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Friday, Nov. 01, 2002 at 8:04 PM
The following theory is about a police cover-up. The murder and mayhem described is true. The knife you see may have been one of the murder weapons.
CALIFORNIA - The picturesque coastal town of Fort Bragg sits at the mouth of the Noyo River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. Logging, fishing and tourism are it’s major industries.
The peaceful tranquility of Fort Bragg was shattered on Sunday, October 5, 1986. Headlines would later read that Fort Bragg had suffered one of the “worst mass murders in Mendocino County history.”
The Grondalski home sat nestled beneath a canopy of giant redwoods and overlooked the tiny Noyo River Fishing Village. It was the perfect place for Billy Grondalski to escape his past and it meant a new beginning for his family as well.
At exactly 10:16 a.m., Billy went to the local Payless to buy some fishing gear. Fishing was a passion and one of the reasons Billy chose Fort Bragg as his new home.
Back at the house, little 5-year old Dallas Grondalski frolicked in her new bedroom, on her brand new rug, and with her favorite doll. In the next room were Dallas’ mother, Patty Grondalski, and her 17-year old stepbrother, Jerami Vandagriff.
Meanwhile, about one hour inland, in the tiny riverfront community of Guerneville, the Vallejo chapter of the Hells Angels was hosting its annual motorcycle rally. The weekend campout was attended by hundreds of bikers and their supporters.
Two people present at the bike-run was Gerald (Butch) Lester and Charles (Chuck) Diaz. Both were Vallejo Hells Angels. Butch was chapter president and Chuck was chapter vice president.
On the previous night, Chuck was having problems with his bike. He always carried a knife in a sheath on his belt and it came in handy, especially for cutting and stripping electrical wire.
While Billy browsed the isles of the Payless store, Butch and Chuck announced they were going to Fort Bragg to pay Billy a visit and to take care of some “unfinished business.”
Less than a week before, on September 28, 1986, at 3:09 p.m., the club declared Billy was no longer a welcomed member of the Hells Angels, in fact, Billy had quit in bad standing, which basically constituted an expulsion.
Billy possessed two pieces of club property, 600-dollars worth of HAMC support decals and a club tattoo, which was worn on his left arm and read, “84 In, 86 Out.” The unfinished business Chuck and Butch referred to dealt with the confiscation of the decals and making sure Billy’s tattoo was either covered-up or forcefully removed.
Butch and Chuck arrived in Fort Bragg around twelve-noon. Billy was home by this time. The two bikers entered the house and confronted Billy in his living room. Words were exchanged and the situation deteriorated rapidly as Billy’s family watched.
Butch pulled out his 45-caliber pistol and shoved it into Billy’s face. Later the claim would be that the gun accidentally went off. The bullet entered Billy’s mouth and lodged inside his brain. Billy hit the floor and died.
But this wasn’t the first time Butch had accidentally shot someone. On October 26, 1977, in Sacramento County, he accidentally shot two people in a van, covered up their bodies with a sleeping bag, and then proceeded to dump their vehicle into a river. This so-called accidental shooting was over ,000 dollars worth of meth. One victim survived, the other died. Butch spent four years in state prison over this accident.
5-year old Dallas, horrified at the sight of her daddy getting blown away, ran into her bedroom. Butch looked at Chuck and ordered, “Take care of that one!” At this point, a mutual decision was made to eliminate all witnesses.
While Chuck ran after the little girl, Butch turned his attention on Jerami. He shot Jerami below the left eye and killed him instantly.
Patty made a frantic dash for the door and the desperate look in her eyes resembled “a deer trapped in headlights.” Butch grabbed her by the hair and screwed the 45 into her face. As Patty shielded her face with her forearm, Butch pumped a single round through her arm and into her forehead. The wound was fatal.
Meanwhile, in the next room, Chuck was having difficulty killing the 5-year old with his knife, apparently, because it was dull. By the time Butch entered the room, Chuck had allegedly cut this defenseless child five times across the throat, ear to ear. Her spinal cord was severed and she was nearly decapitated. Butch pointed the 45 at the child and discharged one round. Clearly a case of overkill since her death certificate later revealed she died of multiple stab wounds.
The two killers then went to Billy’s body and sliced off his tattoo, probably with the same knife used to murder little Dallas. The severed piece of flesh was placed in a paper bag.
Butch slipped his weapon into his waste band and Chuck slid his bloody knife back into its sheath. The killers then fled the crime scene and returned back to the Guerneville Run.
The first thing Butch did upon returning to the bike-run was to enter the motor home of a couple of friends. The powerful RV toilet sucked the severed tattoo into its septic tank and the caustic chemicals began to dissolve the piece of flesh. Butch ordered that a fresh pot of coffee be brewed and then took the coffee to a sink and washed his hands in it. Coffee is always great for covering up the telltale signs of death.
Later Sunday evening, Butch’s 45 was melted down with a blowtorch and the slag was scattered over several northern California counties. Chuck said he got rid of his knife and sheath and the club took his word on that. The weapons were gone and the conspiracy commenced.
The next day, Monday, October 6, 1986, Chuck went to work. He was a civilian employee with a DOD security clearance at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. Butch, on the other hand, was more concerned about incriminating evidence than anything else.
Later that afternoon, Butch recruited the help of Hells Angel Charles (Francis) Haas. Both men returned to Fort Bragg with a couple of cans of gas. The idea was to torch the Grondalski home and destroy all physical evidence.
They arrived in town right around the same time Monday Night Football was playing on TV. Charles and Butch entered the Grondalski home, doused the corpses in gasoline, and lit a time-delay fuse.
Butch and Charles wanted to make sure the house would burn so they went to a nearby cafe, nursed on a couple of cups of coffee, and waited for the fire trucks to pass by.
At 9:33 p.m., fire trucks started rolling down Highway 1 towards the Grondalski home. Both men gulped down their tepid coffee and fled Fort Bragg. In the distance, flames illuminated the cold night sky--success.
When the bodies were discovered and Billy’s past came to light, cops labeled this crime a typical Hells Angel hit. Instant suspicion fell upon the Vallejo chapter, but due to lack of evidence and witnesses, no arrests were made.
The Grondalski Murders remained a mystery for eight years. No one was talking because the HAMC invoked its unforgiving code of silence and talking to police meant certain death.
The big break came on March 31, 1994. Charles Haas was picked up on federal drug charges (Case #3:93CR139.) He was looking at a lot of time in jail for his role in a large-scale meth ring.
Incarceration gives a man a lot of time to think and reflect about his past mistakes. Two things usually happen when faced with the prospect of spending 30 years behind bars you either find Jesus or you turn into a snitch. In Charles’ case, he wasn't religious.
Charles knew who killed the Grondalski’s, he personally participated in the cover-up, and he was now going to use this knowledge as a bargaining chip to negotiate a more lenient resolution to his mounting legal troubles, in other words, he became a government informant and fingered Butch and Chuck. This was the big break cops had been waiting for.
On May 5, 1995, Chuck was arrested in Vallejo and Butch was arrested in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Chuck was chapter president by then and Butch had quit the club back in June of 1987.
Right from the very beginning, the criminal prosecution of this case was riddled with problems (Case #C19915, C19923, C22527, and C22830.) The medical examiner made serious mistakes in his initial evaluation and this affected the entire coarse of the investigation. As time dragged on, this case became one of the most expensive cases to prosecute in Mendocino County history. Limited resources, small town politics, internal bickering and public pressure compounded by budgetary problems, were at the forefront of every legal decision.
After two mistrials, Butch was convicted on November 6, 1997 and sentenced to four life terms at the maximum-security prison in Pelican Bay. Chuck, on the other hand, was out on bail awaiting his day in court.
Chuck’s case was abruptly dismissed on January 4, 1999. It was the District Attorney’s last day in office. Chuck’s lawyer presented polygraph results, which seemed to exonerate his client. Rather than letting this case flounder in court indefinitely, the county prosecutor decided to throw in the towel, in part, based on the results of a controversial test that holds absolutely no evidentiary value in criminal court, anywhere. Chuck was a free man. The first thing he did upon release was order a pizza and hold a press conference.
Because the dismissal seemed premature and in error, the California State Attorney General’s office stepped in and empanelled a Special Grand Jury. Also, the state would now pay for the legal bill thus lifting a monumental financial burden off the shoulders of Mendocino County taxpayers.
On October 25, 1999, Chuck’s case was resurrected through an indictment (case #SCTM-9934592.) Since evidence against him was weak, he was no longer being charged with the murders of Billy, Patty, and Jerami. The only charge against him was for the murder of Dallas, the little girl, but there was one hitch, no murder weapon. Any evidence of the knife Chuck allegedly used to kill the child disappeared long ago, or did it?
Two years before the Grondalski Murders occurred, Chuck was involved in an incident with the Vallejo Police Department (Case #84-02632.) On Friday, February 24, 1984, at 1:15 a.m., Chuck and several Hells Angels were pulled over in a routine traffic stop. Chuck was a Prospect or an apprentice outlaw at this time.
One of the cops on the scene confiscated a Bowey knife from Chuck. The knife was about 13 inches long, it had a sharpened edge on one side, and a partially sharpened edge on the other followed by a saw-tooth edge extending up to its handle. The knife was contained inside a brown leather sheath. This was a heavy-duty survival-hunting knife designed to tear into animal flesh and bone. This knife could do a lot of damage even when dull.
On March 12, 1984, the Vallejo Police Department returned the knife to Chuck. The reason they returned it was because he walked into the police station and complained. Police administrators, more concerned over bureaucratic protocol than plain old common sense public safety, succumbed to Chuck’s demands and returned the knife. The cop who confiscated the knife warned his superiors not to give it back and added Chuck might one day “cut someone’s head off with it.” His disapproval was even recorded in his Officer’s Report (Case #84-010.)
But there was still yet another incident involving a large knife, Chuck Diaz, and the Vallejo Police Department. On November 26, 1984, at 12:53 a.m., Chuck was arrested (Case #84-15845.) He was in possession of a Bowey knife and sheath resembling the one previously confiscated. After bailing out, he managed to retain possession of this knife. In addition to the knife, Chuck was in possession of a “kite” or prison letter. The kite was dated November 1, 1984, it was from a San Quentin inmate, it was addressed to Hells Angel Odis (Buck) Garrett, and it discussed a possible prison execution. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Buck is currently serving time in the infamous quadruple homicide known as the Comptom Murders in Oregon. Margo Comptom, a friend and her two small kids were executed in their home because Margo became an informant. Aside from the letter, Chuck was in possession of a list of assault weapons and conversion kits, which transformed these firearms into fully automatic machine guns.
Here were two very clear and well-documented cases where Chuck was in possession of a knife and sheath prior to the 1986 murders. Later, informant Charles Haas confirmed Chuck “always carried a knife and sheath.”
Police departments everywhere have the discretion of returning confiscated weapons to citizens even if they’re not illegal to posses. When there’s a likelihood the confiscated weapon might be used improperly or illegally, a police department, which is in the business of protecting the public, has discretionary power to keep or destroy the weapon. In Chuck’s case, here was a guy who was a member of a notorious outlaw biker gang, which had been labeled time after time by law enforcement as organized crime almost second to the mafia. Chuck was a member of an organization with a proven history of violence, an organization where the majority of members openly carried a knife and not for the sake of using it as a letter opener, so what better reason for not giving it back? In 1984, the Vallejo Police Department, more than likely, placed a weapon back into the hands of a person now suspected of participating in one of the “worst mass murders in Mendocino County history.” To date, the cops have never substantiated or discounted this claim.
In any investigation it’s the responsibility of police to prove and disprove certain facts, include and exclude items of potential evidentiary value, and consider information that incriminates as well as exonerates. In the case of both 1984 Chuck Diaz knife incidents, Vallejo PD failed to do any of these, and do you know why, THEY WERE HOPING NO ONE WOULD REMEMBER!
On May 17, 1995, the former Vallejo cop who took the picture of Chuck’s Bowey knife back in 1984, voluntarily came forward and gave detectives and FBI everything he had on Vallejo Hells Angels including the police report and picture of Chuck’s Bowey knife. Information provided was massive and included law enforcement intelligence data on the Vallejo HAMC, which was obtained at monthly Biker Enforcement Team (BET) intelligence meetings that were conducted at the Officer’s Club on Treasure Island when it was still an active Naval base. Rather than utilizing this information as an investigative aid, possibly even to identify the murder weapon, this information ended up in a desk drawer collecting dust. What’s even more disturbing is that the existence of this information has never been disclosed during the Discovery phase for either defendant’s criminal proceedings.
The fundamental duty of a public servant is to the people he or she represents. In the case of cops, they have a duty to weigh all evidence and information that comes before them during the coarse of an investigation. When cops selectively pick and choose what fits best into their little investigative scenario, what’ll work best with their initial hypothesis without keeping an open mind to other possibilities or are obsessed with gaining a conviction even if it means turning a blind eye to certain facts, they are committing a grave injustice and have violated the sacred public trust they swore to uphold when taking the oath.
In the case of the Grondalski Murders, more specifically, the execution of 5-year old Dallas, cops turned and looked the other way when it came to exploring all possibilities surrounding the murder weapon, the knife, because they were embarrassed that the 1984 incidents would come back to haunt them and taint their case. Informant Charles Haas made it very clear to investigators that Chuck, “always carried a knife in a sheath.” The picture the ex-cop gave the authorities in 1995 is “a knife in a sheath.” This knife and sheath was in Chuck’s possession in 1984. Dallas was murdered in 1986 with a knife, possibly the same knife Charles said Chuck carried around and possibly the same knife depicted in the photo. Absent the real thing, what better substitute for the actual murder weapon than an actual picture of the murder weapon?
The lead investigator for the California State Attorney General’s Office has made it clear that all knives contained in Chuck’s possession have been thoroughly examined. Chuck is still out on bail and the search for the knife remains to be a constant item of interest for law enforcement every time they encounter him, yet the existence of two well-documented incidents prior to the 1986 massacre supported by a color photograph is of no apparent interest. It just doesn’t make sense, unless, of coarse, the cops are trying to cover something up.
The perfect example of a cover-up is a police interview conducted on August 7, 2001 (Case #99-30003-01.) The subject being interviewed was a Hells Angels associate who was familiar with this murder case. There was extensive questioning about the knife used to kill Dallas. The person being interviewed was even a knife collector, someone with a unique aptitude for knives, yet not once in the interview report are either 1984 knife incidents mentioned, and more important, not once did the authorities make an attempt to show this fellow the picture of Chuck’s Bowey knife and ask one very simple question, “Does this knife look familiar?” Oddly, this interview was never tape-recorded and one must wonder why.
Chuck is scheduled to have his day in court next year. The evidence is weak. To ignore the information just presented is an injustice and a disgrace. If cops allow themselves to weave whatever twisted tale they see fit to suit their best interests or when their competency or ego has been challenged, then none of us are safe.
Since the Hells Angels are an international organization, this story should have international interest because what happened here could happen in your town. Since Chuck Diaz hasn’t been brought to trial yet, we must remember there must be a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. Although he remains a prime suspect in the Grondalski Murders, the events concerning the 1984 knife incidents are documented fact and located within the archives of the Vallejo Police Department, unless of coarse, they’ve mysteriously disappeared.
Any commentary, please remain completely anonymous. Thank you.
Related Indymedia Stories: “The Ugly Truth: Theory About A Possible Police Cover-up” and “The Ugly Truth: A Theory Into A Possible Police Cover-up,” by janedoe187x4.
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