Sunday, July 25, 2010

Murder on Doolan Creek


Rosie Grover’s sad death
by Robert A. Waters

At 4:35 a.m., on the morning of July 19, 1985, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher in Ukiah took a call from a frightened fifteen-year-old girl. Rosie Grover had just gotten off a Greyhound bus and was calling from a pay phone at the depot. She’d borrowed a quarter from another passenger so she could make a call to her mother. The sleeping woman, however, was not expecting her daughter at that time of night and didn’t hear the phone ringing.

After trying to call home several times, Rosie decided to phone the Highway Patrol. Surely they would help. She told the dispatcher that she was stranded and needed a ride home. She was returning that night after visiting family members in San Francisco, Rosie explained. In the darkness, she was afraid to walk the deserted road to her house.

We don’t provide rides, the dispatcher retorted. Call the local police.

The dispatcher hung up.

The thin slight girl with the pretty smile would have to walk home after all. She’d run out of quarters.

She’d also run out of luck.

Later that morning, Richard Dean Clark entered the Ron-Dee-Voo Restaurant in Ukiah. He wore mirrored sunglasses and carried a half-empty wine cooler. Handing it to the waitress, he said, “There’s a body down by the creek.” Pausing for effect, he added, “She’s hurt bad, maybe raped.” Witnesses later said that he seemed calm and sober.

The regulars in the small, family-owned restaurant barely knew Clark. In fact, he’d only been in town for four months. He’d been hired as a caregiver for a local paraplegic but the two spent most of their time boozing it up and ingesting copious amounts of pot, crack, and meth.

While the waitress called 911, several patrons rushed outside. There in the rocky, dry bed of Doolan Creek, they saw the body of Rosie Grover. Her face had been battered to an unrecognizable pulp.

A few minutes later, investigators arrived. Walking down the bank behind the restaurant, they examined the girl’s body. She was fully clothed, wearing jeans and a shirt. Cops saw that the victim’s belt had been loosened and her jacket and blouse were open, leaving her breasts exposed. A duffel bag and a small suitcase sat beside her.

Two blood-stained concrete blocks lay just a few feet from Rosie’s head.

Cops cordoned off the area and began interviewing those at the scene. Who is this girl? they asked. No one knew.

Richard Clark was one of the first witnesses they spoke with. He stated that he was walking to a convenience store to buy cigarettes when he spotted the body. He thought the dead girl may have been stabbed, he said.

The waitress handed investigators the wine cooler Clark had brought into the restaurant. When they opened the duffel bag next to the corpse, detectives found another wine cooler identical to the one Clark had.

He was taken to the station for a further interview. As cops began to grill him, Clark denied killing the girl, who had still not been identified. He first said he didn’t know anything about the murder and had merely stumbled onto the scene. In his second statement, he stated that he met the girl as she walked along the road and had consensual sex with her. Afterward, she told Clark she planned to report him for rape, he said, so he killed her.

In a final statement, taped by police, Clark said he thought he may have killed her but was so drunk he blacked out and didn’t remember the actual deed.

An autopsy confirmed that the dead girl had been raped and battered. A court document reads: “Ten stab wounds were found on the body. Eight were superficial. Two deeper wounds were inflicted in the middle of the back, one of which penetrated a lung and the other the heart. The wounds could have been inflicted by a screwdriver found in Smith's car. These wounds preceded the blunt trauma injuries to the victim's head and neck. While either of the deep stab wounds could have independently caused the victim's death, the actual cause of death was blunt trauma to the head and neck. Although [Medical Examiner Dr. Boyd] Stephens was unable to determine how many blows had been struck, 19 separate areas of blunt trauma were visible. The vast majority of these trauma injuries would have independently caused death. The damage was so extensive that the victim's entire facial structure was collapsed and flattened. The two pieces of concrete found near the victim's body could have inflicted the trauma to the skull.”

Finally, the victim was identified as Rosie Grover.

A series of unfortunate events had brought her to this place. She’d visited family members for several weeks in San Francisco. When she was ready to return home, a friend in Ukiah had agreed to meet Rosie at the bus depot and transport her home. But the friend’s car had broken down and her telephone was out of order. Since Rosie’s mother expected her daughter to come home with the friend, she went to bed and didn’t wake up until later in the morning. After discovering Rosie missing, she contacted the police.

Although DNA wasn’t available at the time, blood enzymes found on Clark’s clothing and shoes were consistent with that of the victim. A sharpened screwdriver in his possession had blood on it, but the sample was so small it couldn’t be tested. Clark’s fingerprints were found on Rosie’s suitcase. The wine coolers, bought by Rosie as a present for her mother, were the same brand. Semen found on the girl’s clothes and body “could not be eliminated” as having come from the suspect. That evidence, along with the taped confession, sealed his fate.

Investigators believe Rosie began walking home after the Highway Patrol dispatcher turned down her request for a ride. Along the way, she met Clark, who was walking to a convenience store. He saw the opportunity to rape the lone woman and forced her down to the creek where he assaulted her. Then, in order to silence the victim, he murdered her by slamming concrete blocks on her head and stabbing her with his screwdriver.

The murderer was convicted and sentenced to death. Twenty-five years later, Richard Dean Clark still sits on California’s death row. He is unlikely to be executed for many years to come, if at all.

Rosie Grover’s short life ended because of a series of unfortunate circumstances, not the least of which was the California Highway Patrol dispatcher who refused her request for assistance. I was unable to learn whether the dispatcher was disciplined or fired.

10 comments:

US_DOJ_Gov said...

CHP dispatcher would not have been disciplined, nor terminated.

The CHP dispatcher followed proper procedure by informing 9-1-1 caller's the CHP does not provide rides for people.

At most, CHP would provide a stranded motorist a ride to the nearest phone/ shelter, but not a ride home.

This is still standard operating procedure (SOP) today.

Robert A. Waters said...

Thanks for the info.

Alex Alexander said...

Juveniles are different, legally. A juvenile in jeapordy can be legally taken into custody under Welfare and Institutions Code.

As a law enforcement officer, in which the CHP is a mandatory reporter, therefore by failing to notify the proper authority, the Sheriff or Police they were negligent.

Alex Alexander said...

Juveniles are different, legally. A juvenile in jeapordy can be legally taken into custody under Welfare and Institutions Code.

As a law enforcement officer, in which the CHP is a mandatory reporter, therefore by failing to notify the proper authority, the Sheriff or Police they were negligent.

Alex Alexander said...

Juveniles are different, legally. A juvenile in jeapordy can be legally taken into custody under Welfare and Institutions Code.

As a law enforcement officer, in which the CHP is a mandatory reporter, therefore by failing to notify the proper authority, the Sheriff or Police they were negligent.

Alex Alexander said...

Juveniles are different, legally. A juvenile in jeapordy can be legally taken into custody under Welfare and Institutions Code.

As a law enforcement officer, in which the CHP is a mandatory reporter, therefore by failing to notify the proper authority, the Sheriff or Police they were negligent.

Alex Alexander said...

Juveniles are different, legally. A juvenile in jeapordy can be legally taken into custody under Welfare and Institutions Code.

As a law enforcement officer,is a mandatory reporter, they failed to notify the proper authority, the Sheriff or Police.

In California this is a misdemeanor and could resulted in revocation of state issued license, i.e. POST Cert, Teach Credential

Alex Alexander said...

Juveniles are different, legally. A juvenile in jeapordy can be legally taken into custody under Welfare and Institutions Code.

As a law enforcement officer, in which the CHP is a mandatory reporter, therefore by failing to notify the proper authority, the Sheriff or Police they were negligent.

mike mohr said...

Growing up in Vallejo, Ca. In the same neighborhood as Richard Clark, I knew him as a crazy person. Everyone thought what he done was cowardly. I can testify to the fact that if it weren't for what he did to this girl, she would have lived a good life.

Amber Lasiter said...

See Ukiah Daily Journal's news article from July 21, 2005 regarding statewide CHP policy change on this issue:
http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/1122666/