The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office has arrested Dugan Lawton, 24, on suspicion of murder in connection to last week’s fatal shootings on Dutterow Road.
Lawton was booked into the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of aggravated first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
“We do believe that Mr. Lawton was the shooter, and that he is a suspect in this homicide,” said Sheriff John Snaza at a Wednesday morning press conference.
“I am relieved that this office has brought a peaceful close to a case that has impacted and shocked the citizens of this county and has undermined the well-being of our community,” he added.
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Lawton appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon, and Judge James Dixon set bail at $5 million. Aggravated first-degree murder is a capital offense, meaning Lawton could face the death penalty if convicted.
Two men and one woman were shot to death early June 22 in a travel trailer on Dutterow Road: 31-year-old Terron R. McGrath of Olympia, 28-year-old Jackson L. Edens of Olympia and 36-year-old Gerald M. Berkey of Elma. A third man also was shot, but is recovering.
Deputies found a half-pound of methamphetamine and a baseball-sized lump of black tar heroin in the trailer, along with several thousand dollars in cash, a handgun and five rifles, Chief Deputy Dave Pearsall said.
McGrath and Edens lived in the trailer, he said.
Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson said there are two factors in the case that make it an aggravated offense: Lawton is believed to have killed the victims during a residential burglary, and he allegedly planned the incident in advance.
“I think it goes without saying that these are the most severe crimes that a person could allegedly commit in the state of Washington,” Jackson said.
Terron McGrath’s sister, Steely McGrath, said she’s unsure whether she would want Lawton put to death if he’s convicted. She said that on one hand, she doesn’t think he deserves to live. On the other, she thinks death would be the easy way out for him.
But younger sister Lynsy McGrath said she thinks Lawton deserves the death penalty. “I don’t believe he deserves to breathe and live,” she said.
Terron McGrath, who is survived by two daughters, was scheduled to start Thurston County Drug Court in July, and hoped to turn her life around, Steely McGrath said. She said she came to court Wednesday so Lawton would see her.
“I wanted to look him in the face and for him to see the hurt he caused our family,” Steely McGrath said.
Cody Berkey, Jerry Berkey’s younger brother, also was in court. He said Jerry Berkey is survived by four children, three boys and a girl.
According to court documents, much of the evidence against Lawton came from Enrique “Ricky” Lamere, 23, who sheriff’s deputies sought as a material witness in the case. Lamere was booked into jail Wednesday morning on suspicion of heroin possession and delivery. The Sheriff’s Office had sent out a notice Monday asking for information about Lamere’s whereabouts and located him Tuesday at a home on Shelby Lane Southeast in Thurston County.
About the same time, a silver Honda Accord left the home. A detective pulled the car over after noticing that it had no license plates, according to court documents. The driver identified himself as Lawton, and he was arrested on an outstanding state Department of Corrections warrant. He was taken to the Nisqually Jail.
When detectives interviewed Lamere, he told them that he had been present at the time of the shooting, and gave an account similar to that of the surviving shooting victim. He said Lawton was the only shooter, and that he had come to the trailer with the intent of robbing Jackson, according to court documents.
Snaza said Wednesday that the Sheriff’s Office is searching for another potential witness in the case: someone who may have driven another witness away from the intersection of Dutterow Road and Steilacoom Road about 5:30 a.m. June 22. That witness could potentially corroborate another witness’s story, Snaza said.
“We want to make sure that we close all our loops in corroborating what this witness is stating,” Snaza said.
This witness, or anyone who knows who this witness is, is asked to contact the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office through dispatch at 360-704-2740.
According to Washington State Patrol records, Lawton has four felony convictions. In 2015, he was convicted of second-degree trafficking stolen property, second-degree identity theft and second-degree perjury.
He was convicted in 2011 of unlawful possession of a firearm. Pierce County Superior Court records state Lawton placed a gun in his then-girlfriend’s car on the campus of Wilson High School in Tacoma.
His criminal record also includes a 2011 gross misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving, and a 2016 misdemeanor conviction for driving with license suspended or revoked, according to Washington State Patrol records.