When a business consultant is murdered, the key evidence goes up in smoke.
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:
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:
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:
Searching the house, Don found Eric’s decomposing body sprawled across his bed:
Sgt. Gerry Tiffany of the Hood River County Sheriff’s Department arrived on scene:
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:
According to Don, the request wasn’t inappropriate:
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:
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:
Sheriff Wampler has said there’s no truth to the story:
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:
According to Don, Eric Tamiyasu was quite upset after the argument:
Eric Smith said Don’s entire story is nonsense:
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:
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:
Don Dixon explained why he used those words:
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:
Could Eric Smith have wanted Eric Tamiyasu dead? Smith maintained that he and Eric were like family:
Did Don Dixon tell the truth about his connection to the murder? Dixon claimed he did:
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.