Detectives were granted an arrest warrant for the suspect on charges of first-degree murder, but he'd died three days before
Police believed they solved a decades-long murder mystery last week, but when they went to arrest the suspect they learned he had died days before.
Former Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy Duke J. Pierson was under investigation for the cold case deaths of three women, including the murder of Dorothy Fielding in 1967. On Friday, detectives were granted an arrest warrant for the 85-year-old, with charges of first-degree murder, but Pierson died three days before on Jan. 22 at his Alabama home, reportedly due to natural causes, according to a statement released by the department on Monday.
Prior to his death, in an April 2018 interview with police, Pierson denied killing Fielding.
Fielding, then 31, was reported missing in August 1967, and her badly decomposed body was discovered eight months later in a shallow grave near Spokane.
“The case had remained unsolved since that time,” the statement said.
However, the investigation was reopened in April 2018 after the Major Crimes Unit received a call inquiring about the case involving Fielding’s death.
Further investigation led detectives to believe Fielding’s murder occurred in the same area as two other cold case deaths.
In 1971, Ruby Lampson’s “badly decomposed” body was discovered in a shallow grave, not far from the location where Fielding was discovered. The 47-year-old was reported missing four years before in 1967, according to the sheriff’s office.
In September 1967, 33-year-old Sandra Pierson, the suspect’s pregnant wife at the time, died in what was initially ruled a suicide, though the victim’s children believe their father was involved in their mom’s death.
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“With these similarities, Detective Keyser began reviewing all three cold cases and worked to obtain additional information. This led to Friday’s arrest warrant for Pierson charging him with the murder of Fielding,” the statement on Monday said.
In April 2018, Detective Keyser visited Pierson’s home in Alabama to interview him, and Pierson denied involvement in Fielding’s death.
“Pierson admitted to dating thousands of women, and if he had dated Fielding, the relationship lasted no more than a week,” Keyser said.
The sheriff’s office is asking anyone who may have any information about Duke or Sandra Pierson, Dorothy Fielding or Ruby Lampson to call Detective Keyser at 509-477-6611.