By S. Duda
(First appeared in The Rocket, 5/16/96)
It has been more than a year since David Loucks was found beaten and strangled to death in his north Seattle studio, Alternative Productions. Fifteen months after the murder and robbery, police have made no arrests and no suspects are in custody. In fact, talking with Loucks' father, Allan Loucks, you get the feeling the wheels of justice are barely rolling.
The case, however, is active along other fronts. An anonymous donor recently contributed $10,000 to the Crimestoppers' reward fund for information leading to an arrest. The total amount in the fund is now more than $25,000, with additional donations expected soon.
Loucks also said that a letter-writing campaign has been initiated to pressure city officials on the case. "The campaign was commenced by friends of David who are writing to the police, the mayor, the county executive, and others and asking, 'What's going on?'" Loucks, an attorney, explained. "They're getting form letters back saying the usual bullshit, the standard answers, but it is making a difference. If you write a letter, it will make a difference."
Loucks said he works on the case daily, trying everything he can think of to prod the system into action. "My son was choked, suffocated, and beaten," Loucks said. "These people were animals and they are going to kill someone else."
[If you have any information on the murder of David Loucks, call Crimestoppers, an anonymous tip line at (206) 684-5557.] (c) 1996 S. Duda
Back To Top Of Page
By Peyton Whitely, Seattle Times staff reporter
A father's persistence and a statewide investigation by police into the organized theft of digital recording equipment has led to the arrest of a Spokane man in the slaying of a North Seattle man last year.
The victim, David G. Loucks, 34, was found gagged, hogtied and dead inside his recording studio at 4033 Aurora Ave. N. on March 8, 1995.
His father, Seattle attorney Allan Loucks, conducted a widespread investigation of his own into the killing, centering on the theft of expensive recording equipment from studios in the Northwest. Information about those thefts led to first-degree murder charges against Shawn Daniel Swenson, 25, of Spokane.
The day before Loucks was killed, a man giving the name "Paul Waller" had made an appointment with Loucks for 7 p.m., according to Loucks scheduling book. The night Loucks died, expensive gear known as ADAT machines, digital audio tape machines were taken from his studio.
Police and Allan Loucks spent months trying to find out who "Paul Waller" really was. During that time, according to court documents, police learned "that a group of individuals were involved in stealing ADAT machines and other equipment similar to those taken during the Loucks homicide and robbery."
With both Seattle and King County police fraud detectives working on those theft investigations, Swenson was identified as a suspect and was charged with first-degree theft in July.
Swenson was charged in connection with the December 1994 theft of recording gear from another small recording studio. Authorities said Swenson booked time under a phony name. During the recording session, the studio owner was distracted through various ruses and the recording gear was stolen. Swenson failed to show up in court on that theft charge and a $50,000 warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arrested in Spokane on Oct. 14th.
When questioned by Seattle police the next day, Swenson denied knowing anything about the Loucks killing. But when police said they knew he'd made several phone calls from his Spokane home to the Loucks studio before the murder, Swenson admitted he was "Paul Waller", and was at the studio the night Loucks was killed.
Swenson told police he had earlier staked out the studio and then went there the night of March 7 with another man, whom he said he didn't know, with a plan to steal the recording equipment.
In a second questioning, Swenson told police he "had not been completely truthful", and acknowledged he had worked with two other individuals and provided their names to police. He said his role was "to act as a decoy to distract the victim by pretending to record a song," the charges say. Shortly after the recording session had commenced, another man attacked the victim from behind and choked him.
Swenson left, got his car and drove it to the front of the studio. Shortly thereafter, the third male exited the studio with a mixer board (another piece of recording equipment).
Swenson continued to tell police he was not present when the victim was hogtied with duct tape, and said he was not aware that Loucks had been killed until he read an article in a newspaper several days later.
However, the charges explain, Swenson had told his girlfriend several hours after the killing that "something happened that shouldn't have" and that Loucks had been tied and strangled.
Police are looking for the other two men.
Back To Top Of Page
by S. Duda
(First appeared in The Rocket Magazine, 12/4/96)
After a grueling, year and a half investigation aided by the Northwest music community and the untiring efforts of his father, there are finally suspects in custody in the robbery, beating, and murder of David Loucks in his recording studio, Alternative Productions.
In dispassionate legalese, the charges against the two suspects, Shawn Daniel Swenson and Joseph Adam Gardner, are retold with chilling, clinical detail: The morning of March 8, 1995, at approximately 7:30am. "David G. Loucks was found dead inside his recording studio," the narrative begins. "Mr. Loucks' wrists and ankles were bound and duct tape had been placed over his mouth. He was lying face down on the floor. An autopsy revealed that Mr. Loucks died from a combination of positional asphyxiation and strangulation. He also suffered multiple abrasions and contusions on his body."
For more than 18 months, those were the only grim facts family, friends, and the Northwest music community had regarding the murder and robbery of Loucks.
Now, with two suspects in jail, the story is finally beginning to unfold. Police documents describe the tale of Loucks' murder beginning a few weeks before the crime. During that time, police say, a man named "Paul Waller" (Swenson) contacted Loucks regarding a demo tape he was recording. Swenson showed up at the studio to record, but when it came time to pay, he told Loucks he had forgotten his wallet. Loucks refused to release the tape without payment, so Swenson, promising to bring cash, scheduled another session-March 7, 7pm.
Swenson, according to police, is no stranger to recording studio rip-offs. In fact, it was an outstanding warrant from a 1994 studio heist that finally led police to him. Though police say he had pulled the caper before, things had never gone so terribly wrong as they did that night in early March.
According to documents based on the interrogation of Swenson, things started going wrong when Swenson realized there was only one entrance into the studio. In earlier jobs, he had been able to distract his victims and then sneak out another exit without confrontation. But when "Paul Waller" showed up with two friends, the plan to distract Loucks with the recording while the other two men made off with the goods somehow went tragically wrong.
According to police records, "shortly after the recording session had commenced, another male attacked the victim from behind and choked him. The defendant [Swenson] stated that he could see the victim's face as he was being strangled and that the victim was completely helpless. Defendant Swenson left, got his car, and drove it to the front of the studio. Shortly thereafter, the third male exited the studio with a mixer board. The defendant persisted in his claim that he was not present when the victim was hog-tied and was not aware that he had been killed until he read an article about the murder in the paper several days later. However, hours after the murder, defendant Swenson told his girlfriend that 'something happened that shouldn't have,' and that the victim had been tied up and strangled."
It took police a few more weeks to track down Joe Gardner. They found him in the Walla Walla State Penitentiary serving time for unrelated drug and weapons felonies. Gardner's story, as told in court documents, paints a more premeditated scenario of the events that evening. "Swenson told Gardner," the indictment reads, "that he had scouted out the studio and he was going to need 'somebody strong' to help him carry out his plan.... Their plan was to 'look for an opening,' knock the victim out, and steal his equipment."
As the charges against Gardner recount in awful detail, Loucks never had a chance against the three men. A stun gun was used to subdue Loucks. After tazing him on the back and legs, the suspects hog-tied him using duct tape. It was that duct tape that sealed Loucks' mouth and nose.
Over the next several days, David Loucks' recording equipment was pawned at locations in Spokane and California. Seattle Police tracked down this equipment, which allegedly matches the serial numbers of equipment taken from Loucks' studio. Records from the Spokane shop indicate the equipment was pawned by one Joe Gardner.
Reached for comment, Loucks' father, attorney Allan D. Loucks, expressed mixed emotions at the news of the arrests. Though his vigilance prodded police over 18 months, nothing Allan Loucks can ever do will bring back his son, and at this writing, there is still one suspect at-large. "I'm not satisfied," he said. "I want them all in jail."
Asked about his feeling on news of the arrest, Allan Loucks paused before answering a terrible and impossible question. "You have mixed emotions," he said. "You're excited about the arrest, but at the same time you are very sad because it's all back in front of you again. In the back of your head, you know you're going to have to go through hell for the next six months [at the murder trials]. The loss is there forever. My life will never be the same again. The world will never be the same again. He's gone, but he impacted a lot of people, and that will never die. We'll always have David. Now we have to deal with the crime."
Shawn Swenson and Joseph Gardner remain in jail in lieu of $2,000,000 bail. Trial is expected to commence in the spring. (c) 1996 BAM Media
Back To Top Of Page
By Darrell Glover, P-I Reporter
A 24-year-old man pleaded guilty yesterday to first-degree murder in the killing of a North Seattle recording studio operator two years ago.
Joseph A. Gardner, who was scheduled to stand trial July 7 along with codefendant Shawn D. Swenson, 25, pleaded guilty in the strangulation of David G. Loucks, 34, on March 7, 1995.
King County Superior Court Judge Patricia Aitken accepted Gardner's plea.
Loucks was bound and gagged before being strangled, according to court papers.
His body was found by his father, Allan Loucks, Sr., the day after the slaying.
Gardner admitted taking part in the slaying and stealing recording equipment from Loucks' studio, Alternative Productions, at 4033 Aurora Ave. N.
Defence attorney Gary Davis told the judge that Gardner was "very remorseful" for his part in the slaying.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Marchese said that under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that Gardner serve 25 years in prison.
Gardner also has agreed to testify in Swenson's trial, scheduled for July.
The standard range for first-degree murder is nearly 22 years to more than 28 years in prison. First-degree murder also carries a mandatory minimum of 20 years, Marchese said.
Gardner's sentencing is scheduled Aug.1.
According to court papers, Gardner said Swenson, of Spokane, recruited him to steal recording equipment from Loucks' studio.
The plan was to knock Loucks out and take the equipment, court papers said.
When they arrived, Swenson distracted Loucks by pretending to record a rap song, court papers said. Gardner grabbed Loucks from behind.
Swenson then dazed Loucks with a stun gun, and the pair hogtied Loucks with tape and placed tape over his mouth and nose, court documents said.
Over the next several days, the pair pawned and sold Loucks' equipment in Spokane and California.
Detectives found a stun gun in Swenson's apartment.
Swenson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Back To Top Of Page
By Paul Shukovsky, P-I Reporter
A 25-year-old man was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder in the 1995 slaying of a North Seattle recording studio engineer.
A jury found that Shawn D. Swenson killed David G. Loucks, 34, on March 7, 1995, in the course of stealing his recording equipment. Loucks was bound, gagged, and strangled, according to court documents.
Loucks' father, Allan Loucks Sr., found his son's body hogtied and gagged a day after he was slain.
Swenson and his partner, Joseph A. Gardner, stole Loucks' audio equipment and sold it, prosecutors said.
Gardner pleaded guilty in June to first-degree murder for his role in the killing. He testified against Swenson in the trial. Prosecutors will ask for a 25-year sentence for Gardner.
The two men planned to knock out Loucks and then steal the audio equipment from his studio, Alternative Productions, 4033 Aurora Ave. N., according to court papers. Swenson distracted Loucks by pretending to record a rap song, the papers said. Gardner then sneaked up behind Loucks and put him into a choke hold.
Swenson used a stun gun to daze Loucks, and then the two men used tape to hogtie him. They also put tape over Loucks' mouth, the court papers said. He is believed to have suffocated from the combined effects of the choke hold and being placed face down in a hogtied position.
The stolen recording equipment was pawned and sold in Spokane and California. A police search of Swenson's Spokane apartment turned up a stun gun.
The jury began deliberating Monday, and returned their verdict against Swenson yesterday morning. King County Superior Court Judge Patricia Aitken set sentencing for Sept. 5. Swenson could face life in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence for first-degree murder is 20 years. The standard sentence ranges from nearly 21 years to more than 27 years behind bars.
Swenson pleaded guilty Tuesday to a theft charge in connection with the stolen audio equipment.
Back To Top Of Page
As Allan Loucks sees it, he solved a murder and made the cops so mad they gave away his dead son's belongings.
Police say otherwise. They feel they had a major hand in unraveling the March 7, 1995, slaying of David G. Loucks, who was gagged with duct tape, hog-tied, kicked, and zapped repeatedly with a stun gun during a robbery at his Aurora Avenue recording studio.
The cops insist they didn't retaliate for Allan Loucks' help in any fashion. They call Loucks simply "vindictive."
But last month an angry Loucks, who swears a homicide detective "in effect . . . stole" $10,000 in electronic recording equipment from his son's estate, won a legal judgment. A King County Superior Court arbitrator, after determining the Seattle police made false claims to an insurance agent, awarded the Loucks over $4,300 from the city and Detective Kevin O'Keefe in settlement for the equipment.
The case eerily mirrors an alleged theft of $10,000 by another homicide detective that has put the SPD in the hot seat. But Loucks' claim is unique. His son's recording equipment was recovered by the police from a Spokane couple who unwittingly bought the stolen goods at a hockshop. At the case's conclusion, instead of returning the equipment to the dead man's widow, SPD sent it back to the Spokane couple.
Loucks, an attorney, considers it theft—first by criminals, then by cops—because the equipment (digital recorders and mixers) allegedly was intentionally given away by police in retaliation for actions the father took to solve his son's murder. The give-away also violated state law, Loucks contends.
"Nonsense, a fabrication. Loucks has a vindictive attitude," says Steve Larson who defended the city and the police against Loucks' claims.
That kind of talk sets Loucks off. "I solved this murder even though [the police] lied to me and pulled all kinds of crap, and then they gave away my son's equipment to spite me." Adding to the family's woes, David Loucks' widow, Alyce, 36, died last December 3 from a heart ailment.
Attorney Larson counters that "Loucks didn't solve the case. In fact, he almost lost it." Larson says he's referring to the killers' attempt to suppress evidence by claiming amateur sleuth Loucks was illegally acting as an agent of the government. But the court rejected the killers' claim, and prosecutors hailed Loucks' investigative role when they announced indictments in 1996.
Asked to comment on Loucks' story, Police Chief Norman Stamper did not respond; Detective O'Keefe apparently had no response either, hanging up the phone immediately. Stamper last week announced his intent to impose a 12-point set of conduct rules on his department. (See James Bush's "The Case of the Tuggable Chief") He's hoping to corral a wild scandal set loose in March when veteran homicide detective Sonny Davis was first accused of taking and then returning $10,000 from an elderly man slain in a police shootout.
That case and others have put the department's reputation into question. Loucks says he already had his doubts.
"At first, I believed in the system and stayed out of it [his son's murder investigation]," says Loucks. "But then I began to encounter all these deceptions."
For example, police told him fingerprints couldn't be lifted from duct tape like that used on his son, Loucks claims, then later admitted they could do so—but had thrown the tape away. "That incensed me—not that someone made a mistake, that happens, but that they lied to me for months," Loucks says.
Dismayed by the initial police probe, Loucks launched his own investigation, leading to the arrests months later of two men, Shawn Swenson, 25, and Joseph Gardner, 24, who were convicted in 1997. Loucks says the turning point was uncovering Swenson's license plate number on a car used in a similar Redmond theft just months before his son's murder.
After Swenson and Gardner were convicted, Loucks says O'Keefe suggested that since Alyce Loucks had already received an insurance settlement, the recovered stolen equipment should be returned to a Spokane couple who had acquired $10,000 worth of David Loucks' $14,000 in stolen property (some pieces were never recovered.)
"I said, 'I'm just as charitable as the next guy, but this equipment belongs to Alyce,'" Loucks recalls. "The insurance didn't cover all the loss, and she's still got debt. O'Keefe says, 'You can afford it.' I said, 'What the hell's that got to do with it?' He said it would be tied up in appeals anyway, so maybe it was a moot issue."
But the equipment was subsequently released from the police property room back to the Spokane couple, which Loucks says violated both his trust and state law.
"During the investigation of David's death, I raised hell—asked that some detectives be fired," says Loucks. "They made it clear they weren't happy with me. This was a way of getting back." He says it also upset David's widow, Alyce, who filed the property-recovery lawsuit just a few months before her death. She claimed malicious intent by police who allegedly "secretly" and "in effect . . . stole plaintiff's property."
At the recent arbitration hearing, a representative for Northern Insurance Company said O'Keefe claimed the equipment was in California, was damaged, and that Alyce had agreed to the release. "The arbitrator," says Loucks, "found those statements to be false."
Larson still insists it's "not true" O'Keefe made those claims to the company, and while Larson concedes the insurance rep testified he was misled by O'Keefe, "he was not in fact misled," the attorney argues.
Nevertheless, King County Court Commissioner Marilyn Sellers ordered the city and O'Keefe to pay Loucks' estate $4,000 in principal judgment and $360 in court costs.
Larson finds it unfair. Loucks "has been on a tear, he's vindictive," says the attorney. "He's been waging a campaign against the department, the detective, Chief Stamper, and [King County prosecutor] Norm Maleng."
Exactly, says Loucks. "This is the kind of stuff that ought to come out in this police department investigation," he observes. And he has other motives, he adds. "This is for David and Alyce. Alyce didn't care if she got one dollar, she just wanted to prove police did this to us."
Back To Top Of Page
Biography Of David Loucks
List Of Selected Compositions By David Loucks
Letter Of Recommendation