Published 12:35 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

Charges came 3 days after his death; former deputy was suspect in deaths of 2 others

The death of a local man made news across the country after news outlets in Spokane, Wash., reported that he was under investigation for the cold case murders of three women in the summer of 1967.

PIerson was a deputy who left his job suddenly in 1966. He was 35 at the time he is suspected in the deaths of three women in Washington state. He also served federal time for distribution of cocaine. He died here last week.

The investigation into Duke J. Pierson, 85, has been ongoing for decades, according to a 23-page court document written by Detective Kirk Keyser.

According to a press release from the Spokane County, Wash., Sheriff’s Department, detectives were granted an arrest warrant on Fri., Jan. 25, charging Pierson with first degree murder for the 1967 death of Dorothy Fielding, then 31.

Detectives planned to arrest Pierson, the release said, despite his known failing health. But they learned on Friday that he died last Tuesday.

According to Pierson’s online obituary at Keahey Funeral Home, Pierson died at home on Tues., Jan. 22.

Fielding was reported missing in August of 1967, and her badly decomposed body was discovered, eight months later, in a shallow grave near an R-V park. The case had remained unsolved since that time, the sheriff’s office said.

The cold case investigation was reopened in April of 2018, they said, after the Major Crimes Unit received a call inquiring about the 1967 Dorothy Fielding death investigation. The caller mentioned Fielding was a member of the Falls View Tavern Bowling Team which caught Detective Kirk Keyser’s attention. Detective Keyser, having reviewed the Ruby Lampson investigation 10-years earlier, remembered the Falls View Tavern was mentioned in that case.

As Detective Keyser began reviewing the Fielding investigation, he confirmed both victims (Fielding and Lampson) had frequented the Falls View Tavern and noticed several additional similarities, the release said. Witnesses had indicated the two women not only frequented the same locations but also reported they were acquaintances as well. The detective noted the two women had disappeared within two months of each other and their badly decomposing bodies were found in shallow graves within approximately 1.8 miles of each other in a very rural area of 7-Mile. The reports also indicated Fielding had been having an affair with Duke Pierson prior to being reported missing.

Additionally, Detective Keyser learned Sandra Pierson, Duke Pierson’s wife at the time of Lampson’s and Fielding’s disappearance, was found deceased in what was reported as a suicide on September 12, 1967. 

With these similarities, Detective Keyser began reviewing all three cold cases and worked to obtain additional information. This led to Friday’s arrest warrant for Pierson charging him with the Fielding’s murder.

The Spokane newspaper, The Spokesman, reported that in April last year, Keyser flew to Alabama, where he conducted a recorded interview with the 85-year-old in Straughn. Pierson denied ever knowing Lampson or Fielding, and said he dated “thousands of women” around that time.

“If I had done anything bad like that, I’m sure that would have stayed in my memory, there’s just no way I have ever done hurt anybody,” he said, according to Keyser’s report. “I don’t hurt people.”

Former Sheriff Dennis Meeks said his department was not contacted when the detective came here to interview Pierson.

Keyser’s report said Pierson denied previous statements related to the cases.

Pierson was a Spokane County deputy from 1959 until 1966, when he quit suddenly to work as a security supervisor, according to the report.

“Duke Pierson was clearly mentally unstable,” said one former coworker, according to the search warrant. “For some time after, he and other Sheriff’s employees openly voiced concerns about Duke Pierson harming himself or others.”

Pierson was also one of 23 people charged and convicted in a multi-state, $15 million cocaine ring, according to Spokesman-Review archives.

Along with two others from Spokane, he received a two-year sentence in federal prison for helping smuggle drugs from LaPas, Bolivia, to the United States from 1973 to May, 1974. Pierson was alleged to have employed couriers and arranged meetings with them to obtain cocaine in Mexico and bring it across the border.

During his October plea deal, the former deputy told a federal judge that his “guilt is of no dispute, your honor.”

Detective Keyser continues to investigate all 3 cases and is asking for the public’s help, the sheriff’s department said. Anyone with information can call Detective Keyser at 509-477-6611.