My son, Ricky Dyer, 21, was found in his car
There is nothing about Ricky’s death that indicates suicide.
Ricky was on top of the world and had just bought a 1977 Cadillac. On the day of his death, he cashed his paycheck from Raley’s Grocery Store, paid his rent in advance, and purchased a 12-pack of beer, leaving him with about $150 in cash. His manager and coworkers who worked with him that day say he was his normal, upbeat self. When he got off work at , he hung out in the parking lot for a while, sharing a beer with a coworker, John Miller. John says Ricky seemed in no way depressed, and the two discussed seeing each other the next day. Ricky drank only one beer, telling John that his roommate, Donn Shaw, was waiting for him at the house and he was taking the remainder of the 12-pack home to him.
Ricky was trying to get along with Shaw until he could line up an apartment of his own. He had moved in with Shaw only ten days earlier and almost immediately told us he’d made a big mistake. He confided to friends that Shaw and his buddies were into weird role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and members of that group were heavy into drugs. He told his dad and me that strange people kept coming to the house and he wanted me to go with him to open a bank account because he was afraid to keep cash on him around those people. Ricky asked us if we would help him get an apartment with his best friend from high school. We told him that we would and agreed to start helping him look for a place. That was on Wednesday. On Friday, two days later, he was dead.
At , on July 17, the Sheriff’s Department informed us that, earlier that day, a pair of hikers had found Ricky dead in his car. His shotgun was on the right side of his right leg and contained two unfired shells and a spent shell casing, and an empty beer bottle was positioned between his thighs.
We told Deputy Petty that we wanted him to question Donn Shaw. Petty went to the store where Shaw worked to get a statement but waited two days before going to his house. Shaw’s story was that he had been partying that night at the home of his buddy, Matt Buchan. He said he phoned home at , , and , trying to get Ricky to come join them. (We find it odd that he would remember those times so exactly.) Investigators spoke to Buchan briefly by phone, but there’s nothing on record to indicate that he confirmed Shaw’s story. According to their mutual friend, John Miller, Buchan didn’t give Shaw an alibi.
Donn Shaw contended that he didn’t see Ricky at all that evening. Yet he had all sorts of information that he would have no way of knowing unless he was with Ricky. He described how Ricky came home from work, shaved, changed into a black shirt with stripes and a new pair of Wrangler jeans, and removed his gun from its case and threw the case on the floor – something Ricky never would have done, because he was obsessed with preventing that gun from getting scratched and always kept it in its case until he got to the firing range. Shaw even knew that the passenger side door of Ricky’s car was locked and what kind of music was playing on Ricky’s car radio. (That was information that even the cops didn’t know since, by the time the car was found, the battery had run down and the radio wasn’t working.)
The Sheriff’s Department didn’t investigate anything. We requested that they fingerprint the gun, the beer bottle, and the inside of Ricky’s car, but they wouldn’t do that, and they didn’t perform a gun powder residue test on Ricky’s hands. We requested a full autopsy, but, instead, they provided what our lawyer tells us is only a medical report that revealed no drugs in Ricky’s system and a blood alcohol level of .127, which seems to indicate that he did have a few drinks with somebody after leaving John Miller. The report doesn’t even mention the cigarette burns on Ricky’s arms, which John says were inflicted by Shaw during one of his “mosh” parties. John told our investigator that Ricky received a good deal of abuse at Shaw's parties, at which the guys would dance around and slam into each other and knock each other down.
Three days after Ricky’s death, a neighbor called us with important information. She said her teenage daughter, Nicole, was friends with a girl named Amber, and that Amber had told Nicole that she and another friend, Elisa, were up in the hills on the night Ricky was killed. Neither of those girls knew Ricky, but Amber described how they saw two vehicles up at the place where Ricky died – (describing one as “a long car with white trim,” which sounds like Ricky’s car, and the other as “silver color,” which fits the description of Donn Shaw’s car). Amber described how two guys were standing, arguing, outside the door of the car that looked like Ricky’s. When I talked to Amber, she confirmed what she’d told Nicole. Amber’s description of one of those guys matched Donn Shaw’s friend, Dave, a disturbed young man, who told our investigator that he "hears voices'" and that he believes the management at Raley’s was "involved with devil worship and using their employees for human sacrifice." Since Ricky's death, Dave has been in and out of mental institutions.
Our family can’t say for sure why Ricky was murdered. All we can do is speculate. He might have been killed on a dare or during a “mosh” that got out of hand or as part of some crazy game -- (you’d have to be crazy to burn a friend’s arms with cigarettes). When we went to Shaw’s house to pack up Ricky’s possessions, we found a handwritten poem by Donn Shaw on Ricky’s bureau top. In his poem, Shaw refers to “the world I created in the name of God … in my world we swing swords. … The world of Dungeons and Dragons… swim in it and feel good, for this is my fucking World, something created from nothing.” That makes us wonder if a member of that group of “sword-swingers” might have got drunk or stoned and killed Ricky in a fit of rage over some imagined insult. Or if Ricky might have known something incriminating about those people and they were afraid he would tell about it after he moved out of Shaw’s house.
The one thing we are absolutely sure of is that Ricky didn’t kill himself. According to Charles Parker, a private investigator with a California-based detective agency, "The death scene almost looks staged.”
We believe that Ricky was either killed or badly injured somewhere else, and that somebody cleaned out his pockets – (the pocketknife he always carried wasn’t on him, and neither was the $150 that remained from his paycheck or the change from his purchase of the beer). His killers, (there must have been at least two if the girls saw two cars), then drove him 45 minutes up into the hills and, for some bizarre reason, stripped him and dressed him in different clothing before they propped him up behind the wheel and used his own shotgun to blast away all evidence. The tie and apron that Ricky had worn at work that day were under his body where they wouldn’t have been if he’d changed his clothes at home. (Donn Shaw told investigators he’d found the apron on Ricky’s bed, but Ricky owned only one apron, and it was in the car.) And the shoes that Ricky was wearing did not belong to him. Nobody will tell us what happened to those shoes. It seems like the Sheriff’s Department got rid of evidence as quickly as they could.
Ricky was also found with a can of Skoal tobacco in his pants pocket. (Ricky hated Skoal, which was Donn Shaw’s favorite smoke.) And the empty beer bottle that stood upright between his thighs appeared to have been planted there. If he’d finished a beer, he’d have tossed the bottle out the open window. And, even if that bottle had been gripped between his legs, it wouldn’t have remained upright when he blew his head off. That bottle was pristine without a trace of blood-spatter! When the Sheriff’s department refused to dust it for prints, we had a private investigator do that, and Ricky’s prints weren’t on it. An empty shotgun shell was found on the ground outside the closed driver's door of Ricky’s car. What was it doing there? Ricky wouldn’t have fired a round outside the driver’s door and then climbed into the car to kill himself. And when deputies opened the driver’s door, Ricky’s blood was found on the middle of the doorjamb where you shut the door. That would only be possible if the door was standing open when he was shot. The shotgun barrel was full of blood, which seems to indicate that Ricky fell forward toward the steering wheel and the killer used the barrel of the gun to push him back into place. There are so many questions that beg for answers!
But, most important, is what we know about our son. Even if Ricky was depressed, (which everyone who knew him says he was not), he would never have committed suicide. Just a few months before this happened, a kid up in Susanville killed himself over some girl. I don’t know if Ricky felt a flash of premonition or what, but he said to me, “Mom, I want you to remember this and never forget it – I would never do that to you and Dad. That is the worst thing you could do to the people who love you.” He made that same statement to the friend he was planning to move in with.
In May, 1995, after two years of pressure from our family, the district attorney asked the Nevada Division of Investigation to reopen the case. In July, 1995, without attempting to explain the inconsistencies, they, too, concluded that Ricky’s death was a suicide because “no solid evidence of murder was found.” Authorities say it’s impossible to investigate further because the physical evidence is now tainted or has mysteriously vanished.
But I can’t give up, because Ricky’s killers are still out there, and other young people are at risk, the same way Ricky was. This case needs a real investigation by law enforcement authorities, who are after the truth and not just a quick case closure. If properly interrogated, Donn Shaw, his friend David DeRicco and the other guys they hung out with, and/or the girls who witnessed the scene in the mountains, might well provide information that would solve this case.
Josie Dyer (Ricky’s mother)
Ricky Lenn Dyer Sr. (Ricky’s father)