A murder charge against a 56-year-old convicted killer accused in a 1978 Laguna Beach robbery-slaying was dismissed Tuesday, but prosecutors said they intend to refile the case.
Walter Lawrence Dalie, who has been in the Orange County Jail since September 2011, will now be sent back to Connecticut, where he was serving a 50- year sentence for the 1985 murder of his girlfriend when charged with the killing of Laguna resident Brent Stapleton Tobey.
“Two critical witnesses have died since the preliminary hearing (in the Tobey killing), so we just need to rework the case and make sure we’ve exhausted all potential leads before we refile,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy.
Investigators need a more detailed forensic analysis of evidence that the local Orange County Crime Lab cannot do, so the work needs to be farmed out to another facility, which will take several months, according to Murphy. He said Dalie refused to delay his trial, forcing prosecutors to move for dismissal of the case Tuesday.
Dalie was charged in February 2011 with the Tobey murder, with a special circumstance allegation of committing the killing during a robbery and a sentence-enhancing allegation of use of a deadly weapon.
Dalie allegedly stabbed the 55-year-old victim 17 times in the back, head and chest on Nov. 20, 1978, Murphy said.
Tobey was last seen alive about 12:30 p.m. that day, according to Laguna Beach police Capt. Jason Kravetz.
Tobey and a friend, who lived in a rental unit behind Tobey’s home, had plans to dine together to celebrate the conviction that day of Laguna Beach resident James Scramlin for the 1977 murder of their friend Albert Willard. The two had found Willard’s body in his home in the city’s Temple Hills neighborhood, Kravetz said.
When Tobey failed to show up for dinner, his friend went to his home at 1320 Carmelita St. about 7 p.m. and found him on the floor of his bedroom in a pool of blood.
Dalie — then 19 and living in Newport Beach — was not a suspect at the time. Investigators believe Dalie stole a ring from Tobey before or after allegedly killing him, Murphy said.
Laguna Beach police revived the investigation in 2002 when evidence was sent to the Orange County Crime Lab for a DNA match. There were no matches until mid-2010, when Connecticut officials loaded some samples in its database, including Dalie’s, Kravetz said.
Dalie bludgeoned his girlfriend to death with a hammer, Kravetz said. She was closing up her family’s restaurant for the night when he went to steal the day’s cash, Kravetz said.
Dalie grew up in Dana Point and graduated from Dana Hills High School. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he was a parolee who lived in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.
— Wire Reports