Clovis News

1 year later: Clovis family works through grief

Cherie Hamilton, 20, of Clovis was found dead three days after friends reported her missing on a camping trip near Wishon Reservoir. Investigators said Hamilton apparently died from a fall in the rugged terrain. Hamilton's mother and stepfather, Michelle and Daniel Jenkins, had questions about her disappearance.

Today: "We were blessed to have Cherie for 20 years," Michelle Jenkins said this week as she worked on a memory book for her daughter. "I want to thank those who supported us in the ordeal to get the truth."

Jenkins said it took six months to get an investigative report from the Fresno County Sheriff's Department, and nine months to get a coroner's report with the help of county Supervisor Debbie Poochigian.

"That's too long for a family to wait," Jenkins said. "It made things harder for us, and harder for the other teenagers because we wondered about foul play."

Hamilton's boyfriend and friends told deputies she wandered off during a hike. Hours later, when she didn't return, they drove to a Forest Service station to report her missing.

The official reports, Jenkins said, indicate that Hamilton died a day after she went missing, apparently falling as she waved some clothing to get the attention of a search helicopter.

"I feel we have a conclusion," Jenkins said. "But I won't be at ease until we meet again in heaven."

Sheriff's spokesman Chris Curtice said he understands Jenkins' frustration. "If it were my child, I'd want answers immediately, too," he said. But, he added, six months is "not unheard of ... when there's no indication of foul play."

"Our department has a whole host of homicides, questionable deaths and other cases to investigate, and only seven or eight people doing that," he said.

-- Tim Sheehan

Children killed in police chase still mourned

One year ago: A speeding car fleeing from Dinuba police ran a stop sign and collided with a GMC Sierra extended-cab pickup at a rural intersection east of town. Five children in the the truck were killed, their parents were seriously hurt, and the three young men in the car died. Police were chasing the car for running a stop sign in Dinuba. The car had been carjacked a day earlier.

Today: Carlos and Jennifer Salazar, the parents who lost all of their children -- ages 1 to 8 -- in the accident, filed a claim for damages against the city of Dinuba, which the city denied. At the time, police defended the pursuit, but won't comment now because of the potential for litigation.

The parents still mourn their children, said family friend Rose Vasquez. A week ago, with the family's permission, Vasquez removed a roadside shrine at the crash scene, leaving five crosses and fresh flowers.

-- Lewis Griswold

Work will start on new morgue

One year ago: Fresno County supervisors approved a scaled-down plan for a new morgue to replace the maggot-infested building that was upsetting Coroner David Hadden.

Today: County officials expect construction to begin this month and the building to be completed in a year.

The county is using restricted tobacco settlement funds to pay for the $15 million project. The Coroner's Office is currently in a two-story building, built in 1948, on West Neilson Avenue in Fresno.

The new Fresno County Regional Forensic Center will be next to the county's last major construction project, the Juvenile Justice Campus on East Jefferson Avenue south of Fresno.

-- Brad Branan

Dave Hawk serves life in prison

One year ago: The trial for Dave Hawk, the Lemoore man accused of killing his ex-wife, Debbie Hawk, opened in Kings County. Prosecutors said Hawk wanted his ex-wife killed because she sought financial records to show he was stealing money from their children's trust accounts. A jury convicted Hawk of first-degree murder in late August.

Today: Hawk, 52, was sentenced in December to life in prison without parole. He is being held at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County.

His attorneys, who argued in the trial that no physical evidence linked Hawk to the crime, continue to work on an appeal of the conviction. They contend there was insufficient evidence to convict Hawk, and that the trial should have been moved outside of Kings County because of pretrial publicity.

No sign of Debbie Hawk, who was 46 when she was reported missing in June 2006, has ever been found.

-- Edward Jimenez

  Comments