Detective makes break in 1967 cold case, suspect dies before he could be arrested

A Spokane County Major Crimes Cold Case investigation stalled when the murder suspect, a former detective sergeant for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, died of natural causes three days before an arrest could be made.

Deputies received an arrest warrant for 85-year-old Duke J. Pierson, on January 25, 2019, for 1st degree murder in the death of then, 31-year-old Dorothy Fielding, who was reported missing in August of 1967. Monday, deputies learned Pierson died on January 22, 2019, of natural causes. They were about to arrest him at his home in Covington County, Alabama.

Detectives were also working to connect Pierson to the deaths of his wife, 33-year-old Sandra Pierson, who reportedly committed suicide on September 12, 1967 and 47-year-old Ruby Lampson, who was reported missing on June 6, 1967.

Lampson’s body was found in a shallow grave in 1971 near the 7-Mile ORV Park, not far from the location where Fielding’s remains were discovered in 1968. Reports showed that Fielding had been having an affair with Duke Pierson prior to being reported missing. It also showed that Lampson and Fielding knew each other and regular visited the Falls View Tavern. A place also frequented by Duke Pierson.

This cold case investigation was reopened in April of 2018 after the Major Crimes Unit received a call inquiring about the 1967 Dorothy Fielding death investigation. Detective Keyser looked at all three deaths and seeing similarities in the cases worked to obtain more information which ultimately lead to the arrest warrant for Duke Pierson.

Detective Keyser continues to investigate all 3 cases and is asking for the public’s help. Please look at these photos of Duke Pierson, Dorothy Fielding, Ruby Lampson, and Sandra Pierson.
Despite Pierson’s death, Detective Keyser would like to talk to anyone who dated Duke Pierson (by his admission he dated several females) or knew/associated with Duke, Sandra, Fielding or Lampson around 1965 to the 1975-time frame.
If you have or know of anyone who may have any information regarding Duke Pierson, Dorothy Fielding, Ruby Lampson, or Sandra Pierson, you are urged to call Detective Keyser at 509-477-6611.

Here is the background from the Sheriff’s Office.

Ruby Lampson: Lampson was 47-years-old when she was reported missing on June 6, 1967. She lived in an apartment above the Falls View Tavern and was known to frequent the establishment regularly. She was last seen on the night of her disappearance in the Hi-Neighbor Tavern, approximately 12 blocks away from the Falls View Tavern, with a much younger, unidentified male. Lampson’s badly decomposing body, mostly skeletal remains, was found in a shallow grave near the 7-Mile ORV park. Lampson’s recovery site was in very close proximity to the location where the badly decomposing body of Dorothy Fielding was discovered in a shallow grave along with women’s clothing. No cause of Lampson’s death was determined during the autopsy.

Dorothy Fielding: Fielding was 31-years-old when she was reported missing on August 19, 1967. She was married, worked at Rosauers (N. Spokane) and reportedly was having an affair with her coworker, Duke Pierson, who was the security manager of Rosauers. Fielding received handwritten notes and flowers (Marigolds, Zinnias, Red and Pink Roses wrapped in tinfoil) in her car for days prior to her disappearance. She told friends the notes and flowers scared her. Duke Pierson’s wife, Sandra, grew Marigolds and Zinnias in their yard and Duke Pierson’s mother-in-law grew red and pink roses which she commonly brought bouquets of to the home of Duke and Sandra Pierson. Fielding’s vehicle was recovered at a local grocery store within days of her disappearance. Cigarette butts were found in the ashtray of the vehicle even though friends/family reported Fielding did not smoke, but Duke Pierson did. Fielding was known to meet dates at predetermined locations where the male would park his vehicle and join Fielding, using her car for travel. Fielding’s badly decomposing body, mostly skeletal remains, was discovered in a shallow grave along with her uniform and nametag near 7-Mile ORV Park.

The Fielding and Lampson recovery sites were similar in that they were in close proximity of each other, both were covered with a small amount of dirt, and both were next to small dirt trails in a wooded area in the rural 7-Mile area.

Duke Pierson: Pierson was employed by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office from 1959 until September 1966. Records indicate he “resigned” from the agency where he was a Detective Sergeant. He worked as the Security Manager for Rosauers where Fielding was also employed.

Duke Pierson, 35-years-old, was married to Sandra Pierson at the time of the disappearance of Fielding and Lampson. They were experiencing marital difficulties and had separated for a time prior to Fielding’s disappearance. Duke Pierson moved from the family home to an apartment very close to the Falls View Tavern. Duke and Sandra Pierson reconciled after traveling to Hawaii. After returning from Hawaii, Duke told a family member he had gotten his girlfriend from Rosauers pregnant and was in a “bind” since he was trying to repair his marriage to Sandra. According to the family member, Duke said he went to the doctor after learning of his girlfriend’s pregnancy and discovered he was likely capable of having children despite having a vasectomy.

A coworker at Rosauers said Duke was spending a lot more time at Rosauers with Fielding 2 weeks prior to her disappearance. He stated Fielding had gained weight in her face/legs and came to work nauseated in the mornings just prior to her disappearance. The same co-worker also knew Sandra Pierson and attended classes at SCC with her. He explained he helped Sandra one time by hiding her vehicle at his house due to threats she had received from Duke.

Duke Pierson was interviewed by Spokane County Detectives and admitted to dating Fielding from February of 1967 until the time of her disappearance. During that time, he said he and Fielding regularly went to bars and parked in their cars to socialize/kiss. He denied Fielding had told him she was pregnant and explained he had a vasectomy in 1957 making him incapable of having children. Duke told Detectives that on August 15, 1967, 4-days prior to Fielding’s disappearance, she told him about the notes she had received in her car from an admirer and was proud of them.

Sandra Pierson: Sandra was 33-years old when she was found deceased in a vehicle parked inside the family garage. According to reports, she was found in the rear seat of the vehicle with a hose leading from the exhaust to a rear window. Tinfoil was stuffed inside the exhaust pipe and around the hose. Sandra’s grandmother saw Sandra 45 minutes prior to the discovery of her deceased body. She told her grandmother she was getting ready for work an hour later than normal and showed no signs of distress. Detectives found the main rolling door of the garage closed. They noted the garage contained a lot of exhaust but found the engine of the vehicle was not running although the ignition was on and the gas tank was approximately ½ full. Detectives were unable to determine a reason why the engine was not running. Sandra was found to be 5’02’, 115 pounds and approximately 20-weeks pregnant at the time of her autopsy.

** Due to Sandra’s small stature, several people including Sandra’s now adult children believe Sandra wasn’t physically capable of opening and closing the heavy, possibly malfunctioning, garage door on her own. Both children suspect Duke was involved in their mother’s death. **

Sandra Pierson died of a reported suicide in September of 1967, one month after Fielding’s disappearance and 3-months after Lampson’s disappearance.

Within a couple of months after Sandra’s death, Duke married a woman he had dated off and on since 1964, according to her. During a recent interview, she told Detective Keyser the following: Before their marriage, she would often meet Duke at prearranged locations where he would park his car, and they would take hers to other locations. She became aware of a woman who went missing from Rosauers (Fielding) where she knew Duke worked. Duke had said things to her, causing concern, about the missing woman who was later found dead. He told her if she ever went against him, or ever tried to leave him, he would make sure she didn’t wake up, she wouldn’t hurt, but she would be done. Duke would talk about “a girl” who went missing and would kind of laugh about it, later admitting he had known her. At one-point, Duke explained he was trying to mend his relationship with his wife (Sandra), so he could go back home. He also told her Sandra was pregnant with another man’s child. After being married to Duke, she learned he had been suspected in the death of other women, and she confronted Duke. He told her he couldn’t do that.

She also explained she became suspicious of Sandra’s death. Based on living at the same residence where Sandra was found deceased in her vehicle inside the garage, she did not believe Sandra was capable of opening/closing the heavy garage door. She was suspicious of Duke’s involvement in hypnotism. He would regularly use her as a student to practice hypnotism after they were married, and she said he was very good at it. He could place her under hypnosis and have her do things she normally could not physically do, or would not be willing to do, sometimes the next day.

During the dating portion of their relationship, Duke would leave flowers for her to find. After they began to have marital problems and separated, Duke, in defiance of a restraining order she had filed against him, left notes on her car. She said Duke was watching her and knew where she had been during this time because the notes would say things such as, “I saw you…”. She had never gotten notes from Duke until the restraining order was issued.

During their relationship, she explained Duke was extremely jealous of other men being around her. He forced her to quit a job because she worked around men. After she married Duke, she said his behavior changed significantly. She was unable to go anywhere or do anything without Duke’s permission. He was very controlling and became physically and verbally abusive. He would become furious and put his hands around her neck, holding her down. She said he was “Jekyll and Hyde” when he was angry and used violence to make her perform sexual acts and would choke her. She was terrified of him because of this, and he told her, “If I am done with you, I am done with you, but nobody else will have you.” She also noticed Duke was hiding paperwork and she confronted him asking if it concerned legal or illegal activity. She asked to be let out of the marriage if it was illegal because she didn’t want to be involved in anything illegal. Duke said he would allow her a divorce but directed her to not ask for anything other than what he thought she deserved. Duke threatened her often after she moved from the home, saying something bad might happen to her horses if she didn’t move further away. She said Duke began following her little sister, who was in high school and even tried to pick her little sister up from school, using the potential of kidnapping her little sister as a threat, to scare her. Because of these threats and constant intimidation, she moved further away from him and obtained the restraining order. Her divorce from Duke was final in 1972.

During several other interviews with family, friends, co-workers and other women who had dated or married Duke, Detective Keyser confirmed a lot of the information found in the old investigative case files, along with additional information portraying Duke as a very jealous, controlling person who had been violent/abusive toward others and mistreated his two children to the point where they stopped having any contact with him. Detective Keyser also learned Duke was arrested and pled guilty to conspiracy to smuggle cocaine and was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 1975, with an additional 3-years of special probation upon his release.

Detective Keyser learned more about Duke’s separation from the Sheriff’s Office in 1966 where he suddenly stopped showing up for work. Previously, Duke was described as a good employee until that time frame when his attitude and demeanor changed significantly. When coworkers contacted Duke to determine why he wasn’t coming to work, Duke threatened them, saying he would shoot/kill them, for no apparent reason. Duke was described as clearly being mentally unstable. Duke made paranoid statements saying people within the agency were out to get him and other nonsensical statements. Several other Sheriff’s Office employees openly voiced their concerns about Duke possibly harming himself or others. Soon after, Duke was fired or allowed to resign in lieu of termination.

In August of 1967, within days of the disappearance of Fielding, a Deputy, who knew Duke from work, happened to bump into him. During the casual conversation, Duke mentioned a checker from Rosauers who turned up missing and that her car was located, but no trace of the woman was found. Duke inquired if the Deputy knew anything about the case and said he knew the woman but only through work and having lunch a few times together.

Detective Keyser found that Duke, now 85-years old, was living in Covington County, Alabama, and was married again. In April of 2018, Detective Keyser interviewed Duke at his home. During that time, Pierson denied knowing Lampson, or Fielding. He also denied ever being interviewed by Spokane County Detectives regarding Fielding’s death. Pierson admitted to dating thousands of women, and if he had dated Fielding, the relationship lasted no more than a week. When asked about his familiarity with hunting/rural areas of Spokane, Duke replied, “Not really, I was hunting but not four-legged things” and laughed. He also denied frequenting the Falls View Tavern. Pierson said he was widowed by a wife (Sandra) who took her own life in 1967 and that she was pregnant by someone other than him when she died.

Pierson said he was a Detective Sergeant for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for 3-4 years prior to going to work as the Chief of Security for Rosauers. He denied ever having a confrontation or threatening anyone from the Sheriff’s Office and admitted he smoked cigarettes during the time frame of these incidents. He denied ever parking his car and using a woman’s vehicle during a date, insisting he always drove his. When asked about the particular flowers left in Fielding’s vehicle prior to her death, Duke said, “Without any doubt, it was from me” but he denied giving anyone flowers from his and Sandra’s yard.

Duke also stated he was arrested and spent time in federal prison, but it was for something minor that he couldn’t recall. He claimed he was only sentenced to prison because he had been a Deputy. When Detective Keyser confronted him with his arrest for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, he agreed but minimized his involvement by saying he never smuggled drugs.

When asked if he had ever strangled a woman during sex, Duke laughed and said, “Not me, I’ve never been violent. I’m a tender person, I have never been violent with any sex I had, not my style.” He later said he has never hurt anyone, insisting he doesn’t hurt people.

During the interview, Duke continued to deny key parts of past reports or statements he had made, appearing to brush these discrepancies off as not remembering or by making a joke to minimize/deflect the information

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