fled with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and electronics. Deputies identified the burglars as transients known to them, Ian Forrester Bushee, 36, and Malissa Deanna James, 25.

More at: https://www.dailybulletin.com/2018/04/12/burglars-arrested-with-70000-in-coins-in-a-sock-near-upland/

Sitting Shotgun…LITERALLY

I don’t like the term “bucket list” because it’s not a pleasing visual and because it sounds way too much like “kick the bucket” but I haven’t figured out anything that sounds more Princess-y.

Let me think…

Dream list? No.

Hurry-up-and-do-things-before-you-die list? Truth, but nope.

Fantasy fulfillment? MAYBE.

Enchanted experiences? YES! I like that a lot. Enchanted experiences it is.

Whatever you call it, I’ve always been interested in what I am not.

Like when I thought I had what it took to be a movie star, I was cast as a streetwalker in a Marty Feldman film (I won’t tell you which one haha.)  I had a vague idea of the job skills of your average streetwalker, but I still did my research and hung around the Gaslamp District downtown to study the behavior of the local streetwalker in her natural habitat.

Apparently, I was a good student, because on the day of the shoot, after my scenes were wrapped, I was walking back to my car still dressed in my costume, and was REALLY AND TRULY propositioned by a man who thought I was a for realz working girl. I was so happy a security guard came to my rescue. Job well done! (Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)

And then there was that brief moment in time right after college and before I did my fifth year to become a teacher, where I thought I wanted to be a TV journalist, so I interned \at a local TV station, an NBC affiliate.

I covered a few crimes, did several live remotes, and learned how to write sharp and succinct copy, a talent I think I’ve totally forgotten, by the way.

Once again, I didn’t stick with that career path either, but I had a lot of fun, until it got boring.

Apparently, I have a short attention span.

My city offers something called the Citizen’s Academy. It’s a free, seven-week program designed to help us learn about our city government to become better informed and involved citizens.

During the police and fire safety class, I asked if it would be possible to schedule a ride along with a police officer. That’s another career I’ve always been fascinated with. I would never have been able to go into police work because of the whole uniform thing. I mean, seriously, not to be able to choose what I want to wear? The same thing EVERY SINGLE DAY? No way. That would be TORTURE. SERIOUSLY.

A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call to arrange a time where I could join an officer during his shift. I chose Friday night because I wanted to see what happens during a DUI stop.

Here’s my public service announcement: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! There’s absolutely no excuse when there’s Lyft or taxis. It’s not worth it.

So that’s what I did last night. I met the officer at the police station after he had a shift briefing. My first question was regarding where I would sit,  front or back. I’m so glad it was the front, which is much more pleasant.

The officer wore body armor; I did not.

I had spent quite a few days coordinating an appropriate outfit…seriously, what does one wear to sit in a police car as an observer for a few hours?

This is what I chose: skinny jeans, white long sleeved jersey top, a sweater with vegan suede, studded boots, and a animal print silk scarf. FullSizeRender (3).jpg

Don’t laugh; this kind of thing is very important to me.

I’ll keep the officer’s name private, because I don’t think it’s necessary to share.

He was a great host. A modern day police car is really a fully functional office with computers and license plate readers and GUNS! I’ve never been around a gun, never shot a gun, I’ve never even held a gun. EVER. He had an AR15 and another kind of shotgun or rifle, as well as the gun he wears in a holster, a Sig Sauer–and they are ALL LOADED. LOADED WITH BULLETS. 

We got our first call, a welfare check of a mom and her children. I had to sit in the car because domestic calls can often become volatile, so I sat with the engine running (they leave the motor running all the time by the way) and wondered for a split second what would happen if I drove away. (I found out later that there’s a kill switch just in case that happens.) Another police car showed up and they both went in and returned in about fifteen minutes. There was nothing wrong; an ex-girlfriend of the mother’s boyfriend made a fake call because she was being vindictive. Just babymamadrama, but good to know the children were OK.

We drove back to the beach looking for some action. We got another call about a stolen vehicle and drove to the vicinity but didn’t locate it.

It was such a strange experience to sit in a police car. It was still light out and people were staring at me. I’m sure they couldn’t figure out what I was doing there, so I waved and smiled at everyone. Super cool!

Back on the road, we were called to assist another officer with a non-emergency, when we got re-dispatched to a possible burglary. This time, it was lights and sirens and about 100 mph running red lights and OH EM GEE, it was SO EXCITING!

Again, I had to sit in the car, but I could see what was going on. It wasn’t exactly a burglary, but it was somehow drug related, and the guy had to be handcuffed because he was being slightly combative and not following directions. At this point, five other police cars showed up and I was starting to rethink my decision to try on a more adventurous life. I mean, should I get out and run away? I didn’t want to see too much reality. I can only take tiny bites of real life at any given time.

While I was sitting there, I could hear all the other calls on the radio. There were a few accidents, mostly DUI-related, a group of kids were on the roof of the high school, and the saddest one was a possibly suicidal young adult who was being transported to the hospital on a 5150, a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) which authorizes a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person suspected to have a mental disorder that makes them a danger to themselves, a danger to others, and/or gravely disabled.

It was getting late. I was tired, and REALLY needed a glass of wine, that’s for sure.

My officer/host was a twenty-five year veteran and had kind and patient answers to all of my  questions about crime in the area and high profile cases he’s been involved in.

My takeaway from this experience is that our community is relatively safe; there are stolen cars and home burglaries,  an occasional murder and sexual assault, but the overwhelming realtime danger is the POTENTIAL threat of a terrorist attack. That seems to be the main focus of law enforcement training. “Active shooter” scenarios, “dirty bombs” in crowded locations–these are things that this naive and very sheltered girl never really thought about.

Do I feel like it was a valuable experience? Absolutely. I would encourage everyone to contact their local law enforcement and invite themselves along to see how we are all kept safe by these hardworking and dedicated men and women, including the dispatch team.

And really, don’t drink and drive. Or text and drive. PLEASE.

 

 

 

 

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