Released, But Not Yet Free

Involvement of two men arrested in killing remains a mystery

By David Gilson and Cassandra Herrman

On January 6, Pittsburg officials announced a major breakthrough in the investigation of the November 1998 murder of 15-year-old Lisa Norrell. Pittsburg Mayor Frank Quesada and Police Chief Aaron Baker announced that two local men, David Michael Heneby and Garry Lee Walton, had been arrested in connection with the killing and would face murder charges.

Just one-and-a-half days later, the police announced that they would not file charges against the two men. Walton was released, while Heneby remained in custody on unrelated charges.

More than nine months later the investigation into the Norrell murder remains open with no resolution in sight (See CASE). Pittsburg police have released little information about why either Heneby or Walton was considered a suspect in the first place.

Though police have consistently referred to Heneby as a "strong suspect," they would not comment when asked recently about his current status. In the meantime, as Walton tries to resume a normal life, police have not officially dropped him from the investigation.

Both Heneby and Walton's families have been affected by the men's apparently wrongful connection to the killing. Who, if anyone, is to blame when apparent mistakes by officials throw private individuals and their families into the limelight?

In their zeal to close the Norrell case, did Pittsburg police make a misstep not unlike the FBI's false assurance earlier this year that the persons responsible for the killing of four women near Yosemite National Park were already in prison?

David Michael Heneby, 25, is presently incarcerated at the California Correctional Center in Susanville on a six-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and spousal injury (he was free at the time of the Norrell murder). An examination of Heneby's criminal files reveals numerous domestic violence charges by his now ex-wife Karla, 23, with whom he has two daughters and a son.

Walton, a 39-year-old former mechanic and the father of three daughters, lives in Antioch with his family. Walton's previous criminal history, as outlined in court files, includes arrests and convictions on drugs and weapons charges.

Police Investigation Sealed

The police have released heavily edited copies of the warrants and other documents used in carrying out the arrests (See RECORDS). In an affidavit submitted one day before the arrests, Pittsburg Police Inspector John Conaty said that on December 7, 1998 the police received three tips that linked Heneby and Walton to the Norrell case.

In court documents filed in February, Conaty mentioned a sealed oral affidavit from Dena Saurborn, Heneby's mother-in-law. It is not clear if Saurborn's testimony provided information that led to the arrests.

Saurborn is the sister of former Antioch Fire Captain Duanne D. Shoemake, who reportedly provided police with information about the Norrell case in exchange for dropping five counts of criminal child molestation charges against him (See INFORMANT). Shoemake and police have declined to discuss this aspect of the investigation.

According to Conaty's affidavit, soon after receiving the tips, the police began surveillance on Heneby and Walton. This included collecting information on their criminal records, residences, vehicles, friends, family, acquaintances, patterns of movement and places they could conceal possibly incriminating evidence.

Unsealed sections of the search warrants show that the police took detailed notes on Heneby and Walton's residences and cars in preparation for the searches and arrests. This may have included the use of "electronic tracking transmitters" on motor vehicles for surveillance.

After nearly a month of investigation, police arrested the two men and served search warrants on Walton's house in Antioch, Walton's girlfriend's house in Oakdale, Heneby's jail cell, Heneby's sister's house in Pittsburg, five automobiles associated with Walton, and a rented storage locker in Antioch. Details of what evidence, if any, was found during these searches remains sealed. (Police also tried to seal the coroner's report on Lisa Norrell, but were eventually forced by a county judge to issue a heavily condensed version to local media.)

Police did not disclose their reasons for not charging Heneby and Walton. Eight pages of exculpatory evidence in Conaty's affidavit that might have cleared them or may have included information on other suspects remain sealed. County judges have sided with police and prosecutors in lawsuits brought by local newspapers to open these records under the state Public Records Act.

At the time of the arrests, the police said that Heneby and Walton had killed Lisa Norrell. The police said that the two men were driving together in Walton's car, which Heneby was driving, late on the night of November 6, 1998. They allegedly picked up Lisa Norrell and killed her shortly afterwards.

The Contra Costa Times printed that "sources close to the case" said that one of the men had attacked Lisa after she resisted a sexual advance. District Attorney Gary Yancey said that the two men might face the death penalty.

Families Still Feel Effects

Being associated with the high-profile case has been damaging for Walton. After his arrest, his picture was printed on the front page of local newspapers and accounts of his arrest included information about his previous criminal record.

In a May 1998 article in the Contra Costa Times, he said that his connection with the case had made it difficult to lead a normal life. "It's hard to get a job when you've been on the front page of the newspaper for a hideous crime," he said.

Little is known about Heneby's personal life. Karla and David Heneby have known each other since kindergarten, according to court records. Their first child was born in 1990 when Karla was 14 years old, and the couple married the following October.

When asked recently about her ex-husband's arrest, Karla Heneby would only say that it was a "terrible" time: television news crews came looking for her children at school, and she was forced to leave town for three weeks (See ETHICS). Members of David Heneby’s family will no longer talk to the press.

Karla Heneby’s grandmother, Rosie Marshall, is still angry over the police and media's treatment of the family. "Everything was blown out of proportion, there was very little truth, "she said. "It was a nightmare."

As Heneby and Walton's families try to move on, the connection between the two men remains unknown. Until police unseal crucial documents, Heneby and Walton's role in the Norrell case—if any-- will likely remain a mystery.