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Local murder draws new exposure

Tamiyasu case will air July 26 on 'Unsolved Mysteries'

Sunday marked the one year anniversary of the Eric Tamiyasu murder — a disturbing reminder to both family members and law enforcement officials that the killer is still at large.

“Everyone working this case is extremely frustrated, it’s never out of our minds,” Hood River County Undersheriff Dwayne Troxel said.

“We do not know why anyone would want to do something like that to someone who was so well known and well liked,” said Ramona Tamiyasu, sister of the victim.

Both parties believe that something may shake loose on the case when it airs on “Unsolved Mysteries” in less than one month. The syndicated program will be televised locally at 8 p.m. on July 26 on the Lifetime cable channel.

“I’m hoping something will happen by getting this into the national news,” said Ramona.

And that is exactly what the show is put together to do, according to its associate producer Kathleen McCarthy.

“We try to keep public interest in the crime and help law enforcement agencies in smaller regions that may have limited resources,” said McCarthy.

At the conclusion of the segment, McCarthy said the telephone number of a tip line and a Web site contact will be made available for viewers with possible leads.

On June 30, 2001, the badly decomposed body of Tamiyasu, 41, was found in the bedroom of his Binns Hill Road home. A subsequent autopsy revealed that the orchardist had died from gunshots wounds to the head that had been inflicted between four and five days earlier.

The puzzling thing to police is that there appears to be no motive for the crime. Hood River County Detective Gerry Tiffany said that has made the investigation very difficult.

“If we had a conclusive motive about why someone would kill him we would be steps closer to finding a suspect,” said Tiffany.

When the months began to roll by and a viable lead could not be developed, Ramona became troubled by the lack of progress. At that point she asked District Attorney John Sewell and Wampler to turn the case over to a higher investigative authority, such as the criminal justice arm of the state attorney general’s office.

However, Sewell said that the state would just be replicating the same investigative techniques and resources already being used by the local agency.

“We don’t need more attorneys, we need a focal suspect,” said Sewell.

Both Tiffany and Troxel contend the sheriff’s office has left no stone uncovered in its search for a murderer.

Tiffany said he has consulted with top homicide investigators from Multnomah County, FBI profilers and Oregon State Police criminologists. According to Tiffany, every one of these contacts has agreed with the investigative practices of the Hood River authorities.

“We know the family is upset and would like to have some closure here and we would like nothing better than to give it to them,” Tiffany said.

Troxel has recently contacted the Scotland Yard training academy in England, top forensic experts, to inquire about advances in science that will aid the investigation. For example, he said the bullets removed from the victim are commonly used with at least dozens of different firearms. Although the murder weapon has not yet been recovered, Troxel said there may be new methods of matching the bullet to the gun that will eliminate many of these choices if it does turn up.

In March, Wampler issued a challenge for Don Dixon, a friend of Tamiyasu who had been named a “person of interest” in the case, to take a polygraph test. Tiffany said Dixon complied with that request at his own expense. Although Dixon declined comment on the procedure, Tiffany said the sheriff’s office was able to obtain the results which proved “inconclusive,” primarily because of medication Dixon is taking for a kidney transplant he underwent in December. Wampler also attempted to take the test, but Tiffany said he was refused by the Oregon State Police because he was not a viable suspect and then advised by a top commander not to proceed with that action because it would not help the case to get into a local “mudslinging” match.

One year after the murder, Tiffany is still dogging the case but said he has exhausted all current leads. He believes that there is someone in Hood River who holds the key piece of information that will help catch killer — even if he or she is unaware of the significance of that knowledge.

“We need people to come forward with any information they can remember about Eric, particularly during the last days of his life,” said Tiffany, who can be reached directly at 387-6846.

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