HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — Fifteen years ago, Hood River was rocked by the murder of 41-year-old Eric Tamiyasu. The case remains a mystery partly because of strange events that happened both before he died and during the investigation.
Tamiyasu was murdered in the isolated home he recently built next to his orchard on Binn’s Hill Road.
His friend Don Dixon found the body.
“As I got to his room the stench was incredible,” Dixon said. “As I was standing there I looked to my left and I see him laying in bed and I yell ‘Eric.'”
At the time, the gunshot wounds to Eric’s head weren’t evident, though Dixon was sure his friend was dead.
“It was like he was in bed sleeping and he was shot,” Dixon said. “There was no struggle.”
Detective Gerry Tiffany was one of several sheriff’s deputies to initially show up.
“Somebody came in here for the sole purpose of killing Eric,” Tiffany said. “They didn’t steal anything. They didn’t take anything.”
“Somebody came in here for the sole purpose of killing Eric.”
Tamiyasu’s family hired private investigator Daron Coates when the Hood River Sheriff’s Department wasn’t finding answers.
“I don’t know if they would say that it was botched,” Coates said. “I think that they have questions about the way that some of this was handled.”
Those questions helped the case draw national attention a year after the murder.
The case was featured on “Unsolved Mysteries.” The show dissected the investigation, pondering possible suspects, including Dixon.
Then-Sheriff Joseph Wampler was also investigated. According to Dixon, Wampler’s wife might’ve had a close personal relationship with the victim.
After the sheriff’s department finished collecting evidence, Wampler asked Dixon to burn the soiled bedding and mattress Tamiyasu’s body was found on, to spare his family grief and discomfort.
“You would still want to hold that evidence until the case is resolved,” Coates said. “So, should the mattress have been burned? I don’t think so.”
Tiffany said he doesn’t believe anything was lost, that everything was collected before it was burned.
Dixon thought differently just before lighting the fire.
“The sheet falls open, there’s nothing cut out of it. They’re all intact,” Dixon said. “There were no samples taken.”
Wampler said in a phone interview that isn’t true.
About a week before his death, Tamiyasu was with a woman named Diana at his house when he heard knocking on the door twice, but no one was there.
Wampler said they investigated Diana’s ex, who according to Wampler, is capable of the stalking-like behavior of that night. He is still high on the list of suspects.
“There’s been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories, a lot of interesting ideas,” Detective Tiffany said. “Some of them are maybe kind of silly but there’s at least one of them, they’re on the right track.”
Dixon also said there are at least 2 people he would have arrested if he could have: “This father of her child and the other is our ex-sheriff.”
Coates said there are a few new leads that have come to him in recent months. The investigation continues.