Detectives think they have solved the area’s “coldest case.”
Early on Monday, July 11, 1988, a mall worker called the Walnut Creek Police Department. An "unconscious" man was slumped against the steering wheel of a blue Corvette, in a parking lot in the San Francisco suburb’s downtown shopping area. The man had been shot dead.
The “vic,” Lester Garnier, was a dedicated, 30-year-old, San Francisco vice cop who’d been on the job for eight years, half of that time in vice.
A witness reported having seen two blondes , one of whom exited the passenger side of Officer Garnier’s car, leave the immediate area of the car and drive away in separate vehicles at 11:30 p.m., Sunday night. Police believe Garnier was killed then. Garnier was found unarmed, with his window open, and his car keys missing.
Perhaps one blonde leaned into the driver’s side window, chatting up Garnier to distract him, while the one whom he had come to meet, sitting next to him, drew her weapon, and shot him. They must have stolen his gun; I can’t see a cop traveling around naked.
Walnut Creek police had three main pieces of evidence: They determined that the murder weapon was an AMT .380 semiautomatic pistol, favored as a backup weapon by some SFPD officers; partial descriptions of the blondes; and a partial fingerprint lifted from the passenger-side window of Garnier's Corvette that forensics could do nothing with.
Rather than lacking possible suspects, police had a surfeit of them:
Though reportedly a low-key type, the good-looking, San Francisco-born Asian Garnier was a ladies’ man who had just broken up with a fairly long-term girlfriend. His hot-tempered “ex” had visited his home only hours before his murder. When word got out that blondes were sought, she dyed her frosted blonde hair black, and got into an altercation at Garnier’s funeral;
Garnier got two calls at the home he had bought for his parents nine years earlier, at least one of them from a woman, before leaving around 9 p.m.;
Garnier and his partner, Patrolman Chuck Lofgren, had recently kept Patrick Roberts under surveillance while Roberts, who with his wife, Kelly Loyd, ran one of San Francisco’s most exclusive, and ultimately scandalous brothels, moved his business. Lofgren “suspected their covers had been ‘burned’ by Roberts”;
Based on the murder weapon, detectives suspected that a colleague might have killed Garnier, and looked at a blonde IRS agent who lived in Walnut Creek, who was involved with a rising SFPD officer, and whose own car was “mysteriously bombed” shortly after Garnier’s murder. (The rising officer, Alex Fagan, would eventually make it to SFPD deputy chief.)
Advances in forensics since Garnier’s murder permitted detectives to match the partial print to a convict serving time in Florida State Prison in Ocala, Catherine “Scotty” Kuntz, who represents that underserved group, Scottish immigrant criminals.
Scotty’s first husband, Navy officer Gregory Kuntz, had brought her over from Scotland, in 1985. Catherine Overend—her maiden name—was working as a barmaid, when Gregory Kuntz met her. Soon after Kuntz brought her home and married her, Scotty began—or more likely, went back to—hitting the crack pipe, turning tricks, and drifting from one small, northern California town, including Walnut Creek, to the next, while her husband was at sea.
It’s yet another tale of immigrant heartbreak.
Then it was on to Virginia, where in 1991, she was charged with soliciting to have her husband murdered. Divorcing him would have cost her her green card, plus his death was worth $15,000 in life insurance to her. Scotty hired a 17-year-old runaway, Malinda Cooper, who shot her husband, but Scotty got off because he “had survived an attempt on his life but remained loyal to her.” Gregory Kuntz gave such heartrending testimony on behalf of his Scotty, that the jury convicted and imprisoned her two dupes, while letting her walk. Virginia is for lovers.
And then it was on to the Sunshine State, where Scotty is presently enjoying the taxpayers’ hospitality, due to her having violated probation stemming from a drug possession conviction.Gregory Kuntz having served his purpose, Scotty divorced him in 1992. She married a younger man, Timothy Wise, the next month, divorcing him in 1995. Before divorcing Wise, Kuntz charged him with domestic violence and got him convicted, which won her the green card jackpot.
The first Garnier investigation was hamstrung by jurisdictional beefs between the Walnut Creek and San Francisco departments.
ICE has placed an immigration hold on Kuntz, who was due to be released from Ocala on June 19. Walnut Creek PD watch commander, Sgt. Hill, confirmed for me that Kuntz is still in prison in Florida. While Sgt. Hill couldn’t divulge too much about an active investigation—
Stix: Do you have any other suspects, or just Kuntz at this time?
Sgt. Hill: “I can’t really say.”
—he confirmed the “two blondes” story. He told me further that he was unaware of any tie to the former San Francisco brothel keepers; “we’re working with San Francisco P.D.”; “we have contacts with federal agents, as well”; and replied to my question whether investigators had interrogated Kuntz, “She has been spoken to [in prison] in regard to this case.”
The attorney for Malinda Cooper, the then 17-year-old convicted of shooting Scotty’s first husband said of Scotty, “This lady is so sinister, so maniacal to pull this young girl in.”
What a xenophobe! How insensitive!
If Scotty Kuntz is proven to be the shooter in the Lester Garnier case, perhaps it was just a case of an immigrant doing one of those jobs George W. Bush says Americans won’t do.
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.