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Police hold community meeting after slaying

CARLSBAD — Hundreds of residents jammed the Carlsbad Safety Training Center on March 20 to listen and ask questions of Carlsbad police following a brutal murder on March 11.

Chief Neil Gallucci and Lt. Greg Koran walked residents through the timeline, where it is alleged Ian Bushee, 37, and Malissa James, 26, both transients, killed 63-year-old Marjorie Gawitt in her home.

According to Koran, the timeline is as follows:

• 11:32 p.m. — CPD receive a prowler call.

• 12:29 a.m. — Dispatch receives a call from Gawitt, police arrive on scene two minutes later.

• 12:33 a.m. — Paramedics begin performing “life-saving measures.”

• 1:05 a.m. — CPD detectives arrive on scene.

• 1:30 a.m. — The suspects leave Gawitt’s vehicle in San Marcos.

• 5:45 a.m. — San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies locate the car in San Marcos.

• 9:15 a.m. — A witness takes a photo of the suspects on Park Drive in Carlsbad.

• 9:30 a.m. — Police receive a suspicious person call.

• 10:05 a.m. — CPD locates and arrests Bushee and James.

A friend of Marjorie Gawitt describes the late mother as kind, friendly and loving during a public meeting held by the Carlsbad Police Department at the Safety Training Center on March 20. Steve Puterski photo

One resident, who used to cut Gawitt’s hair and polish her nails, said Gawitt was a sweet, friendly person. She said Gawitt loved her children, grandchildren and boyfriend and that she was mourning the loss of her friend.

“I’m going to miss her so much,” the unidentified resident said.

Some residents said they did not feel safe in the city anymore, although the rates for violent crimes have dropped, in some categories, by double digits over the past one to two years, Gallucci said.

He said Carlsbad has one of the lowest crime rates in San Diego County. In 2018, Carlsbad Police Department reported a 12 percent drop in aggravated assault cases (151 total), a 31 percent decrease in burglary (299) and 2 percent slide in violent crimes (243).

However, there was a 30 percent increase in rapes (39) and a 13 percent rise in robberies (52). Still, Gallucci said, violent crime was 2.02 per 1,000 people in the city, which is much better than the county average of 3.32.

Gallucci said he gathers his lieutenants once per week to review crime statistics and the previous week’s reports as a way to stay in front of any growing trends or specific areas targeted.

“We are well below what the county average is,” Gallucci added. Additionally, the Gawitt case is just the third murder in the city since 2014.

For at home or personal safety, police department Public Information Officer Jodee Reyes (Sasway) said residents must remember to lock all doors in their homes and vehicles. Other simple measures, she said, include adding lighting outside; installing cameras, such as the Ring doorbell system; alarms; having deadbolt locks; and keeping garage door openers inside the home after returning home.

“Know what is normal in your neighborhood,” Reyes said. “If you see something, say something.”

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