Unsolved Murder Unravels 33 Years Later

Murder victim Brent Tobey

DNA provided by a Connecticut prison inmate may provide prosecutors with the evidence they need to make an arrest 33 years after a prominent architect, Brent Stapleton Tobey, was viciously stabbed in his Laguna Beach home, police said today.

The Orange County district attorney’s office was asked to charge Walter Dalie, 52, an inmate already serving a 50-year sentence for murder in Connecticut, with the additional 1978 homicide, a crime whose brutality shocked local residents and baffled investigators for years.

Dalie, now 52, attended Dana Hills High and was 19 at the time of the murder. In an interview in a Somers, Conn., prison, he told Laguna police investigators he knew the victim, but declined to describe the nature of the relationship, said Lt. Jason Kravetz, who was accompanied by Sgt. Robert Rahaeuser. “We don’t know why it happened,” Kravetz said.

Tobey, a 55-year-old architect who was involved with Laguna’s civic affairs, was discovered stabbed multiple times in a bedroom of a Carmelita Street by a roommate, who looked for him when he didn’t show up for dinner, Kravetz said. Though unspecified evidence was collected at the crime scene, no fingerprints were found, and the roommate, who was detained for questioning, was released without charge the following day, he said.

In a bizarre coincidence, on the night of Nov. 20, 1978, Tobey and his roommate, the late Roger Hylback, had planned to dine together to celebrate a murder conviction rendered by a jury earlier that day in the slaying of their friend Albert Willard. The year before, the pair discovered him murdered in his Temple Hills home after missing a dinner engagement, Kravetz said.

The lead in the Tobey homicide stems from the FBI’s database of DNA material, which was not being collected at the time of the 1978 murder. In 2002, though, Laguna police sent evidence from their “cold case” homicides to the county’s crime lab for analysis, with little initial result. “The case hit a dead end again,” Kravetz said.

Murder suspect Walter Dalie

But last August, police were notified of a possible match to a Connecticut prisoner convicted in the 1985 death of Mary Carrington, who was bludgeoned in the office of her family’s restaurant, Mr. Steak, in Newington, Conn. Prison officials there had recently added newly collected DNA from current inmates, Kravetz said.

Dalie was raised in south Orange County and had run-ins with law enforcement as a juvenile, Kravetz said. He lived in both Newport and Laguna Beach late in the 1970s and  moved to Connecticut in 1979 or ‘80 with his wife, who he divorced shortly thereafter, Kravetz said.

Four other unsolved Laguna Beach murders remain open cases; the oldest occurred in 1992 at Aliso Beach. One is being actively investigated.

Tobey left no survivors. Kravetz did share news of the pending charges against Dalie with a friend of the victim now in her 80s who was a beneficiary of his will. “She was surprised it hadn’t been put on a shelf,” he said.

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