A late-night argument in the middle of a street left Lodi resident Dwayne Henderson dead Saturday and two acquaintances jailed on suspicion of murder.
Judith "Judy" Fromm, 43, and her boyfriend of 19 years, 52-year-old Craig Wonderlich, are expected to appear in court today. Both are being held without bail in the city jail.
The jail and legal system are familiar to all three, though many of their arrests and charges were misdemeanors resulting in little or no jail time. They didn't have violent records and, until this weekend, they hadn't been involved with weapons. At one point or another they've all stayed at the Salvation Army.
Court records show that they associated with people who were also frequently down on their luck. Henderson, a 38-year-old transient, was arrested in 2002 along with a man named Timothie Layton - who was also a transient. Six months after that arrest, Layton was sleeping in a car when he and another transient were shot to death in the Wal-Mart parking lot, a crime that has never been solved.
Henderson's death marks the first homicide in city limits in nearly a year-and-a-half; Lodi has an average of roughly one homicide a year.
Lodi police say the victim and suspects got into an altercation around 10:45 p.m. Saturday on Sacramento Street near De Force Avenue, just north of Lockeford Street.
Sgt. Steve Nelson was on patrol when an anonymous citizen told him about the fight, and he arrived seconds later, police said. He saw Henderson fall to the ground as the other two people began walking away, Cpl. Dale Eubanks said in a press release.
Nelson ordered Fromm and Wonderlich to stop and sit on a nearby curb, and they complied, said Detective Mike Manetti. Nelson found Henderson bleeding from a stab wound to the chest, and the officer put pressure on the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding until medics could arrive.
More officers were already on the way, and they helped detain the suspects. An ambulance took Henderson to Lodi Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Those who knew Henderson were shocked.
"He was a good guy. He had a good heart," said Carol Shockley, who dated Henderson from 1986 to 1992. "When I met him he was everything to me. I had just come out of a very abusive marriage and he was there for me. He helped take care of my kids, he made sure they were clothed and were fed."
She and others acknowledged that he wasn't perfect - court records show Henderson had 25 criminal cases in San Joaquin County dating back to 1991. Most were for misdemeanor offenses such as disturbing the peace by using obscene language, drug possession and attempting to possess stolen property.
In an interesting twist, Henderson and Fromm were both scheduled to appear in court Friday on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing. They, along with a third man, didn't show up, so a judge issued $5,000 warrants for each. Those warrants went into police and court computer systems on Monday morning, shortly before an autopsy was to get underway.
Final autopsy results typically take several weeks while investigators await toxicology test results, but police said they recovered a weapon at the crime scene.
Henderson was stabbed with a kitchen knife, and the wound was bad enough that he was unable to talk to police at the scene, Manetti said. Officers blocked off the road to check for more evidence, and also looked the next morning when the sun rose and lit the dark area.
Why the three were in the area, and why they got into a fight are questions police have not publicly answered. The stabbing happened down the street from the Salvation Army, but people must get there by 9 p.m. if they want to stay the night.
Salvation Army officials said privacy rules prevent them from commenting on the three, since all had stayed at the shelter overnight at some point.
Little was immediately known about the suspects, who both told police that they had attended Lodi High School.
In June, Wonderlich pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery against Fromm, receiving a 30-day jail sentence, fine and orders not to harass, threaten or strike Fromm. That same day he also pleaded guilty to stealing from a grocery store.
Both Wonderlich and Fromm have been arrested for public intoxication, a case where police typically keep someone in the jail's drunk tank until they sober up. Charges are rarely pressed in such arrests.
Many of Henderson's cases date back to the 1990s.
Most recently, he pleaded guilty to commercial burglary in January 2008. He was sentenced to a year in jail, but was accepted into a live-in treatment program in Stockton.
"He had problems with drugs but he tried to get out of that so many times. His addiction was so bad that it kept calling him back and calling him back," Shockley said.
Though they split up in 1992, she was grieving Monday and trying to help the family figure out burial arrangements. "Off and on we'd cross each other's paths. I still cared about what happened to him, kept in touch with his family," she said, adding that he has a toddler daughter with a Lodi woman.
A service is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Lawrence Park, Shockley said, and a family ceremony will be held Friday.