Kyle Zoellner was the suspect accused in the stabbing death of 19-year old Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson. After five days of preliminary hearings, Zoellner was released due to a lack of physical evidence. Below are the eyewitness accounts of each person called to testify during the hearings.
Thursday, May, 4th 2017
Day four of Kyle Zoellner’s Preliminary Hearing
Elijah chandler (BU member; tried to save Josiah’s life as they waited for the ambulance)
Jacob Mckenzie (Arcata Police Officer)
Devin Nilsen (Arcata Police Officer)
Eric losey (Detective- Arcata Police Department)
Sergeant Detective Todd Dockweiler (Detective- Arcata Police Department)
Was at a birthday dinner earlier in the day with BU members and girls from Legacy, a cultural club on campus. Attended the party on Spear with the birthday girl. Says hi to all his brothers when he arrives. At the party for about 2-3 hours. Saw blue haired girl at the party and they spoke several times. Approached him once about a missing cellphone 30 minutes prior to him walking to the front of the house from the backyard.
Was in the backyard when he decided to walk to the front of the house. He used a path on the side of the house. Heard yelling as he approached the front. As he neared the front, he saw Zoellner and Perris. (Identified Zoellner in court)
“he stabbed him!” “he stabbed my friend!”I hope he dies”
Chandler said due to a light on the garage, he saw light reflect on something shiny that Zoellner was dropping out his hand. Heard, Two girls in the vicinity who did not want to get involved. Went to find Josiah, ran towards street yelling Josiah, heard screaming, ran back towards house. Perris and Zoellner is to his left and Josiah is in the bushes to his right. Ren was by Josiah screaming. Josiah was in grass grasping at branches. Dropped down to his knees to Josiah, saw two holes in his shirt. Said he never saw Perris with a knife at any point. Cops arrive within minutes but didn’t take over life saving efforts for Josiah. Elijah gave CPR for 15 minutes while officers stood by. Heard “Zoellner was trying to get away towards the street and Perris was blocking him and knocked him to the ground. Saw Zoellner fall and move, trying to get back up. Perris yelling, 20 feet away while he was doing chest compressions. Did not tell cop about the N*** part initially because he said he didn’t feel it was relevant and he didn’t know who he could trust; He did not know who was for or against them. Says he felt like the police wouldn’t care. He then told defense, “I feel like you don’t care.”
Says he didn’t call cop a stupid bitch he was trying to save Josiah’s life. Felt face burning as he gave CPR to Josiah (confirming he was pepper sprayed prior to being stabbed). Spoke with police two days later.
(Was asked a bunch of questions about BU Members, mission etc)
Officer Jacob Mckenzie – Arcata Police Department
Police officer for 9 months and was the first cop to arrive at Josiah’s body. He got the call at 3:00 a.m and it took him 1-2 minutes to arrive on scene. Mckenzie described the scene as chaotic and angry and he heard people screaming for help. Officer Nielsen who had arrived first, had Kyle Zoellner detained. Mckenzie arrived to Josiah’s body with only one glove and no flashlight; applied pressure on the wounds and officer Arminio administered CPR. Doesn’t remember relieving Elijah from life saving efforts.
When asked if the crowd was hostile, Mckenzie responded not initially, but they became more upset as time progressed and the ambulance still hadn’t arrived and they were continually screaming for the ambulance. Never saw Josiah speak or move.
Crowd kept calling Arminio a stupid bitch and saying that she didn’t know what she was doing. Had to tell people to move back and he even took out his taser at one point. Arminio gave him the “look” that was not a good idea and would only escalate things.
Medical staff then took over. Crowd did not stop gurney from getting to Josiah. Went back to patrol car to get camera.
At this time he is approached by Angelica McFarland who accompanied Lila and her friends to the party, who says that she wants to tell him something. She said she had seen the stabbing, but it was so many subjects around that she couldn’t tell who did it, but that it was not Kyle. Kyle never had knives and that this stemmed from a missing cellphone. Her demeanor was calm but adamant.
Spoke with a neighbor, said there was one fight, then silence and an elapse in time, then another fight. Heard “that’s the guy who kicked the girl in the head.” Went outside saw white guy getting beat up by a group of people.
A large group of people left and were not questioned by police Do not know if they were questioned later. Couldn’t talk to them because group was hostile.
Was asked about the proper procedure in securing a crime scene. Was then asked about collecting the knife found on the scene. Mckenzie was asked multiple times if he wore gloves or not when collecting the knife and he replied that he could not remember.
Officer Devin Nielsen – Arcata Police Department
3:00 a.m, driving south on Westin Road, arrived to scene in 30 seconds. About 100 subjects outside, screaming and yelling that they need an ambulance. Paved way through crowd was told suspect was still on scene. Saw Zoellner swaying, being held up up by two females trying to leave the scene. Zoellner had a swollen right eye. Had blood on his knees and blood on his sweatshirt. Zoellner was conscious. Placed Zoellner in handcuffs in patrol vehicle. Went to look for witnesses. Spoke to Perris, seemed calm not drunk.
Spoke to Lila, Angelica and Naiya. Lila was intoxicated, visibly shaken and repetitive in her statements. Angelica who was hostile, was asking for medical attention for stabbing victim. Zoellner declined medical attention. Did not stop people from leaving the crime scene. Asked for witnesses, people who said yes, told them to wait by fence. Said crowd wasn’t hostile towards him, they were more worried about medical attention.
People were at patrol car yelling at Zoellner. Ambulance arrived after he was on scene 15 minutes. Also two UPD cops and a sheriff arrived.
Interviewed Zoellner at hospital who said he didn’t recall what happened but that he was beat up. Zoellner stated that he had arrived looking for his gf’s missing cellphone. Some guy got angry and assaulted him. He didn’t recall a stabbing. Neilson also interviewed Kyles supervisor Alex Begovic at the place he work as a chef (Uniquely Yours Catering). Asked Alex Begovic about Kyle’s knife bag used for his job as a chef. Mentioned the bag had a empty slot where the pairing knife should be. Shown Alex a picture of knife found at the crime scene, said he never saw the knife before.
Detective Eric Losey – Arcata Police Department
Did not really have much to offer about the case. He recently got promoted to detective and started the position early due to Josiah’s murder. This is his first murder investigation. Arrived on scene at 5 in the morning and did measurements. Measurements included a 6 ft 3 trail of blood at the scene. Also a pool of blood near the red mustang where a knife was recovered from under the mustang. Confirmed that stab wound to chest was Josiah’s official cause of death. Shown picture of the knife found on scene (a 10-inch Kitchen knife with a 6 inch blade and 4 inch handle).
Sergeant Detective Todd Dockweiler – Arcata Police Department
Did not arrive before ambulance. Zoellner wanted to talk. Said he got a call from his girlfriend who had lost her phone. He drove there and walked on the porch where he saw two men leaving the party. He approached them about the phone, just asking and they became angry because they felt they were being accused. Men said they weren’t going to turn out their pockets. Third man exited the house and punched him and he was thrown against a car. Doesn’t remember anything after he went to the ground. Dockweiler stated that Zoellner’s statements were inconsistent. Initially he couldn’t recall anything other than a flurry of punches.
Dockweiler asked Zoellner did he stab someone to which he replied, “I do not recall.” Dockweiler told Zoellner that people were saying that he stabbed someone to which Zoellner responded, “Did they see me, or are they saying I did it?”
Dockweiler testified that Zoellner told him that he didn’t own any knives to which he found out later that he did. A search warrant on Zoellner’s apartment found the bag of chef knives. Stated that he worked a dozen stabbing cases and that the type of knife that was recovered at the crime scene, was designed in such a way that he wouldn’t expect a suspect to sustain any hand injuries with that knife after stabbing someone.
Only Zoellner’s sweatshirt was tested for fibers. Rest of clothes still not tested such as Zoellner’s bloody jeans. Lila Ortega was fingerprinted to rule her out.
Re-examined knife case some time between Preliminary day 4 & 5, found hidden compartment with missing pairing knife. Not same brand of knives in case that was found on scene.
Spoke with Angelica, said that she saw first fight and that Zoellner had Josiah in a headlock and was grappling and able to hold his own. She described another altercation where she went to call 911 on Casey Gleaton’s phone. She then called her parents next. Kyle was unconscious upon her return. Didn’t see who stabbed Josiah. Dockweiler agreed that it was her opinion that it couldn’t have been Kyle if she had not saw who stabbed Josiah.
Searched Zoellner’s car the 21st of April.