Tamiyasu case: Rumors swirl around murder

Hood River County law enforcement officials are frustrated by an unsolved murder case -- and even more frustrated by the rumors it has generated.

Since the body of orchardist Eric Tamiyasu, 41, was discovered in the bedroom of his Binns Hill Road home on June 30, rumors have swirled that Sheriff Joe Wampler was somehow implicated in that crime. At one point, that speculation went far enough to suggest that Wampler had been suspended from his duties by the FBI, which had launched an independent investigation.

"I haven't commented on these rumors because they were obviously unfounded and our standard procedure is not to discuss criminal cases that are under investigation," Wampler said Jan. 30.

He admits that the tales surfaced following another standard procedure by his office: to spare family members further discomfort by disposing of mattresses that had been soiled beyond redemption by bodily fluids.

"We have always just tried to be `nice guys' and not subject families to more trauma," said Wampler.

He said Tamiyasu's bed was burned by deputies hours after the badly-decomposed body had been taken away for an autopsy. Because of the physical condition of the body, law enforcement officials would not learn until about 40 hours later that he had been shot in the head by a .22 caliber gun probably four or five days earlier.

However, Sewell said all forensic evidence had been gathered, including the bedding, before Wampler agreed to have the soiled mattress destroyed in order to spare Tamiyasu's family from that unpleasant task.

But after learning that the bed had been burned, Ramona Tamiyasu, Eric's sister, immediately began to question why that move was made with such haste and whether important clues had gone up in flames.

Sewell is confident the crime scene was processed correctly enough to stand up to any defense challenge. He said the execution-style murder, which does not appear to be tied to a robbery or any other motive, has made it more difficult to investigate.

In addition, Wampler said there have been lengthy delays processing evidence because state budget cuts reduced available personnel at the central crime lab.

"This case remains a top priority for us, we've successfully resolved a number of other fatality cases this past year and we're not going to rest until this one is resolved also," said Sewell.

Wampler said after Ramona registered complaints about the destruction of private property, the sheriff's office even willingly paid for a replacement bed.

"I take full responsibility for getting rid of the mattress and it is a practice this office will not do again," he said.

Wampler and Sewell both reiterated that all leads in the Tamiyasu case are diligently being tracked down.

"We have a cold-blooded killer loose in our community who needs to be put behind bars and we need anyone who had contact with Eric after the evening of June 25 to come forward with any information, even if it seems insignificant," said Detective Gerry Tiffany, the lead officer on the case who can be reached on his direct line at 387-6846 and welcomes even anonymous calls.

The Tamiyasu family has posted a $10,000 reward for all information leading to the arrest and conviction of Eric's murderer.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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