So far at least, the killing of 52-year-old Redway resident Stephanie Gawboy last month is shaping up as something of a murder mystery.
“This case is very unusual,” Detective Jenn Turner of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office commented last Friday. “Usually when you have a homicide it’s apparent from the get-go what the motivation [was]. But with this one [the motivation] is not there.”
One thing out of the ordinary, at least for a murder investigation in Southern Humboldt, is that marijuana does not appear to have played a role.
“I don’t believe drugs were a factor,” Turner remarked. “I could be wrong. But based on things found or not found in the house, I don’t believe drugs were a factor. I believe it was something more personal.”
Also strange is the apparent lack of likely possible perpetrators.
“Pretty early on it’s usually easy to figure out suspects. But this is different,” Turner said. “I’ve been involved in [investigating] lots of homicides, and this is by far the most difficult one, the most mysterious one.”
While Gawboy was found dead in her home on Aug, 17 — she was lying face down on a massage table — she was actually killed a few days before. “She was in a state of decomposition,” Turner shared.
As for cause of death, Turner said: “She was shot more than once.”
One odd thing is that the person who found her, Jordan Jumpshot — who reportedly went to her home in the first place to take a shower — did not immediately call police. Instead, Turner said he went and had a cup of coffee before going to KMUD radio, where he had once worked, and telling people there.
It was station manager Jeanette Todd, according to Turner, who then informed police.
“It seems weird,” Turner agreed, referring to the fact that Jumpshot didn’t simply call 911. “He thought she had committed suicide and didn’t want to disturb her in her death.”
When asked if Jumpshot was a suspect, Turner said: “Not at this point.”
Another acquaintance of Gawboy’s, William Rodriguez Morseth, better known as “Coffee,” was arrested in Garberville in the days following the discovery of Gawboy’s body. But Turner said Morseth, who sports red facial tattoos, was “not in custody in relation to Stephanie Gawboy’s homicide. He was picked up on an outstanding warrant from out of state.”
Nonetheless, she said Morseth was “interviewed” in connection to the murder.
“We’re not willing to rule him out as a suspect. But there’s no concrete evidence to arrest him for [the murder],” Turner explained.
As for the warrant, Turner said it had to do with a parole violation for a drug-related offense.
Finally, there have been reports that Gawboy was seen with a man of either Mexican or Samoan descent in the days before she was killed. Turner said she was aware of the reports but hasn’t been able to confirm them.
“At this point I haven’t been able to speak with anyone to give me the information first-hand that she was hanging out with someone matching that description,” she said.
Despite the fact that things at this point seem puzzling, Turner emphasized that that could change — particularly since the investigation is still in the evidence-collection phase. She said Gawboy’s phone records are being looked at and that “things” from her house have been sent to the Department of Justice for analysis.
“We’re hoping to find fingerprints or DNA,” Turner said.
She said that while there “were personal effects missing” from Gawboy’s house, “I have no reason to believe she was robbed.”
“We believe [the personal effects] were taken after the fact,” she remarked, explaining that the door to Gawboy’s house was unlocked.
She confirmed that a neighbor or two had reported hearing “a loud bang-type sound” at some point prior to the discovery of Gawboy’s body. “But they didn’t necessarily attribute it to a gun. They weren’t sure what it was.”
The fact that Gawboy was something of an activist, particularly in terms of issues connected to GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) agriculture, has led to speculation that she was done in for political reasons.
Turner said that the Sheriff’s Office has gotten calls from people urging investigators to “check Monsanto.” But she indicated there’s no evidence that Gawboy’s GMO activism had anything to do with her murder.
Turner said she’s been struck by the number of people who’ve described Gawboy as “a good person, a nice person, someone who was well-liked.”
“A quote that someone said has stuck in my mind: ‘She opened her home and heart to everyone.’’’
In one sense, that just deepens the mystery. As Turner put it: “Why would someone want to do this to her? What was the motivation?”
On the other hand, perhaps she was too trusting. “She took anyone into her home. I don’t think she would turn someone away because of their appearance or background,” Turner commented.