2 Detectives Investigated Over Theft

An investigation of two veteran Seattle homicide detectives in connection with the alleged theft of $10,000 from a crime scene was triggered in recent days when a deputy prosecutor learned of the incident, sources familiar with the case said today.

Earl "Sonny" Davis Jr., 55, a 30-year veteran and longtime homicide detective, and Sgt. Donald Cameron, 63, a 38-year veteran who has been a supervisor in the homicide unit for much of his career, have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, sources said.

Both detectives are widely known in the Seattle law-enforcement community for their roles investigating some of the city's biggest murder cases over the last two decades.

Cameron's attorney, Anne Bremner, and Davis' attorney, Anthony Savage, both denied the accusations.

Davis has been accused of taking $10,000 from a crime scene 2 1/2 years ago during an investigation of a standoff in South Seattle in which police shot and killed a man, a source said.

Cameron is alleged to have become aware of the theft soon after it happened and then to have directed Davis to return the money, the source said.

The two then are alleged to have staged a scene within a day in which they pretended to find the money when it actually was being replaced, the source said.

After the money was returned to the shooting scene, it was placed into evidence, listed as having been found in a sewing-machine cabinet, a second source said.

Cameron has been accused of not reporting the incident to superiors.

Cameron could not be reached for comment this morning, and Davis declined comment other than to say, "They are making an awful big deal over something that's not missing.

"I am in the dark as to what the allegations really are. . . . Nobody has really officially informed me or Don about what the allegations are."

He only recently learned of the investigation, Davis added. "I was suspended a week ago; that's when I found out."

Sources this morning described this series of events:

Davis allegedly found the money at the crime scene and showed it to his then-partner, suggesting they split it. The partner, offended, declined the offer and reported it to Cameron who told Davis to replace the money and then pretend to find it.

After the money was replaced, Davis' partner continued to express concerns to others in the homicide unit, but made no official report, the sources said.

The story circulated within the homicide unit, the sources said, but only recently came to the attention of a prosecutor in the King County prosecutor's Most Dangerous Offender Program, which provides immediate assistance to police departments in King County at the scene of newly reported homicides.

That prosecutor, Barbara Flemming, brought the matter to the attention of superiors, who notified Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper.

Detectives expressed dismay about the case today.

"It's terrible," one said. "For most of us, (theft) is not tempting at all; there wouldn't be enough money to even think about it and this smears the whole department."

The allegations are being investigated by the Seattle police internal-affairs division, along with the King County Prosecutor's Office. No formal allegations or charges have been filed.

The case has been assigned to Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman in the fraud division. She declined comment this morning.

Stamper didn't provide details of the alleged misconduct, but said, "We consider the allegations very serious, and both the prosecutor and SPD view this as a joint investigation of the highest priority."

He added, "At this time, we have nothing to indicate that this is other than an isolated incident."

Bremner said last night that the allegations against Cameron were based on an unsubstantiated rumor and that an inquiry will clear Cameron's name.

Bremner said she has known Cameron for 15 years in her role as a former prosecutor and an attorney.

"He is integrity personified," she said, adding that judges who are ex-prosecutors, prosecutors and former prosecutors would "attest to his good character and truthfulness."

Savage called the allegations bizarre this morning, saying he questioned why they were being raised now.

"To suggest veterans of this service went berserk one evening 2 1/2 years ago, I think it's absurd," Savage said.

Savage said he has known both men personally and professionally for more than 35 years, including as opponents in the courtroom, and found both to be of the highest character.

Davis was set to retire on Friday, and Cameron was also about to retire, Savage said.

"I think it's highly suspicious that these allegations, after 2 1/2 years, are being brought on the eve of their retirement," Savage said.

Savage questioned whether the county prosecutor's office should be handling the case because Davis and Cameron have been witnesses for the office on countless occasions.

"Maybe we need a little independent judgment here," he said.

Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said there was no conflict of interest, which would exist only if a case benefits or adversely affects a prosecutor.

The allegations against Davis and Cameron stem from a standoff Sept. 30, 1996, that followed the shooting of a Seattle Housing Authority staff member after he went to an SHA unit at the Gideon-Mathews Garden apartment complex in South Seattle.

Police surrounded the unit and ultimately shot the gunman, Bodegard Mitchell, 84. An officer was wounded during the incident.

Cameron is considered a legend in the department, having investigated more than 1,000 murders and deaths. His bulky, balding features made him instantly recognizable at numerous crime scenes.

Among the murder cases Cameron handled were the Wah Mee massacre, where 13 people were killed in 1983, and the Christmas Eve 1985 slayings of four members of the Goldmark family in the Madrona area.

Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Jake Batsell and The Associated Press was included in this report.

Steve Miletich's phone message number is 206-464-3302.His e-mail address is: smiletich@seattletimes.com

Arthur Santana's phone message number is 206-515-5684. His e-mail address: asantana@seattletimes.com