Due to the deaths of two witnesses and the inability of a third to travel, prosecutors on Tuesday were forced to drop charges against a felon accused in the 1978 robbery-stabbing of Laguna Beach resident Brent Stapleton Tobey.
Prosecutors say they expect to re-file murder charges against Walter Lawrence Dalie within a few months after additional forensic evidence undergoes analysis, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said Wednesday.
The analysis cannot be done by the Orange County Crime Lab and needs to performed by a private lab, said Murphy.
In the meantime, Dalie, who refused to delay his trial, will return to Connecticut where he is serving a sentence for the 1985 murder of a girlfriend before charges in the Laguna Beach case were filed, Murphy said.
“I’ve never had so many things go south,” said Murphy, who said the loss of key witnesses will require reworking of the case.
The murder charge included a special circumstance allegation of committing the killing during a robbery and a sentence-enhancing allegation of use of a deadly weapon.
Hair found in the bedding of Tobey’s room linked Dalie to the murder, but another hair collected from the victim’s hand has yet to undergo DNA analysis, Murphy said. “We need to figure out whose hair it is,” he said.
Tobey died as a result of 18 stab wounds, a crime whose brutality shocked local residents and baffled investigators for years.
The 55-year-old architect, who was involved with Laguna’s civic affairs, was discovered in a bedroom of a Carmelita Street home by a roommate, who looked for him when he didn’t show up for dinner, Laguna Beach police said in 2011.
No fingerprints were found at the scene and the roommate, who was detained for questioning, was released without charge, police said.
Dalie then attended Dana Hills High and was 19 at the time of the murder.
Laguna Beach police revived the investigation in 2002 when evidence was sent to the Orange County Crime Lab for a DNA match. There were no matches until mid-2010, when Connecticut officials loaded some samples from inmates in its database, including Dalie’s, police said.