TWIN FALLS • The murder last March of Glenn Russell Cawley is one of three recent, open, uncharged homicide investigations in Twin Falls County.
The Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office is handling the Cawley murder investigation, while the Twin Falls Police Department is investigating the unrelated homicides earlier this of Joseph Lee Mohlman, 38, and Vason Lee Widaman, 15.
While the drive-by killing of Widaman appears to still be wide open, police and prosecutors gave hints last week into how Mohlman died. Here’s an update on both of those investigations.
The 38-year-old was killed about 1 a.m. Feb. 2 inside the home at 351 Seventh Ave. N. In the days after his death, prosecutors said Mohlman died of a single knife wound to the chest, but they were still trying to determine exactly what happened.
The investigation is still open, so police and prosecutors won’t say what determinations they’ve made, but piecing together their few comments and information from court documents gives a clearer picture of where things stand.
The first clues emerged Feb. 3, the day after Mohlman was stabbed, when two people who lived at the home were arraigned on unrelated drug charges. Charles Edward Gray, 41, and Denise Suzanne Servin, 35, were arrested the morning of Mohlman’s death.
While they were both charged on felony counts stemming from a police sting last year — charges unrelated in court to Mohlman’s death — a defense attorney mentioned during a preliminary hearing that both Gray and Servin were in the house the morning of the homicide investigation.
Described as boyfriend and girlfriend in court documents, Gray and Servin were charged with selling meth to a confidential informant Aug. 27 and again Sep. 9, court documents said. Both times Gray arrived at the meeting place in a green Ford Expedition registered to Servin, who was a passenger on both occasions.
On the day Mohlman died, the green Expedition was one of three vehicles in the driveway.
Gray pleaded guilty last month to one count of delivery of methamphetamine and agreed to a sentence of three to seven years in prison. A part of the plea agreement said: “The state agrees not to file possession of controlled substance charges for substances recovered from defendant’s residence on Feb. 2, 2016.”
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs confirmed last week that Gray was at the home where Mohlman died, and in explaining why his office agreed not file charges for the drugs found at the home that morning, he gave another hint into the case.
“We found drugs in the house that night because we were investigating a homicide,” Loebs said. “(Gray) said ‘Yeah, come on in, there’s a homicide.’ So we decided it was appropriate to charge him only with the drugs in the case we already had with the court.”
Loebs said the drug case Gray pleaded guilty to was unrelated to the homicide investigation, but that “we wouldn’t have been in the house that night if there wouldn’t have been a homicide and if he hadn’t been willing to let us in.”
What’s known then is that Gray, Servin and Mohlman were in the home the morning of Feb. 2 when Mohlman was stabbed in the chest, yet neither Gray nor Servin is facing charges in Mohlman’s death.
Police Chief Craig Kingsbury wouldn’t confirm the names of those present that night, but did say during an interview Thursday he has “absolutely no reason to believe that any member of the public has any reason to be in danger as a result of that particular case.”
After conferring with Loebs, Kinsgbury gave this official statement over the phone last Friday: “This situation, we are confident we have interviewed the other people present when Mr. Mohlman died, and we don’t believe other people were involved. However, we’ll continue to investigate this situation.”
Speaking in general terms and not specifically about Mohlman’s death, Loebs said there are several incidents in which someone could kill another person and not be legally or criminally responsible.
“There are a list of types of homicides that are not illegal in the code,” Loebs said. “You could not be responsible for the crime because you’re not mentally capable; you could be defending yourself; you could be defending someone else; you could be a policeman who has good cause to use deadly force.”
Police won’t say whether Gray or Servin was protecting themselves or the other person, but the case hasn’t been closed as a lawful self-defense killing.
Just like proving a murder was intentional, Loebs said, he would have to prove a self-defense killing was lawful.
“I would have to prove that it is self-defense if I want to close a case,” Loebs said. “And I would have to prove it’s not self-defense if I want to charge you.”
The investigation surrounding the May 7 drive-by shooting death of Widaman remains shrouded in secrecy. Since asking for the public’s help May 9 to identify a black sedan possibly involved in the killing, police have given few other clues as to where the investigation is.
“What I will say about that investigation is that it still remains the top priority of the Twin Falls Police Department,” Kingsbury said. “We are continuing to put our investigative resources into the case. We’re still every day talking to people, interviewing people, and still working the case. It’s a very active investigation.”
More than a month after the killing, the police chief described the way in which the investigation has evolved.
“Any major crime investigation, this one and any others, they always start off in sprint mode,” Kingsbury said. “You go at them fast and furious, to try to glean as much evidence as you can in those first day or two or three.”
The chief referenced a police adage that the first 48 hours of an investigation are the most critical, and said that’s “very true in these kinds of cases.”
“But then, there comes a point in time when you have to change gears from a sprint to a marathon,” Kingsbury said. “And I think it’s safe to say we’re in marathon mode on this investigation.”
Early in the investigation, Kingsbury said the shooting “appeared to have been a disagreement between the victim and the assailants.” A police statement released the day after Widaman’s death also said several leads “indicate that the shooting was an isolated incident and there is no threat to the public.”
But with one person in the argument dead and the other person or people still not found, how could police know it was a disagreement and there was no threat to the public?
“There are a lot of pieces of these investigations that we just can’t comment on,” Kingsbury said. “It would get in to evidence that may or may not have been uncovered, and it’s not fair or proper for me to comment on any evidence garnered in this investigation.”
Kingsbury reiterated though that police still believe the shooting was the result of “a disagreement between the victim and whoever the killer or killers were.”
“I don’t believe that there is an immediate threat to members of our public from these people,” Kingsbury explained. “But I also would be irresponsible to say that it doesn’t concern me that we have a murderer out there — that we don’t know who he is, or she. We don’t know. So we are working very hard to bring closure both for the Widaman family as well as this community and to bring whoever is responsible to justice.”
The police chief defended his department’s resources and ability to solve the Widaman case, while Loebs also praised the “competent job” of the detectives.
“I get the public’s trepidation. They want answers, they deserve answers,” Kingsbury said. “Sometimes these types of investigations just take a while, because we have to do it right. We can’t rush to judgment. We want to make sure that we look at every piece of evidence, that we turn over every rock, if you will, and then turn over every rock under a rock. You can’t go fast on these.”
“I don’t believe that there is an immediate threat to members of our public from these people. But I also would be irresponsible to say that it doesn’t concern me that we have a murderer out there.” Police Chief Craig Kingsburry