Wednesday, March 6, 2002/lk
The rumors and innuendos swirling around a Hood River murder case will be televised on Unsolved Mysteries later this spring.
That upcoming coverage has led Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler to agree to undergo a polygraph test -- and to issue a challenge for a "person of interest" to do the same.
Hood River District Attorney John Sewell said he is pleased that Unsolved Mysteries will bring high-profile exposure to last summer's baffling murder of Eric Tamiyasu. He said Crime Victim Advocate Jackie Henson helped the Tamiyasu family draft one of the two request letters (one was sent by a family friend) asking the nationally syndicated show for help.
"We're hoping that when this episode airs someone will come forward with that one clue we need to break this case," he said.
Law enforcement officials have been frustrated by the lack of progress in the homicide of the 41-year-old Binns Hill Road orchardist. His badly decomposed body was discovered by an acquaintance, Don Dixon, on June 30 and an autopsy later revealed he had died from three gunshot wounds to the head between four and five days earlier.
Ramona Tamiyasu, Eric's sister, also shares in that frustration, especially since almost nine months have passed without an arrest. She also believes the television coverage of the case might reveal new information that will move it forward.
"We are trying to keep in people's minds that there is a person still running around this community who is armed and has the capacity to murder someone," she said.
In spite of Sewell's optimism about having the local homicide shown between mid-April and early May, Wampler has some discomfiture since he will be on the hot seat during the segment.
Last Friday Wampler was grilled for more than one hour about his motivation for allowing Tamiyasu's bed to be burned a short time after the body was removed. Since that time, Wampler has been targeted by a series of rumors. These have ranged from allegations that he tried to cover up the murder because it had been committed by someone he knew, to false claims that he had been suspended from the duties of his elected office pending an FBI and/or state investigation. Most recently, the talk around town has been that a vengeful Wampler killed Tamiyasu himself because the orchardist had been involved in an affair with his wife.
"The last rumor has been the hardest because it has caused embarrassment and hurt for my wife when she has done nothing to deserve those aspersions," said Wampler.
Sewell said before Wampler's officers took that action all forensic evidence had been gathered and he remains confident the crime scene was processed thoroughly enough to stand up to any defense challenge.
"My sole intent in burning that bed was to spare the Tamiyasu family more pain and grief but, in retrospect, I probably wouldn't do it again," Wampler said.
Detective Gerry Tiffany and Sewell said most of the rumors involving Wampler have been traced back to Dixon, who is himself a "person of interest" in the case. Police sources confirmed last week that Dixon first refused to take a polygraph test and then stated that he had attempted several times to take the test but examiners could not get a "baseline" readout to ensure its accuracy. In a baseline test, prior to polygraph testing experts ask a series of routine questions to program the physiological makeup of the subject into the machine.
Dixon did not return repeated phone calls from a reporter about this issue.
Sewell said, "It's troubling to us that someone who claimed to be such a close friend of the deceased had a hand in spreading rumors that are damaging to good people and take time away from investigating a murder that looks like it was committed in cold blood."
On Monday, Ramona said that both Wampler and Dixon should voluntarily submit to a polygraph in order to stop the rumors circulating about the case.
"I just don't know what to think but they just need to come forward and be out with it," she said.
Although Wampler said he is not a viable suspect, he agreed that to aid the investigation, he would voluntarily submit to a polygraph. He also believes Dixon should do the same.
"I don't know how this show will play out but I told the truth -- I did not kill Eric Tamiyasu and I don't have any personal knowledge about that crime," said Wampler.
Anyone with knowledge about the Tamiyasu murder, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is asked to make a confidential call to Tiffany at 387-6846.