The Fuhrman Factor | Features | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
Loading...

The Fuhrman Factor 

Thirteen years later former LAPD detective is still haunted by one that got away. Was justice in the Dawn Gamez murder case another casualty of the O.J. Simpson debacle?

Wednesday, Jun 13 2007
Comments
{mosimage} It’s a crisp, late-November afternoon in Sandpoint, Idaho. The streets are still wet from the previous night’s drizzle and it looks like it might snow. Mark Fuhrman is walking me down Cedar Street, on the way to Eichardt’s Pub, a popular local hangout. You remember Fuhrman for the notoriety he gained as one of the first detectives on the scene in the O.J. Simpson double-murder case, the cop accused by Simpson’s legal Dream Team of being a racist, planting evidence and cooking the case. In his new life in lily-white Northern Idaho, he’s just another townie, though maybe a little more famous than others as the author of numerous books, the host of a local radio show, and a contributing analyst with Fox News Channel.

“By the way, do you see all the Nazis walking down the street?” says Mark Fuhrman, who still walks with a cop’s rigid, upright bearing. The question is meant to be rhetorical, a play on this area’s reputation as a bastion of white-power groups and wacky militias. Still, even though there are no swastikas on display so far, there is a small chance we could stumble upon a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, whose headquarters are in Hayden Lake, just 40 miles away.

Instead of neo-Nazis, the city center is filled with boutiques, art galleries, ski shops, cafés and pubs — though most are closed because it’s Sunday. A few stragglers meander in and out of Eichardt’s, where a sign above its doorway reads, “Circus Here Today,” and pub T-shirts boast of “Putting the fun back in dysfunctional.”

“Every once in a while, I come here and hang on a night, listen to a band and eat the fries,” says Fuhrman as we stroll into the mellow joint, whose vibe is small town–meets–après ski, with a touch of British pub. He is dressed casually in Levi’s jeans and a T-shirt tucked into his pants.

We choose a table against the back wall, and Fuhrman makes a point of nabbing the seat that faces the entrance. The ex-cop likes to know “who is coming and going.” His eyes scan the perimeter, stopping briefly on the two men sitting at opposite ends of the bar seemingly fixated on their microbrews and the colorful collection of Simpsons and Peanuts Pez dispensers on display.

Fittingly, the beers on tap have names like Moose Drool Ale and Devil Dog Ale. Daniel Boone could really sink his teeth into the fare here — buffalo and elk, ground into burgers and stews, and fresh fish, blackened and served on a bun or in salads. Fuhrman picks the Cajun buffalo burger with a blue-cheese crumble, and the much-ballyhooed fries, which are topped with garlic chunks piled nearly as high as the nearby Schweitzer Mountains.

Sandpoint is a picturesque town of 7,000 near Lake Pend Oreille, which hosts the yearly fishing derby, and coughed up from its depths a world-record rainbow trout in 1947. Its environs offer world-class skiing, hunting (hunters are allowed to kill bears and cougars, and with crossbows!) and, of course, fishing. Local entertainers have names like Truck Mills, and the standard attire for local men and women is pretty much the same — a baseball cap, a pair of Levi’s, and a baggy T-shirt decorated with a fisherman slogan. Sandpoint’s population is 94.6 percent white. The economy used to be fueled by the timber industry. Now the tourism industry has taken hold, and land prices have skyrocketed — though $300K can still get you a nice home on the lake.

It’s far, far away from the gritty streets of Los Angeles, and Fuhrman couldn’t be happier. His celebrity status is minimal — no one’s rushing to get his autograph or kick him in the shins. He just fits in. It could be because he stays low-key, and doesn’t parade around town in an expensive Humvee like our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who owns a place nearby. He also refused to get involved in the town’s one murder last year. “I don’t shit in my backyard,” he says matter-of-factly.

Although Fuhrman has been in self-imposed exile from Los Angeles for more than a decade, he still has never fully escaped the collateral damage of June 12, 1994 — the night that Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed to death outside her home on Bundy Drive in Brentwood. Recalling that period is no rosy walk down memory lane for Fuhrman. When the double homicide went down, Fuhrman was in bed after returning early from a conference in Palm Springs. His boss, Homicide Supervisor Ron Phillips, was surprised to find him at home and asked him to help with the investigation.

“I wasn’t on call,” Fuhrman says. “I didn’t have to go, but I did. Dumb me. It would have been a life.” His decision to heed the call that day would ultimately damage his reputation, undermine the credibility of the LAPD and the District Attorney’s Office, racially divide a nation, and, Fuhrman believes, change the course of yet another murder investigation that he was handling at the time. The victim in that case was a 24-year-old hippie named Dawn Gamez who was suffering with HIV. Gamez was shot in the head on April 6, 1994, two months before Brown and Goldman were slain. Her 25-year-old husband, Herman Gould, the son of a well-to-do psychiatrist and Beverly Hills socialite mother, was charged with her killing, but later let go.

Fuhrman still smarts over the district attorney’s decision to drop the case against Gould. He says that Gould walked because of the beating Fuhrman’s reputation took during the O.J. circus. When Fuhrman arguably became the most distrusted cop and most notorious lightning rod in America.

“Nothing changed from the time Gould went to court to the time [charges against him] were dismissed, except for my involvement in the Simpson case,” he says. “It is just too much trouble to have me exposed in another case that wasn’t worth it. I think it is a case that should have been put before a jury.”



When the bullet hits the bone: The lone casing found at the crime scene
Courtesy LAPD

Herman Gould, like his nemesis, also lives in a sort of exile, though the bustling, high-desert environment of Palm Springs might be what Sandpoint would look like if it were baked in a kiln for a dozen years or so. Gould, now 38, owns and operates Herman’s Underground Cycles, a motorcycle-repair shop situated in a fairly rank industrial park near the base of 10,834-foot-tall Mount San Jacinto, which abuts downtown Palm Springs.

Tires and chrome dangle from the walls, and bikes in various degrees of undress crowd the floor of Gould’s shop. On this early-autumn afternoon it is unbearably hot, both inside and outside Gould’s airy shop. The only shade comes from the jets taking off and landing at the nearby airport. Gould, dressed in a black Underground Cycle T-shirt, blue shorts and sneakers, seems friendly, thoughtful and relaxed despite the fact that this is a surprise visit. Every few minutes, a customer or buddy pops by to finagle a good deal or to chat. The shop feels like a boys’ club for the tattooed set, and Gould’s cell phone rings nonstop.

Like Fuhrman, Gould, too, has adapted well to his new surroundings. Also like the erstwhile detective, he is still very much tied to Los Angeles and the unresolved murder of Dawn Gamez. For a man who a significant number of people think is responsible for her death, he’s surprisingly upbeat.

He wasn’t feeling so good back in 1994 when Fuhrman’s investigation prompted his arrest and the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office’s charging him with killing his wife. In an era when many AIDS victims were still dying without the life-giving drugs now widely in use, Fuhrman concluded that the 25-year-old Gould was in love with somebody else and no longer wanted to take care of Gamez, whose condition could only get worse. As evidence, Fuhrman had uncovered a marriage license for Gould and a young woman named Sabrina Ortega, who lived in the small town of Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose, where Gould and Gamez once lived.

On May 9, 1994, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Gould with murder. Although the gun used in the slaying was never found, a judge ruled in a preliminary hearing that there was enough circumstantial evidence, including an eyewitness, to take the case to trial. Eight months later, the District Attorney’s Office quietly dropped all charges against the motorcycle mechanic, citing lack of evidence. The decision came down a week after opening statements in the Simpson case.

By the time the charges against Gould were dropped in January of 1995, Fuhrman’s name had been raked through the coals in the crucible of the Simpson trial, the biggest media frenzy in the world, and the D.A.’s Office was suffering a lot of blow-back from Fuhrman’s alleged misdeeds, among them planting evidence in the O.J. investigation.

It didn’t help that Gould’s attorney, in court papers filed a week before the Gamez case was dropped, accused Fuhrman of destroying and losing crucial police evidence, an obvious, and perhaps deliberate, echo of accusations lobbed against Fuhrman by Simpson’s lawyers.

When the charges against him were dropped, Gould left Los Angeles, and never moved back.

“When you are accused of murdering someone, it affects your life with your family and friends,” says Gould as he works on a Harley. “I was looking at 25-to-life for a crime I didn’t commit. We had one conversation once. [Fuhrman] accused me of it. My lawyer felt there was no reason to talk to him. My family fully supported me . . . The Gamez family rolled with what the police were doing.”

Now, years later, Gould says Fuhrman “ruined my life.”

“My fiancée was murdered, and he tried to pin it on me because I was a rich Jewish kid from Bel Air,” he says. Gould adds that even though cops first started showing him pictures of possible burglary suspects who could have been responsible for Gamez’s death, Fuhrman “made a determination that he wasn’t going to look for anyone else.” A review of the homicide book — the comprehensive file on the case — supports Gould’s contention that little effort was made to find another suspect.

“There was no motive for me,” says Gould. “I had been taking care of this girl for a long time. I wasn’t going anywhere.”

That is not the way Fuhrman saw it back in 1994, or sees it today.



{mosimage}Dawn Gamez loved reptiles, pottery, gardening and designing her own clothes. She was also into grunge rock and home remedies. Her style was a cross between granola chic and Annie Hall. She had a dark past as a teenage runaway who shot up, but she had worked hard to turn her life around.

Even so, Gamez was diagnosed with HIV in 1992. She became a health-food fanatic, and, except for excruciating headaches and a bout of pneumonia that put her in the hospital for more than a month in 1993, Gamez was leading a relatively normal life before she was killed.

Herman Thomas Gould was an excellent motorcycle mechanic who loved to build and ride Harleys. He was also a fantastic storyteller who would regale his friends with tales of bar fights and brushes with the law.

The couple met at Indian Springs Continuation School in West Los Angeles in 1987, when Gamez was 17 and Gould was 18.

“[Dawn] was like, ‘He is the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen,’ ” said Gamez’s best friend Stefanie Mehlman in a recent interview.

The two shared the experience of growing up in difficult homes. Gamez’s parents struggled financially and were divorced when Dawn and her older sister, Shelley, were toddlers. Her father moved back to Mexico and joined a pop band when Gamez was 5. Gould was born in Philadelphia. His father was a wealthy psychiatrist who lived in Bel Air. After his parents divorced, Gould lived with his mother.

According to family and friends, Gamez and Gould dabbled in drugs as teens and liked punk rock. They eventually gave up the punk scene, finished high school, split up for about a year, and then relocated to Arizona, where Gould took classes in motorcycle mechanics. The couple moved to Morgan Hill, a semirural town just 20 miles south of San Jose, in 1991. Gould got a job in a local bike shop. He also took up martial arts, earning a green belt in tae kwon do. Gamez’s sister, Shelley Shalhoub, lived with them for a couple of months when she was pregnant.

“My sister was grunge, home remedy and miss homebody,” says Shelley. “Thank God, because I don’t have one stretch mark and I have two kids. My sister would rub oils on me.”

After Gamez was diagnosed with HIV, the couple returned to Los Angeles to be closer to their families. In August of 1992, they were married by a rabbi in front of 200 guests in a lavish ceremony paid for by Gould’s mother at the Four Seasons Hotel. But there was no marriage license.

“Dawn was on my health insurance,” says Gamez’s mother, Martha Shalhoub. “In order for Dawn to continue on my insurance, we didn’t file. I still have their wedding picture in my cabinet. She really, really loved him and was happy with him.

“I treated him like my son,” she adds.

The motorcycle dude and the grunge chick moved into a two-bedroom white bungalow in West Los Angeles in 1993. The neighborhood was an eclectic mix of elderly homeowners, yuppies looking to make a quick buck by flipping houses, and renters. It was a perfect location for Gamez, who was taking pottery classes at nearby Santa Monica College. On her days off, Gamez spent time gardening in their large backyard. The couple’s two pit bulls, Billy and Bonnie, kept her company.

Like a lot of young couples, they were struggling financially. They lived off Gould’s salary as a motorcycle mechanic at High Tech Harley Davidson on Van Nuys Boulevard, and the pittance Gamez received from monthly disability checks. Gould’s mother helped pay their rent.

By 1994, the middle-class neighborhood was relatively crime-free, but Gamez and Gould kept guns anyway. Gould owned a .357 Magnum nickel-plated revolver and a 12-gauge shotgun. He kept his .357 in a night table, and the loaded shotgun underneath his bed. Gamez kept a small, semiautomatic .380 pistol (basically a small .9 mm) and ammo underneath her mattress, but friends and family said that prior to the murder they had seen the gun in the downstairs den.

“I told her it made me nervous,” says Shalhoub. “In the last month, I saw it a couple of times and I mentioned it to her. She said, ‘Herman likes it there.’ ”

On April 5, the day before Gamez’s shooting, Martha Shalhoub went to her daughter’s house in the midafternoon and found her alone in the backyard planting flowers. Shalhoub left a few hours later so Gamez could prepare dinner for Gould. It was the last time she saw her daughter alive.

“She seemed normal,” says Shalhoub.

On the day of the murder, Gould and his friend Andrew Hendershot were picking up Gould’s tools from High Tech Harley after he was fired on April 1 for not showing up at work, and then Gould was headed to a job interview, according to police reports.

Gould told Fuhrman, who arrived on the scene with his partner Brad Roberts about an hour after the murder, that after he dropped off the job application at Van Nuys Harley Davidson, he then took Gamez to lunch at McDonald’s. When they returned home, Gould claimed he ran upstairs to “take a dump.” He insists he was using the toilet when he heard his wife scream and then heard a shot as he was running down the stairs. He says he ran to the kitchen and found Gamez bleeding from a head wound on the floor. He claims a black burglar with a pockmarked face and goatee was standing over her with a gun resting at his left side. Gould says he struggled with the intruder for a few seconds, until the intruder shot him in the fleshy part of his upper left arm. He fell to the floor, and then watched as his pit bulls chased the intruder through the backyard, onto the Jacuzzi, and over the backyard fence.

But that is not how the cops saw things. They never found the bullet that went through Gould’s arm, or a second bullet casing. The rest of the house looked undisturbed. There was a fire burning in the fireplace in the upstairs bedroom, and freshly washed clothing on the bed. Even the toilet was flushed. There were bloodstains on both doorways leading into the kitchen, and a notepad on the kitchen table with the names of two local motels with daily rates. Gould told one officer he had rushed the black intruder, but told Fuhrman later that the intruder had rushed him. Gould also told another officer that he struggled with the intruder for several minutes. He later denied making that statement to Fuhrman and said that the struggle lasted only a few seconds.

Fuhrman didn’t buy the burglary-gone-awry theory. He thinks it highly unlikely “a two-bit burglar looking for money and jewelry” would elevate the scenario to murder and then have the presence of mind to clean up the crime scene.

Witnesses seemed to lend creedence to Fuhrman’s suspicions that Gould had shot Gamez and then shot into his own arm. Gould’s next-door neighbor, 77-year-old Don Major, reported hearing the first of two loud “bangs” at 2 p.m. and a second one 30 minutes later. Major was cutting wood in his garage at the time.

“[Major] has his project, and already estimated his time,” Fuhrman says, to explain why he trusts Major’s statements about the intervals between shots. “He has a timeline. A yardstick. He knows what he is doing and he knows how long it takes.”

Major’s wife, Kay, 71, told Detective Roberts that she heard the couple arguing earlier that morning. Officers who arrived on the scene also interviewed the neighbors who lived behind Gould, and none reported that they saw an intruder jump the fence or run through the alley.

“There was no evidence that anyone saw a suspect in the area,” said Officer William Heider in a recent interview. Heider, along with his partner, was among the first officers to discover the grisly scene. “There were people around there, where the suspect supposedly went, and they never saw anyone run by.”

After Gould was treated for his wound, Officer Joe Jones brought Gould to the LAPD’s West L.A. Division. Jones wrote in his police report that Gould said his wife “was going to die anyway (due to AIDS virus).”



{mosimage}Since Mark Fuhrman moved to Idaho in 1995, the self-proclaimed “blue-collar man” has undergone a series of transformations. He went from being the nation’s most hated cop to a successful author to an outspoken radio host with a morning show on KGA 1510 in Spokane, Washington, called The Mark Fuhrman Show. “When I first went there, [Spokane] was probably the most bizarre morally corrupt place I have ever been. I have pretty much got them squared away,” he boasts.

No one can argue that the former Marine is a wallflower. He is a self-proclaimed “big mouth,” “troublemaker” and “rebel.” During our interview, he ranted about journalists (“Ratings come before proof!”), the Catholic Church (“They have been raping kids for 400 years and we have known it!”), would-be Simpson book publisher Judith Regan (“Dig into Judith Regan!”) and, of course, the Juice himself.

The Gould case shifted Fuhrman’s opinionated nature into high gear. Right away, it seemed to the detective that he was catching Gould in lies. Gould never dropped off his résumé at the motorcycle shop as he claimed, according to statements made by the shop’s owner. Furthermore, employees at the McDonald’s where Gould and Gamez supposedly ate didn’t recognize photos of the couple the day after the murder, though with the amount of traffic at a McDonald’s that’s perhaps not surprising.

Suspecting that Gamez was shot with a .380, Fuhrman and Detective Charlie Brown asked Gould on the day of the murder whether Gamez owned such a gun. He told the detectives that Gamez owned either a .380 or a .308 [rifle], but he didn’t know anything about her gun, just that it was black and a semiautomatic. Asked where it was, Gould said, “I have no idea. It should be in the bed.”

According to case files, the detectives asked Gould if they could look around. He complied, but when asked if he’d submit to a polygraph because it’s “the quickest way for us to get on with this and eliminate you as telling us something that’s not true, or changing the story,” Gould refused, maintaining that “I don’t trust it.”

Fuhrman got a search warrant, and underneath the couple’s mattress detectives found Gamez’s gun holster, a magazine containing five .380 rounds, and a white box containing 43 .380 rounds, 10 of which “had the same head stamp as the casing found next to the victim.” No .380 semiautomatic pistol was recovered.

The detective figured Gould attempted to pick up the bullet casings after the two shots, but couldn’t find one of them because it was underneath a laundry basket, where police later discovered it. Fuhrman believed one of the doors in the kitchen, which had a bullet-size hole in it, would contain the bullet that shot Gould. He had the door removed and brought back to the station as evidence. To protect the chain of evidence, Fuhrman and Homicide Supervisor Lee Kingsford videotaped the dismantling of the hollow door. They didn’t find the bullet they were looking for, suggesting that the bullet was removed from the door or that it wasn’t a bullet hole at all.

Fuhrman began to learn about Gould’s fascination with guns. Gould had a membership in the Beverly Hills Gun Club that expired in 1992. Gould’s friend Andrew Hendershot, in statements to Fuhrman, said that Gould was very familiar with guns and ranked him an 8 out of 10 in his knowledge of weapons. Gamez’s cousin John Soberal, an LAPD officer, who also gave a statement to the police, said that Gould often bragged about being a good shot, and that Gould would regularly practice shooting the .380 at the gun club with Gamez. According to Soberal’s statements, Gould was “very articulate about all the different types of ammo for various guns and specifically very knowledgeable about guns themselves and different brands.”

“He liked guns,” recalled Gamez’s best friend Stefanie Mehlman in a recent interview. “He knew a lot about them. He would spin the small gun around in his hand... It was one of his toys.”

Fuhrman and family members believe that that small gun was Gamez’s .380.

Not long into the investigation, the couple’s problems started to surface. Gamez’s sister Shelley suspected Gould was having an affair that started around 1992, when her sister and Gould lived in Morgan Hill, and continued it after the couple moved back to Los Angeles. Gould would take regular trips to Morgan Hill, where he told Gamez he had to fix occasional run-ins with the law. Gamez even told her mom about two love letters from a woman that she found in Gould’s wallet.

On one occasion, Gamez asked to join Gould on his trips to Morgan Hill, but he refused. She accused him of lying about a trip he supposedly took to Santa Barbara with his mother to buy jewelry. Gould later admitted that he never went to Santa Barbara, and told her that he needed time to himself.

In a police report, Shelley wrote that she overheard an argument between the couple when they were living in Morgan Hill and heard Gould yell, “Just because you have AIDS doesn’t mean that I’m having an affair, you can have an affair too!”



Kitchen confidential: The notebook containing names of
local motels, undisturbed on the kitchen table

Five days before Gamez’s death, Dawn and Shelley spent the weekend together doing spring cleaning, while Gould went to San Jose to fix a speeding ticket, he claimed. Gamez brought up the affair again with her sister. “She said, ‘I think he is cheating on me,’ ” Shelley told the Weekly. “And I said, ‘Why would a girl go with a guy who has hundreds of tattoos of [your] name on him?’ She said, ‘No, I am serious. I feel it.’

“She was saying that he was doing it because she was sick. She was getting depressed.”

Finally, Fuhrman found his motive: In a search of phone calls Gould made, he found one to 22-year-old Sabrina Ortega, who had changed her last name to Gould on March 25, 1994 — two weeks before the murder of Dawn Gamez.

Fuhrman went to Ortega’s home in Morgan Hill armed with another search warrant, and found Gould there. Gould admitted that he married Ortega in Reno, Nevada, on February 16, less than two months before Gamez was shot to death. Fuhrman was stunned to find a wedding photo album, a marriage license and love letters between the newlyweds in Ortega’s home. For her part, Ortega refused to speak about her relationship with Gould, saying only that they were married. She told officers she knew nothing about Gould’s life in Los Angeles or the murder of Gamez. Ortega refused to speak to the Weekly about the case or her marriage to Gould.

According to Fuhrman’s report, detectives also found a phone bill at Ortega’s with five calls made to Gould’s Los Angeles number on April 6, the day of Gamez’s murder, including one made at 8:38 p.m. Five additional phone calls were made to Gould’s residence the day before, on April 5. The calls were short. Also found scribbled on a notepad was “Herman’s wife’s #1 address 3350 Cardiss [sic] Avenue, LA, Calif, 90034,” Gould's and Gamez's West L.A. address.

Fuhrman remembers the day he went to Ortega’s home. “She answered in a bathrobe and I just pushed my way in... and she went and sat on the bed,” he recalls. “There were wedding pictures on the bed board. Perfect — the look on Herman’s face. He couldn’t believe we would go through that much trouble.”

Questioned by Fuhrman, Gould’s friends admitted that they were aware of his infidelity for months. Hendershot, who was with Gould the morning of the murder, told detectives that his friend told him about the affair in February after he spotted Gould using a pay phone a block from his house. Another of Gould’s friends, Michael Mielo, told Fuhrman that he knew about the affair and was told by Gould that they had an “open relationship.”

Stefanie Mehlman told the detective that Gould had been acting suspiciously and was always running to the mailbox to retrieve mail. Fuhrman asked Mehlman whether she thought Gould was capable of killing her best friend. “Yes,” she said, “I think he is capable of it... if someone pushes him too hard.” Fuhrman asked if Gamez could push him that far. She replied, “Dawn could get on somebody if she tried to.”

Today, Fuhrman says he believes that on the morning of Gamez’s murder, the couple got into an argument over Gould’s relationship with the other woman. He speculated that Gamez probably found proof of the affair and threatened to tell Sabrina Ortega that Gould was sleeping with her — a woman with HIV.

“He had a girlfriend in Morgan Hill and [Gamez] knew it,” said Fuhrman. “She knows. Why did he need to kill Dawn? Did Sabrina know that Dawn had AIDS? The threat was ‘If you don’t leave her... if you don’t cut it off, I will tell Sabrina.’ [Gamez] is pissed off and she is about to change his life.”



Murder scene: Dawn Gamez, dead in the kitchen,
where her husband supposedly struggled with an intruder

The preliminary hearing was held on May 19 with Assistant District Attorney Richard Stone set to prosecute the case. Fuhrman and neighbor Don Major testified.

On cross-examination, Gould’s attorney Darryl Mounger argued that Fuhrman’s theory was pure fiction. There was no blood trail to indicate that Gould, who was bleeding from the gunshot wound, even attempted to hide a weapon. He also disputed the alleged motive. “Now, I’ve heard of he killed the wife to get to the insurance policy so he can live with the girlfriend,” he said. “I’ve never heard kill the girlfriend to go live with the wife. That just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Mounger said.

Regardless, the judge ruled that there was enough evidence to take the case to trial. But a month after the preliminary trial, on July 29, Major’s wheelchair-bound wife, Kay, was interviewed again because of her failing health. In court, she gave inconsistent testimony about the timing of the two shots, at one point telling the defense attorney that the time between the shots was just seconds apart and then conceding to the prosecutor that it could have been up to 15 minutes.

She admitted that her memory was bad because of multiple strokes she had suffered. However, her husband stuck with his testimony of the two shots being 30 minutes apart.

“When she changed her story to say it was just seconds, it corroborated Gould’s statements,” Stone told the Weekly, in defending his decision to drop the case six months later.

But it may have been more complicated than that. By January of 1995, the District Attorney’s Office was under pressure as the attacks on Fuhrman from both the press and O.J. Simpson’s defense team were mounting. A July 25, 1994, article in The New Yorkerby Jeffrey R. Toobin suggested that Fuhrman, who had testified in the preliminary O.J. hearing about discovering the infamous bloody glove at Simpson’s estate, had planted it there. The article, called “An Incendiary Defense,” also quoted unidentified Simpson lawyers who called the detective a racist. (Fuhrman later filed a libel lawsuit, claiming that the article destroyed his reputation. He quickly dropped the suit.)

Three weeks after Toobin’s article, Simpson’s defense filed a motion to obtain the personnel records of Fuhrman. In a New York Times article on August 30, Simpson defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran said that Fuhrman “harbors racial animosity towards African-Americans and, more specifically, toward African-Americans who are married to Caucasians,” and that in the past he “had shot a black suspect and tried to plant evidence that would incriminate him.”

By the end of September, it was clear that Simpson’s defense team planned to charge that Fuhrman and other members of the LAPD had planted evidence at both the Simpsons’ Rockingham address and the Bundy crime scene.

Fuhrman was becoming a pariah, even as the murder of Dawn Gamez was wending its way through the system on its way to trial. The day before Simpson’s trial opened, defense lawyers, in court papers, accused Fuhrman of failing to disclose that he had interviewed the former maid of a Simpson neighbor, who told the detective that she had seen Simpson’s Ford Bronco parked outside his house at 10:15 p.m. — the time prosecutors believed the murders occurred. The motion suggested that Fuhrman was withholding evidence helpful to Simpson.

Worried from the start over how intertwined her family’s tragedy was with Nicole Brown’s, Gamez’s mother followed the O.J. case closely. “I started thinking that our case wasn’t going to proceed when I saw Fuhrman on TV,” says Shalhoub. “I immediately thought nothing is going to happen.”

“This [the O.J. trial] was the biggest publicity murder case in American history,” says Vincent Bugliosi, former prosecutor and author of Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder. “And the [assistant] district attorney herself was attacking [Fuhrman]. Everyone dumped on him tremendously.”

Gould defense attorney Mounger went after Fuhrman’s credibility, filing a motion to dismiss the case on  January 19, 1995, claiming, among other things, that Fuhrman lost and destroyed crucial evidence, including the videotaped dismantling of the door and the kitchen door itself, which was never booked into evidence.

Mounger’s motion, in the view of the detectives involved in Gamez’s case, was a red herring, since the door — which didn’t produce the hoped-for bullet — ultimately proved nothing. In their view, it was more useful to cast timely aspersions on Fuhrman’s procedures than anything else.

As far as Fuhrman is concerned, the defense was just looking for a way to undermine his credibility. Today, he still denies defense claims that he destroyed and lost crucial evidence. “I certainly didn’t destroy the evidence,” he tells me. Fuhrman is the most upbeat he’s been in days, perhaps because of the news that Judith Regan’s O.J. Simpson–penned book If I Did It had been canceled. “My boss took the video and set it up, and he retired shortly afterwards. You still have statements. There was nothing so damaging that it couldn’t be overcome with an explanation.

“The Gamez case had virtually no forensic evidence, but it was very triable,” he says. “I crossed all my t’s, I dotted all my i’s. I went there to do the job I was supposed to do to get it to court, and that is exactly what I did.”

Fuhrman’s and the Gamez family’s fears were realized when Stone dropped all charges against Gould soon after Mounger filed his court papers alleging that Fuhrman destroyed and lost crucial evidence.

Stone, who is now a Beverly Hills judge, denies that Fuhrman played a part in his office’s decision to drop the case. “I don’t remember the Simpson case affecting my decision making at all,” says Stone. “There is nothing about that which was going on with Fuhrman that weighed in on my decision.”

He maintains that the case was dismissed because Kay Major changed her testimony. “The inconsistency was the problem. It was purely a circumstantial case... Under the circumstances, I didn’t think the jury would find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”


{mosimage}Martha Shalhoub picks at her clam chowder distractedly as 10 or so LAPD officers chat amiably at a table nearby in Jan’s Restaurant, a jog east of the Beverly Center. Dressed in a white blouse and black pants, she looks like the quintessential Los Angeles businesswoman.

Since the mid-’70s, the 52-year-old petite blonde was considered to be the number-one Latina DJ in Los Angeles, hosting a popular easy-listening show on KXOL between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Her reign as queen of the Latin airwaves came to an end last year when the station changed its easy-listening format to urban hip-hop. Shalhoub plans to return to radio, but in the interim, she freelances as a programming consultant and takes care of her daughter Shelley’s two kids. Generally upbeat, she grows somber when the dinner conversation turns to her youngest daughter, Dawn.

Shalhoub is still haunted by the murder. Her case is in limbo, like so many other murders where charges were filed and later dropped by the D.A.’s Office. By LAPD standards, her murder was “cleared by arrest.” In other words, no one has worked on it in the 13 years since it failed to go to trial.

“I thought that Mark [Fuhrman] was doing a good job,” says Shalhoub, her voice still tinged with a mix of despair and anger. “I called the District Attorney’s Office on several occasions. Two or three times a week, until they dismissed the case. I didn’t even know the case was dismissed until my cousin found out. No one called me. Nothing.”

Thousands of miles away, Fuhrman, who now spends his mornings arguing about local politics on his radio show and his afternoons cutting wood, fixing his house and taking his son to basketball practice, gets irked when he remembers the Gamez case.

“I am no philosopher,” he says. “The one thing that would keep this on the straight and narrow in all of these cases is the exercise of integrity. We make excuses in our society for everything without being honest. We aren’t going to continue the case, because Kay Major was indecisive or she died. [That’s] a lack of integrity. Let the jury decide.”

He shakes his head in disgust. “That case was filed by the D.A.,” he adds. “If you want to say because Fuhrman has baggage and we don’t want to place him on the stand, then say it. I have some integrity. I can shoulder it. I can shoulder it in the future. Don’t piss on my back and tell me it is raining. I think that a lot of times, that is what people do.”

“If she was a youthful blond actress that had a well-connected family, [Gil] Garcetti and his team would not have dropped the ball. She was a throwaway, just like all the people that serial killers target. You know what makes cops unique? They don’t care. It doesn’t matter they just get the guy who does it. It is society that drops the ball.”

Closer to Los Angeles, Gould refuses to speak about Gamez’s slaying or that day.

“The event itself is a jumble of nightmares and realities for me. I don’t remember exactly what went down. I don’t know any of the particulars of what they did and didn’t find . . . There were a lot of burglaries in the area. I really don’t want to talk about the day or the case.”

Sabrina Ortega, who still lives in Morgan Hill after she and Gould divorced in 2001, also refused to speak about the murder of Gamez.

“Ever since Dawn died, I feel bad,” says Shalhoub. “Sometimes I find myself laughing or having fun and I think I shouldn’t be having fun.”

There may yet be closure for Shalhoub and the Gamez family. As a result of calls made by the Weekly, LAPD cold-case Detective Cliff Shepard has agreed to look into the case. Though evidence in “cleared” cases is usually destroyed, for some reason the evidence in this case remains intact.

“I’m going to take a look at the case and see if we can solve it,” says Shepard.

click to flip through (4) 1432579.t.jpg
     
 
Reach the writer at cpelisek@laweekly.com

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets