‘He said he shot him in the head and chest’: Man accused in 2017 Dinsmore murder to stand trial

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A Humboldt County Superior Court Judge ruled Wednesday afternoon there was enough evidence to hold over Duane Dean Gillespie for trial in a Dinsmore fatal shooting in October 2017.

Gillespie, who was 17 years old when he was arrested in connection with the shooting death of 68-year-old Richard Dennis Falk on Oct. 5, 2017, was initially charged in juvenile court until District Attorney Maggie Fleming made the decision to try him as an adult.

Judge Lawrence Killoran ordered Gillespie to answer to charges of first-degree murder, carjacking, robbery and two counts of burglary. Arraignment on information is scheduled for March 20 when a trial date will be discussed.

Gillespie

“It does appear to the court the defendant is the person responsible for each count and therefore the defendant is ordered to answer all of these charges,” Killoran ruled, ordering Gillespie to remain in custody in the county jail unless he posts bail.

Deputy District Attorneys Roger Rees and Jessica Watson were the prosecutors of record while Deputy Public Defenders Ben McLaughlin and Jason Sheets were assigned to represent Gillespie, who appeared in custody wearing jail-issued clothing, black-rimmed glasses and was seated at the defense table with his attorneys.

The key witness for the prosecution was a woman identified only as Jane Doe, a former girlfriend of Gillespie’s, who testified she was with him in the days leading up to Falk’s death and at Falk’s property the day she says Gillespie fatally shot him.

Doe testified she and Gillespie arrived at an area near Falk’s Buck Mountain property near Dinsmore on the morning of Oct. 5, 2017, sometime around 8 or 9 a.m. According to Doe, Gillespie was driving a black minivan stolen from a former foster mother’s house in Arcata in late September and that when they reached Buck Mountain, Gillespie pulled the van off to the side of the road.

“We left the van in a spot in the woods and walked to the (Falk’s) property,” Doe said. “It was a long walk and Duane thought it was a good idea to leave the van.”

Once near Falk’s property, Doe testified they hid in the woods and “scoped it out at first” for about an hour before Gillespie decided to create a distraction in an apparent effort to get Falk to come outside. “We waited probably an hour. He started throwing trash cans and cut water lines and threw a rock at the (Falk’s) Jeep. Duane told me to wait in a corner, where I could sit outside the house.”

Doe testified Gillespie told her the reason they went to Falk’s property was because Falk owed Gillespie money. Falk had, at one time, been a foster parent to Gillespie. In later testimony, it was revealed that Falk and his family members, including one son who lived on the property with him, “feared for their safety around Duane Gillespie.”

Doe testified Gillespie eventually entered the residence.

“He looked at me through a window,” she testified. “He was holding a gun.”

Doe did not directly witness what happened next but she did say she “the next thing I know, I heard a door opening, and the next thing I know, I hear four gunshots go off.”

Rees asked about a pattern to the gunshots.

“I heard them all at once,” she responded.

She then testified Gillespie told her, “It’s all clear, you can come out.”

“I saw Richard (Falk) on the ground; he was not moving,” Doe testified, and she then answered “yes” when asked by Rees if he was bleeding. “I saw blood on his forehead and his chest and we then went into the house and (Gillespie) took some money and stuff that was laying around.”

The pair then prepared to leave the scene and Doe said she and Gillespie “got our stuff from the van and put it in the Jeep. We were planning to go to Arcata and so we went to Arcata.”

On the way, Doe said, the two stopped at two bank ATMs, the Coast Central ATM at the Bayshore Mall and the Coast Central ATM in Fortuna. Rees played video images from bank surveillance and Doe identified both herself and Gillespie in the footage.

“He used the credit card to take money out,” Doe said. “He took them out of the wallet he took from Richard.”

Rees totaled the amount of money taken from the ATM at $1,120.

Once in Arcata, Doe testified, they met up with one of Gillespie’s friends, Elijah Williams, a man who pleaded guilty to shooting and wounding a teenager in Arcata in 2017 and who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.

According to Doe’s testimony, Williams drove them back to Eureka and dropped them off at an area near the Bayshore Mall. In later testimony, it was learned the Jeep had been abandoned at an area near the boat launch in Mad River County Park in Arcata.

The pair then went to the house of one of Gillespie’s friends where she heard Gillespie tell that person what happened.

“He said he shot him in the head and chest,” Doe said.

Rees also called Paula Mattocks to testify. Mattocks, a former foster parent of Gillespie’s, testified her Arcata home had been burgled and her purse, cell phone and black minivan had all been stolen.

Gillespie remains in custody with bail set at $2 million and a trial date will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.

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