When a business consultant is murdered, the key evidence goes up in smoke.

Eric Tamiyasu

Evidence was burned at sheriff’s request

CASE DETAILS

Hood River, Oregon. After Eric Tamiyasu and Diana Anderson had been “just friends” for years, but had decided to take their relationship to the next level. Diana recalled:

“It was just kind of, you know, checking each other out, and seeing if maybe this is someone that I would like to spend more time with, and I think it was the same for both of us.”

Was there motive for destroying evidence?

Late one evening, while Diana was visiting Eric at his house, the couple heard some mysterious tapping noises outside. Then someone was at the front door. They heard the sound of footsteps running away, but looking outside, they didn’t see anyone. Diana was spooked:

“It was not funny at that time of night when I have to get in my car and drive home by myself.”

Eric’s home was located in a remote area outside of town. A week after Eric’s date with Diana, Don Dixon, a friend and business consultant, went to Eric’s house to check on him. Don says that for several days, he had been getting phone calls from Eric’s friends who also had not been able to reach him. He claimed he used a key Eric had given him to get in through a back door. Once inside, Don said he was hit by a foul odor:

“It was an odor that I’d never smelled before. My initial hope was that this was the garbage that I had seen left out.”

Three suspects took polygraph tests

Searching the house, Don found Eric’s decomposing body sprawled across his bed:

“There was no question in my mind that he was dead. So I said a prayer, I went downstairs and I called 9-1-1 and asked for assistance.”

Sgt. Gerry Tiffany of the Hood River County Sheriff’s Department arrived on scene:

“When I first walked in, it appeared to me that we were dealing with an unintended death. A medical problem, or, you know, a heart attack, those kinds of things. There was no sign of trauma..nothing that, could indicate that there was any kind of foul play.”

As Eric Tamiyasu’s body was being removed from his house, Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler approached Don Dixon with a request: he wanted to know if Eric had a burn pile on his property. According to Don, Sheriff Wampler explained:

“‘We’ve looked for a gun. We’ve looked for bullet holes. We’ve looked for shells. To spare the family grief and discomfort, we’re going to bring the bedding out and we want you to burn it.’”

According to Don, the request wasn’t inappropriate:

“And I said, ’If it’ll help the family, I would be happy to do what I can to assist.’”

Rain washed away the killer’s footprints

The following morning, Dixon set fire to the soiled bedding from Eric’s room. When he was done, there was nothing left but a metal frame and a pile of ashes.  The next day during Eric’s autopsy, investigators were shocked to find three small-caliber bullets lodged in his head. What at first had seemed like a natural death was now a homicide investigation.

To those who knew him, Eric Tamiyasu didn’t seem to have an enemy in the world, so no one had assumed foul play. The decomposition of the body had disguised the exact cause of his death. And the most important piece of evidence, the bed, had gone up in smoke.

Sheriff Wampler suddenly had to defend the burning of evidence:

“Based on the lack of evidence, that this was gonna turn into a criminal case, it was my decision to burn the bed. It was my decision at that time because the family, they might just actually appreciate not having to go through the trauma of viewing the horrid things that were left behind.”

However, could Sheriff Wampler have had a personal, more sinister motive for destroying the evidence?  A possible answer may have come up in a conversation Don Dixon said he had with Eric regarding a new romantic relationship:

“This Polynesian woman, described as older than he was, and the rumor mill has, that the Sheriff’s wife is Polynesian and older than Eric. But that could be purely coincidental.”

Sheriff Wampler has said there’s no truth to the story:

“I’ve heard a rumor that my wife was having an affair with Mr. Tamiyasu, and out of retaliation for that, then I went up there and did these things, and then even went to the trouble of destroying the evidence, burning the bed and all that stuff.  All I can say is they’re looking in the wrong direction.”

If Sheriff Wampler had nothing to do with the murder, then who did?  A second potential suspect is Eric Smith, Eric Tamiyasu’s lifelong friend.  Don Dixon said that he overheard an intense argument between the two Erics just a few days before the murder:

“He and Eric Smith had been in business together and Eric Tamiyasu felt that Eric was pocketing money. And that he owed him between fifty and sixty thousand.”

According to Don, Eric Tamiyasu was quite upset after the argument:

“I asked him if he was okay, if everything was all right. He said, ‘That son-of-a-bitch,’  and he got into his car, and that’s the last words that I heard from Eric Tamiyasu.”

Eric Smith said Don’s entire story is nonsense:

“I can tell you flat out for a fact, Eric and I did not have an argument. Eric didn’t owe me money, I didn’t owe him money.  Don lives in a fantasy world.”

Eric Tamiyasu and Eric Smith had a side business together selling used cars. But Police Sgt. Gerry Tiffany believed that there was much less money involved than Don Dixon had said:

“When I checked into the business dealings with Eric Smith and Eric Tamiyasu, we found out they both invested the same amount of money, which was probably $15,000, to start this business, not fifty or sixty thousand. And, it kind of went downhill and then it had to go out of business.”

So who else had a reason to kill Eric Tamiyasu? Potential suspect #3: Don Dixon, the man who discovered the body. It was Don who notified Eric’s sister of her brother’s death just minutes after he discovered his body. Ramona Tamiyasu remembered that what Don said next was very strange:

“He said it didn’t look like there was any foul play and it also appeared that there weren’t any exit wounds. And, I said, ‘What are exit wounds?  What are you talking about?’ I said, Why would there be gunshot wounds?”

Don Dixon explained why he used those words:

“Well, I clearly looked closely at the body to try and see if he had shot himself.  I mean, because that was one of my first reactions was it was suicide. He had been very depressed and I had looked closely because of that.  I mean, I honestly believed that a logical reason Eric was dead in bed was suicide.”

With three bullets lodged in his head, Eric’s death was clearly not suicide.

In one final twist, Diana Anderson said that when she and Eric heard the strange noises outside, they went to investigate and found a single shoeprint. Could that clue have identified Eric’s killer?  Investigators will never know. Heavy rains washed it away days later.

Did Sheriff Wampler deliberately destroy evidence in the case to cover up his own involvement in the crime? He’s been adamant:

“I did not have anything to do with the death of Eric Tamiyasu, no.”

Could Eric Smith have wanted Eric Tamiyasu dead? Smith maintained that he and Eric were like family:

“Eric was my best friend, I mean he was the best man at my wedding. He was like my brother.”

Did Don Dixon tell the truth about his connection to the murder? Dixon claimed he did:

“I have no way of knowing who was involved with Eric Tamiyasu’s death. The only ones that I know that didn’t do it are my wife and myself. Other than that, everybody else in my mind is suspect.”

All the suspects in this case passed polygraph tests arranged by the Hood River County Sheriff’s Department, except for one: Don Dixon. Dixon eventually took an independently administered polygraph.  The sheriff’s department says the results were inconclusive.

In the meantime, someone in Hood River has gotten away with murder.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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18 Comments

  1. thinkingoutloud

    Don was the only one to find Eric dead. And only one apparently to have the key to his place. I think Don voluntarily went to Eric’s to pretend he stumbled upon his body so he would get ruled out as a suspect immediately. Maybe Don and Eric had fights over money. Maybe Don wanted in on the used cars company but he wasn’t allowed. Did they ever investigate Eric’s girlfriend at the time? What does she feel? I find it odd too the family requested that Eric’s one and only property that would contain evidence aka the bed to be burned. I think the Sheriff was in on it too. Maybe Eric was sleeping with the Sheriff’s wife and the Sheriff and Don conspired together to kill Eric and then get rid of the evidence. The Sheriff claims that they burned the bed BEFORE the autopsy was even done when they found the bullets. How could he claim after the bed was burn and the autopsy was done that he burned the bed so the family wouldn’t go through any trauma? Aka he burned the bed prior cause there was other evidence on the bed.

    Reply

    • Rainbowzuess

      The sheriff is definitely in on it someway I agree. Who the hell burns evidence. Evidence is evidence no matter how big or small that’s just common sense (which he is clearly lacking) AND to burn it to save the family of trauma is just bogus! Please this guy is sketchy as hell. Now do I think that he pulled the trigger no, but he definitely had something to do with it, I believe Dixon done it. Either the sherif has leverage on him as blackmail there in it together. Let’s be honest here the sherif is not gonna pull the trigger and put his job on the line, the guy has at least a couple of good brain cells in there, but I do think he used his position to get someone vulnerable enough aka Dixon to do it for him.

      Reply

  2. Helene

    There are at least 2 people If I could I would have them arrested: “This father of her child and the other is our ex-sheriff.”

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    There are at least two people that if I could I would have them arrested. One is the father of Diana’s child and the other is the ex-sheriff.

    Reply

  4. heard stuff

    It’s very likely Don Dixon killed him. He has been a suspect in two previous unsolved murders; one was his business partner, and one was his ex-wife.

    Reply

  5. Sam

    Dixon is a crazy psycho! Wow! Dixon is a Liar, liar, liar!
    I’d want the sheriff to dispose of the matress as well! Bless the sheriff! All evidence was already collected before the matress was taken out! What more DNA do you need? Get a life people! Dixon is going to turn himself in!

    Reply

  6. curious

    I think Don Dixon killed ERIC T. …..because he either wanted him sexually or the had a one time encounter Don liked it got mad when he saw ERIC had company got in the house Shot in a Jealous rage….( SORRY….no disrespect to ERICs Family)…but how did Don get the key…..how did he know ERIC keeps the key under a mat….he probably told the sheriff that he had a sexual affair with ERIC…..because what reason would u burn the bed for and the sheriff gave you the ok…..wow …to save the Family Embarrassment….from what ?…….Embarrassment is not knowing what happened….Don Dixion….got a dirty little secret that his Wife doesn’t know about….he is GAY….& he loved ERIC & was very upset when he seen ERIC with a date…..wow were is Don Dixon Now….?

    Reply

  7. rob

    Also the tapping and knock at the door seems strange. Someone mentioned a stalking ex of Anderson’s in the comments….possible he was trying to ruin the mood by tap and knocks? Did he want to size up Eric when he came to the door? The show never mentioned evidence of forced entry either. Did Eric always sleep nude? Did he lock his doors? Did others know of the hidden key?

    Reply

  8. rob

    Now if the sheriff was guilty why would he order that mattress burned knowing that the coroner would eventually find the wounds? Wouldn’t that make it obvious he was trying to hide something and bring more suspicion on himself? He’s guilty of assuming it was an open and shut case of suicide or natural causes. The body was bloated and oozing fluid which hid the wounds and soiled the mattress. Google it if you need a graphic image as to why he’d want the family spared seeing that mattress. He also passed the polygraph.

    Reply

  9. ava

    How idiotic and suspicious for a cop to tell someone to burn items from a home that doesn’t belong to either men. If I was a relative of Eric’s, I’d be pissed!! I hope that cop has retired already or was fired after that. And the guy who found the body and then burned the bed is just as suspicious for comments made to the sister. Sounds like they worked together.

    Reply

  10. Thylacine

    I bet it was D.B. Cooper that done this. He’s been hiding out in the woods around there ever since he jumped outta that plane with all that money. and Tamiyasu found out about him one day when he was working in an orchard. Cooper had to kill him or his cover would have been blown.

    Reply

  11. Just somebody

    Has anyone checked into Anderson’s estranged ex. He has been known to stalk exes.

    Reply

    • Elly

      I wondered that as well. It doesn’t appear that they looked into Diana Anderson’s background, or looked into Eric Tamiyasu’s ex-girlfriends.

      Reply

  12. Anonymous

    Cops are corrupt. Especially in Hood River. Especially Wampler. He later assaulted a skateboarding teenager. Cops think they can get away with murder, and it looks like they do. Hopefully what goes around comes around for those power hungry pigs.

    Reply

  13. johnson

    I’m not sure if it was him or not. It never stated whether he could have had a motive or not. I’m sure there is more to this case than what’s posted here. I hear what the Sheriff said about burning the bed but that still makes no sense to me. I’ve never heard of doing that before… strange

    Reply

    • Patricia Carrigan

      I lived in Hood River at the time. Everyone I knew thought that Wampler did it because of burning the bed, but I think he just knew who did it and was covering for them. Either way he was involved.

      Reply

  14. Jonathan Cox

    I feel that Don Dixon was the one who shot Eric Tamiyasu because he had mentioned that there were bullet wounds which was not brought up.

    Reply

    • R Potts

      I have seen this episode many times but today something stood out at the end about Don Dixon’s polygraph. He then said the only ones he knew didn’t do it was him and his wife. His wife??? Who said anything about his wife? Nothing was ever mentioned about her in the entire episode.

      Reply