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/

UPDATE: Three Weeks Old. Kidnapped, Killed, Stuffed in a Trash Bag, and Tossed in a Dumpster

“Murdered baby was kidnapped for woman’s false pregnancy.”

It made me curious that, since the initial reporting of this tragedy, there hadn’t been any updates; apparently all the work to solve this crime was done without publicity.

This is a TV show, not real life.  It involves a bizarre story that’s right out of a horror novel.

It’s hard to imagine a mind so sick and diabolical to conjure up a plan such as this:

Four people have been arrested for the kidnapping and murder of baby Eliza. One of those arrested, Giseleangelique Rene D’Millan, 47, of Thousand Oaks, California – concocted a plan to win her boyfriend back that resulted in the kidnapping and murder of baby Eliza Delacruz and the shootings of three of the newborn’s relatives.

Last year, she lied to her boyfriend, telling him she was pregnant with his twins. Detectives believe the lie soon morphed into a desperate criminal quest of finding babies around the same age to kidnap and keep and represent as her own.
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-arrests-kidnapping-killing-long-beach-infant-20150325-story.html

WTF is wrong with this world?


(In case you missed this story, here it is again.)

This is Eliza Delacruz. Or rather, this WAS Eliza Delacruz.

(family photo)

(family photo)

On Sunday, a transient found the body of this ten-pound girl in a plastic bag stuffed in a dumpster behind an Imperial Beach strip mall, one hundred-twenty miles from the girl’s home.

Only twenty-one days.

Only 30,240 minutes.

Eliza Delacruz was only able to take about twenty breaths a minute times twenty-four hours times twenty-one days.

No more pretty dresses adorned in sparkles with a matching bow for her hair.

No more goodnight kisses.

It’s beyond senseless…beyond comprehension.

A beautiful three-week old infant girl, who, up until the moment she was torn from her mother’s arms and kidnapped, had been living for nine months in a safe womb, growing and maturing until she was born into a world she will never know.

Can you even imagine the pain her mother and father must feel?

I remember how my breasts ached if I didn’t nurse my son every couple of hours or so — Eliza’s mom’s body will respond to hormonal messages but there’s no baby to nurture and feed — nothing but the constant pain of a broken heart.

What hope is there for this world if someone could do this to an infant?

How can I be continually surprised at the dreadful cruelties perpetrated on animals when human life can be tossed in the trash?

I’m disgusted, disheartened, distressed, and depressed.

Are we so blasé about the deaths and murders and abuses and cruelties we’re bombarded with on a daily basis that this horrific story hasn’t stopped us in our tracks?

Have we become so desensitized to pain that we just say to ourselves,  “tsk, tsk, so sad” — and move on?

This should be an event so overwhelmingly tragic that nothing else should matter.

But we turn the page of the newspaper, click to another channel, scroll down to read about another crime or shooting or rape and one horror pours into another horror on top of another horror and you know what?

We’re drowning under the weight of the terribleness of this world we inhabit.

From Long Beach to Imperial Beach, the killer probably drove down the coastline, maybe even some of us passed him on Highway 5 or Highway 101 and we were totally unaware.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Los Angeles County supervisors offered a $25,000 reward Tuesday to help catch an attacker who shot and wounded three members of a family and kidnapped a 3-week-old girl who was later found dead in a trash bin near the Mexican border.

The award for information leading to a capture and conviction comes a day after police said they had no leads and no motive for the Saturday attack in Long Beach that wounded the parents and uncle of Eliza Delacruz.

Detectives had only a vague description of a man who may be black or Hispanic and were trying to discover whether surveillance cameras in Imperial Beach may have captured any images.

The time and cause of the girl’s death had not been determined.

The girl’s father was released from the hospital but her mother and uncle remained in critical condition.

At a Monday news conference, Police Chief Robert Luna said the lack of direction in the investigation was frustrating.

“Somebody had to have seen or heard something,” he said.

The baby’s parents and uncle have spoken with police, but it was too early to know if the family was withholding clues, Luna said.

Detectives do not believe the crime was a random act, and the FBI is assisting in the investigation, Luna said.

The chief said nothing is being ruled out at this point, including that the gunman has fled to Mexico, or that family members or a drug cartel are involved.

In Imperial Beach, mourners erected a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside a pizza shop at the mall.

Aaron Cruz, who lives next door to the victims’ two-story stucco house, said the baby’s father is a veterinary technician who worked six days a week and was thrilled to be a dad.

Cruz, who described himself as the man’s best friend, said the family often hosted large barbecues on their front lawn after moving in a few years ago.

The baby’s parents and uncle lived there with another uncle and the baby’s grandparents, but no one else was there when the shooting happened, Cruz said.

Information sourced from KTLA/LATimes

UPDATE: Three Weeks Old. Kidnapped, Killed, Stuffed in a Trash Bag, and Tossed in a Dumpster

UPDATE: Four people have been arrested for the kidnapping and murder of baby Eliza.  It involves a bizarre story that’s right out of a horror novel. One of those arrested, Giseleangelique Rene D’Millan, 47, of Thousand Oaks, California – concocted a plan to win her boyfriend back that resulted in the kidnapping and murder of baby Eliza Delacruz and the shootings of three of the newborn’s relatives. Last year, she lied to her boyfriend, telling him she was pregnant with his twins. Detectives believe the lie soon morphed into a desperate criminal quest of finding babies around the same age to kidnap and keep and represent as her own.
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-arrests-kidnapping-killing-long-beach-infant-20150325-story.html

WTF is wrong with this world?


This is Eliza Delacruz. Or rather, this WAS Eliza Delacruz.

(family photo)

(family photo)

On Sunday, a transient found the body of this ten-pound girl in a plastic bag stuffed in a dumpster behind an Imperial Beach strip mall, one hundred-twenty miles from the girl’s home.

Only twenty-one days.

Only 30,240 minutes.

Eliza Delacruz was only able to take about twenty breaths a minute times twenty-four hours times twenty-one days.

No more pretty dresses adorned in sparkles with a matching bow for her hair.

No more goodnight kisses.

It’s beyond senseless…beyond comprehension.

A beautiful three-week old infant girl, who, up until the moment she was torn from her mother’s arms and kidnapped, had been living for nine months in a safe womb, growing and maturing until she was born into a world she will never know.

Can you even imagine the pain her mother and father must feel?

I remember how my breasts ached if I didn’t nurse my son every couple of hours or so — Eliza’s mom’s body will respond to hormonal messages but there’s no baby to nurture and feed — nothing but the constant pain of a broken heart.

What hope is there for this world if someone could do this to an infant?

How can I be continually surprised at the dreadful cruelties perpetrated on animals when human life can be tossed in the trash?

I’m disgusted, disheartened, distressed, and depressed.

Are we so blasé about the deaths and murders and abuses and cruelties we’re bombarded with on a daily basis that this horrific story hasn’t stopped us in our tracks?

Have we become so desensitized to pain that we just say to ourselves,  “tsk, tsk, so sad” — and move on?

This should be an event so overwhelmingly tragic that nothing else should matter.

But we turn the page of the newspaper, click to another channel, scroll down to read about another crime or shooting or rape and one horror pours into another horror on top of another horror and you know what?

We’re drowning under the weight of the terribleness of this world we inhabit.

From Long Beach to Imperial Beach, the killer probably drove down the coastline, maybe even some of us passed him on Highway 5 or Highway 101 and we were totally unaware.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Los Angeles County supervisors offered a $25,000 reward Tuesday to help catch an attacker who shot and wounded three members of a family and kidnapped a 3-week-old girl who was later found dead in a trash bin near the Mexican border.

The award for information leading to a capture and conviction comes a day after police said they had no leads and no motive for the Saturday attack in Long Beach that wounded the parents and uncle of Eliza Delacruz.

Detectives had only a vague description of a man who may be black or Hispanic and were trying to discover whether surveillance cameras in Imperial Beach may have captured any images.

The time and cause of the girl’s death had not been determined.

The girl’s father was released from the hospital but her mother and uncle remained in critical condition.

At a Monday news conference, Police Chief Robert Luna said the lack of direction in the investigation was frustrating.

“Somebody had to have seen or heard something,” he said.

The baby’s parents and uncle have spoken with police, but it was too early to know if the family was withholding clues, Luna said.

Detectives do not believe the crime was a random act, and the FBI is assisting in the investigation, Luna said.

The chief said nothing is being ruled out at this point, including that the gunman has fled to Mexico, or that family members or a drug cartel are involved.

In Imperial Beach, mourners erected a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside a pizza shop at the mall.

Aaron Cruz, who lives next door to the victims’ two-story stucco house, said the baby’s father is a veterinary technician who worked six days a week and was thrilled to be a dad.

Cruz, who described himself as the man’s best friend, said the family often hosted large barbecues on their front lawn after moving in a few years ago.

The baby’s parents and uncle lived there with another uncle and the baby’s grandparents, but no one else was there when the shooting happened, Cruz said.

Information sourced from KTLA/LATimes

Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

January 1981–Balboa Park, San Diego, California At that time, my son’s dad and I lived near Balboa Park in a little section called Hillcrest/University Heights. There was a back way to the south side of Balboa Park through a canyon trail. That was a favorite walk for my two dogs, Sabrina and Beowulf. Sabrina was a Border Collie. Wolfie was an Akita/Malamute mix that I rescued when I was a junior at SDSU and he was about four weeks old. I bottle fed him and took him to classes in a baby front pack. Fully grown, he was over a hundred pounds and stood about thirty inches high. He had no idea how big he was and sat in my lap just like he did when he was a puppy. He was an awesome pet. They both attended graduation ceremonies with me, which got us into the local paper.

In January of 1981 I was seven months pregnant. I was very active, and continued to attend ballet classes and hike with my dogs. On this particular morning, we walked down 10th Avenue to Robinson and over to the end of Vermont and wound our way through the canyon trail. It was an enchanted place after a rainy winter with lush green vines, mature trees, and a seasonal creek–not at all desert-y  and dry like in this photo.There was probably tons of poison oak but I must have been lucky and avoided it. I remember there was a hill covered in nasturtiums and my dogs loved to roll around in them.  We walked for about thirty minutes and followed the trail toward the park and then turned around. We were halfway to the entrance at Vermont. It was quiet except for the far off hum of Highway 163. I heard a twig crack and ignored it, thinking it was a little critter. My dogs both alerted, ears pricked, hackles rising. More twigs cracked, and I turned around.  I will never forget the next few seconds. A man was sneaking up behind me. As soon as he saw me looking at him, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Moving swiftly was not an option being seven months pregnant and fifty pounds heavier, but I tried. I remember trying to be careful that I didn’t trip and fall. The faster I walked, the faster he walked, and he was closing the gap between us. Sabrina turned to growl at him and Wolfie placed himself between me and the man. I simply FROZE. I couldn’t move a muscle. My brain was screaming at me to run away from DANGER, and my legs felt like they were encased in concrete. The adrenaline was pumping, sending the proper primitive signals, but I panicked. Just before the man lunged at me, I picked up Sabrina because I didn’t want her to get hurt. Yes, I picked up my forty-five pound Border Collie, screamed at Wolfie to COME, and RAN THE WRONG WAY. I ran–lumbered--back into the ravine and NOT toward the street that was full of houses and humans and safety. I ran as best as I could with my huge baby-filled belly, until thankfully, a group of women came down from the park and the man disappeared. One of the women who lived nearby took me to her house and we called the police from there. I was so entrenched in fear and panic that I wasn’t able to provide them with a good description, other than noticing he was overweight and probably couldn’t run any faster than I could. This was before cell phones, and when the policemen drove us home, I called my mom. She was an RN and drove over to check my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as delivering a stern lecture about not putting my unborn baby in danger. Needless to say, there were no more solo canyon adventures. After more than thirty years, the re-telling of this potential rape? murder? robbery? still causes my heart to pound.