Spitzer’s & Rackauckas’ 17-year Cover-up of the Whip Walton Murder.

Now here’s a story you probably haven’t heard: How 25-year old Whip Walton was killed at an Aliso Viejo party in 2005 by a friend who was playing with a .44 Magnum his dad, who was an Anaheim police sergeant, had given him; how Mike Carona’s Sheriffs Dept after a completely bungled and lazy “investigation” labeled the murder a suicide; and how both DA’s Tony Rackauckas and Todd Spitzer have continued to cover up the murder and bungled investigation for 17 years so far while stonewalling Whip’s mother, who just happens to be a retired crime scene investigator herself …. you’ve got to hear this story. Here we go:

“My friend Whip Walton just committed suicide, using my gun – a gun my dad gave me, and he’s an Anaheim Police Sergeant!” Those are the first words OC Sheriff deputies heard from 23-year old John R. when they showed up to his Aliso Viejo apartment after midnight. John’s 2005 Memorial Day party had come to an abrupt and tragic end, with his 25-year old friend lying upstairs, his brains blown out.

[“I’ve heard that line before – ‘My dad’s a cop.’ Some guys think that’ll get ’em out of anything.” “But it worked, Vern,” countered Mike Jacobs, the former prosecutor now running for DA. “It’s worked so far.”]

It was true that John R’s dad Frederick R, a recently retired APD Sergeant, had given John the gun, a Model 29 Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, just like Dirty Harry used in the movies.

It was NOT true that Whip Walton had committed suicide. He was by all accounts having a great time at this party, laughing it up and playing pool. Standing at 6’3″, 25-year old Whip Walton III was a very popular bartender at a Laguna Niguel TGI Friday’s, with lots of girlfriends. The “sort of guy who’d give you the shirt off his back,” the “go-to guy” for anyone who had a problem. He even had plans to go to the river the next day.

After midnight the six young men there (all 23 or 25) headed upstairs to hang out in John R’s room. John sat down in a corner, pulled out his .44 Magnum from a box, and began acting out scenes from movies, quick-drawing the loaded gun and pointing it at his various friends.

The other young men were uncomfortable, even terrified, but only Whip had the presence of mind to say, “HEY! That’s not a BB gun. Is that loaded?” Whip took the gun, examined it for a moment and handed it back to John, who pointed it one last time, sideways, “gangster-style,” at Whip’s head, whereupon the gun went off, shattering Whip Walton’s skull.

[“So, would that be manslaughter?” “No, Vern,” replies Mike, “this is a clear case of second degree murder, with a firearm enhancement.“]

And then the coverup began – after all, would their good friend Whip have wanted them to go to jail? Cell phone records show a dozen furtive nervous calls being started from that address and then hung up. There were things to hide or relocate before sheriffs could be called. Whip himself had only drunk alcohol, as the coroner’s report showed, but John R’s place was where the whole neighborhood went for pot (which was still illegal in 2005.)

Carona’s Sheriff Deputies Arrive

…and as I mentioned, the first thing they heard from a panicked John R. was that his friend Whip Walton had killed himself with John’s gun, a gun he’d been given by his Anaheim Police Sergeant dad. Except, the first deputy to go in and look around announced, “I’m not buying this. This was not a suicide.” Number one, the gun was lying on the ground on a hallway landing, 15 feet away from Whip, not as though released from a suicide’s hand, but as though dropped by a panicked, fleeing John R.

Nobody’s allowed in a case like this to touch the body until the Coroner’s Investigator get there – and when he did, he exclaimed, “Too many red flags!” – the scene didn’t match what he was being told, and he demanded that the sergeant in command call homicide and forensics. It wasn’t just the location of the gun, there were many other “red flags” pointing toward a homicide, which we’ll get into later.

[A small aside here: Assembly Bill 1608, which would separate the coroner’s office from the sheriff’s office in all California counties as they already are in most of our largest counties, is going through the State Senate, and this case is a good illustration of why it’s a good idea.]

All this talk of a homicide investigation really seemed to irritate the deputies. For one thing, they were apparently inclined to protect the son of a Police Sergeant. For another thing … it was the wee hours of Monday, Memorial Day itself for Christ’s sake! They were tired, they were hungry, they had plans for the day, they wanted to go home! But now they had to call for the homicide investigator and wait around for hours to fill out SO much paperwork. As they waited around for their investigator, they loudly joked about Whip’s shattered skull, and reminisced humorously about other similar head traumas they’d seen, which the five witnesses there found upsetting and traumatizing.

The lead investigator (Tom Dove, right) arrived, but when he learned of the Anaheim police connection, he spent less than 30 minutes interviewing John R. and then left the scene before the coroner and crime scene technicians finished their part of the investigation and even before the bullet was found. Dove didn’t have the firearm checked for fingerprints or operation, and quickly had it returned to the Anaheim cop, John’s father. Only the late Whip was given a toxicology test. (He’d been drinking, duh, but had no drugs in his system.) The fact that John R’s dad was a police sergeant was included in several of the police reports – something you’d think was totally irrelevant, why mention the occupation of one witness’ father?

All signs of a coverup, to an experienced crime scene investigator.


The Stonewalling of Mary Walton.

1. Stonewalled by Carona’s Sheriffs, 2005-9

Have I mentioned that Whip Walton’s mother, Mary, (left, with her son) was a crime scene investigator for the Huntington Beach Police Department? She retired a few years ago, but she has never retired from trying to find answers, truth, justice, for her son’s killing.

When the Sheriffs discovered that the victim’s mother was a crime scene investigator, they quickly circled their wagons. A deputy on the scene called Mary’s work and spoke to an HBPD officer who happened to be with Mary. Mary was told that the lead detective didn’t want her to go to the crime scene, and that it was being investigated as a homicide. He told the HB officer that Dove would come to her home as soon as he left the scene and brief her about Whip’s death. (He also mentioned that it was being investigated as a probable homicide because right before Whip was shot, John R had been recklessly “quick-drawing” and pointing the gun – a little detail conveniently left out of Dove’s report.)

But it was the Coroner Investigator instead who came to Mary’s home and informed her TOM DOVE had determined her son’s death to be a suicide. Mary told the coroner’s investigator that it wasn’t possible, and why hadn’t Dove come to her home as promised? He said Dove would be contacting her in the next day or so to discuss his findings. The wait was “terrible,” she says now. WEEKS passed before Dove finally called to arrange a meeting. When they finally met at OCSD, Mary was shocked at his unprofessional appearance. His hair was greasy, he looked disheveled and hung over. He insisted he had interviewed five witnesses who were present in the room when the shooting happened and had all stated they WITNESSED Whip committing suicide. That turned out to be a lie too.

In fact, Dove’s whole report was a tissue of lies and omissions. One big one: he claimed that all five witnesses had remained at the scene of the shooting until the Deputies arrived. The truth is that three of them drove away in a car (possibly to dispose of some contraband). A fourth stated he wasn’t in the room at all but there are statements that indicate he was but went downstairs to help get rid of dope. The first three then returned to see “If something was happening to Johnny.” While driving by, they were unexpectedly seen by arriving deputies who attempted a car stop. They tried to get away, eventually abandoning the vehicle, then tried to escape on foot. They were tackled, handcuffed, and returned by deputies back to the scene of the shooting, where they remained detained until interviewed. Contrary to all police practice, they were allowed to talk on phones and talk with each other by themselves. For HOURS they were able to quietly come up with a well-rehearsed story (albeit rife with inconsistencies.) Again, NONE of that is mentioned in Dove’s report.

Mary would later talk to all these witnesses. Most of them told her that they were worried about their own being under the influence of drugs and alcohol when the shooting occurred, and they were afraid of what would happen to Johnny – they had all helped to get John’s drugs out of the apartment before deputies arrived. So they just told the deputies what they wanted to hear.

  • One witness told Mary that it was the deputies who wanted it to be ruled a suicide, everyone else had agreed it was an accident. He said they questioned them in a manner trying to get them to say it was a suicide. He said a statement was attributed to him, that he saw Whip on the ground with the gun in his hand after he was shot, and that statement was a lie and something he never said (not to mention implausible given where the gun was found.)
  • Another told Mary that John was aiming the gun at Whip “gangster-style,” and after that … “Well… John is going to have to man up and tell you what happened next.”

The interviews with the witnesses were recorded. Mary wanted to hear those recordings. Dove would not let her hear those recordings. To this day, she has not been allowed to hear them.

Investigator Dove was no use, but the folks at the Sheriff’s forensics crime lab were willing to be helpful to a victim’s mother who happened to be a crime scene investigator. It was through them she learned about the telltale bullet hole. The witnesses described Whip holding the gun to the side of his head, meaning the bullet would have gone into the “opposite wall,” and Dove eventually gave up looking for it. But a forensics investigator located and recovered the bullet after Dove left, almost into the high vaulted ceiling of a different wall, in the seam where the wall and ceiling meet.

Also there is a “science” to “soot.” The soot around Whip’s entrance wound showed the shot to have been fired from a distance of six to eight inches. A person wouldn’t generally be able to hold a Model 29 .44 magnum weighing nearly three pounds loaded, to their temple without stabilizing the weight prior to firing the gun. Dove described the entrance wound as a contact wound (meaning intentionally self-inflicted) – this was grossly inaccurate. Final Forensic examination and analysis of Whip’s entry wound determined that the wound was in fact not a “contact,” but a “close range” wound, which means the gun was held approximate distance of 6 to 8 inches from Whip’s head. Indicating it’s very unlikely he was the shooter. Additionally, Jon R. ran with the gun. There are no statements from any other witnesses that they saw John take the gun from Whip’s hand as John R. told Investigators. On a last note, Dove’s, the homicide team’s, and deputies’ attempt to make a murder a suicide FAILED. When forensics were completed all roads led to a homicide.

For months Tom Dove pretended, to Mary, that the investigation was still open, and then finally some time in the summer he admitted it had been closed since early June, because it was “just a suicide. You could have received completed copies of the coroner’s report way back then,” he added dismissively. (Dove was lying to Mary. The coroner’s office never had a meeting that closed the case as a suicide – no such meeting ever took place. The manner of homicide was labeled “undetermined.”)

So, Mary attempted to reach Dove’s Supervisor, Sgt. Yvonne Shull (left) to obtain copies of the other reports and, especially, the taped witness interviews. For a long time Shull ignored her messages and avoided her calls, and when she finally answered she blew off Mary’s requests for more information. “Why don’t you just look at the reports you already have and see if you can find answers there?”

Responded Mary, “I work for HBPD and based on my experience, there should be additional reports including the report from Dove, and from the CSI officer on scene.” Shull shot back, “I KNOW who you are and who you work for.” Mary was starting to notice that, apart from the forensics people, everybody was treating her like an enemy, an intruder, an inconvenience.

When Mary tried going around Shull to get the records, she learned that Shull had ordered that they be kept from her. “If you pursue the issue any further you’ll have to make a formal request from a review board, and I will see to it that you be denied.” With a tone of disgust, Shull asked Mary, “What sort of mother would want to hear about the death of her son, anyway?” Stunned, Mary thought, “What mother WOULDN’T want to know the truth about her son’s death?

Sgt. Yvonne Shull was promoted to Lieutenant shortly after this. But after the 2010 Grand Jury report into the cover-up of the gruesome jail murder of John Chamberlain – a cover-up in which both Shull and Brahim Baytieh were both knee-deep – Shull’s career in law enforcement ended. (Don’t worry, she still has her full pension!)

2. Stonewalled by Rackauckas & Baytieh, 2009-18

Mike Jacobs (right, whom I interviewed here and who is currently running for DA) is an accomplished 30-year former prosecutor with the OC DA’s office, who was fired by Rackauckas in 2001 for blowing the whistle on his corruption, won his job back in court in 2003 and was punished with humiliating busy work, not being allowed to do what he does best which is prosecuting homicides, then quit in frustration in 2006 and started his own private practice. In 2009, after four years of stonewalling from the Sheriffs, Mary Walton thought that maybe Mike could help. And the more he read Mary’s notes and reports, the more he shook his head, saying “There’s something wrong here,” and “They’re hiding something!”

Mike still had some people he trusted in the DA’s office, so he arranged for Mary to meet with Dave Brent, at that time the supervisor of the Homicide Unit. At their meeting, Brent promised Mary there would be a “complete reinvestigation.” But it wasn’t till 2010 that Mary got another meeting, and that was with senior deputy DA Brahim Baytieh. [Left, and now running for Judge.] Not good.

Much has been written of Baytieh’s histrionic theatrical flair when arguing cases before a jury, and when he first met with Mary he gave her a big display of the Sensitive Brahim, tears nearly welling up in his eyes as he told her, “You and your situation break my heart.” He apologized SO SINCERELY that anybody had led her to believe that she’d be able to see all the reports and hear the interviews, forgetting that he’d told her that himself. He said he’d completed a re-investigation but that it’d be against the law for him to let her see the results. THERE IS NO SUCH LAW.

He told Mary there was “no case” that could be proven in regard to Whip; that it was probably a suicide but he refused to given any basis for that conclusion. Turning on the sensitivity again, Brahim purred, “I know you think you’re fighting for justice for your son. God bless your heart. You do whatever you think is right. I just want to give you my advice. You gotta move on.” But, “the reports from my investigation will be kept from you forever, and if you request them under the Public Records Act, I’ll personally make sure your requests are denied.” Funny, that sounded a lot like what Sgt. Yvonne Shull had told Mary.

And years later, late one night, Mary turned on her TV and saw an old, 2009-era episode of Dateline, featuring Brahim Baytieh and Yvonne Shull excitedly discussing a cold case they’d solved together. They were thick as thieves! Turns out the Sheriff Lieutenant and Deputy DA had worked together for a number of years, including on the brutal jailhouse Chamberlain murder, trying to keep any Sheriff out of criminal liability in the case. (Another notorious coverup.) It was Shull who requested Baytieh’s assistance on the day that happened! Whatever Shull wanted from Baytieh, including a stonewalling of information on the Whip Walton case, she was going to get.

3. Stonewalled by Todd Spitzer & Shawn Nelson, 2019-present

A lot of us were cautiously hopeful at the beginning of 2019 that our new DA would usher in an era of transparency and more even-handed justice, after two decades of Rackauckas corruption. Todd had beaten Tony promising every kind of reform he could think of, particularly bashing Tony over his Snitch Scandal. Even Mike Jacobs, who knew Todd from his time there, thought he’d be better and more responsive than Tony, and cautiously convinced Mary to re-start the painful process of trying to get her case seriously re-considered.

One concern Mike and Mary shared: they knew that Todd had kept Brahim “You’ll never see those reports” Baytieh. What they did NOT realize was how extremely POWERFUL Baytieh was now. Todd’s only skill, in retrospect, is tireless self-promotion, he had no idea how to run the District Attorney’s Office of a huge county, so THAT important job was delegated to Brahim, whom Todd referred to as his “ethical North Star.” (LOL, one of the main architects of the Snitch Scandal.) Basically Baytieh was our de facto DA from 2019, until his well-known falling-out with Todd last February.

Anyway Mike gave DA Todd a few months to get his bearings, then in April sent him a detailed outline of the facts involved in Whip Walton’s death. Not hearing back from Todd by June, he called him up and asked him to at least meet with Mary. Todd responded that he didn’t have the time to see her, it was going to take at least a year to “clean up the DA’s office,” and Todd was “too busy right now to get CASE-SPECIFIC.”

What a lame answer. For one thing, Todd’s very BRAND is protecting “victims,” but that apparently doesn’t extend to mothers of young men killed by kids of policemen. And as Mike points out, Todd had PLENTY of time to get “case-specific” with his disastrous interference in the Robicheaux case a few months later.

In July of that year Mike wrote Todd a detailed letter about the Walton case. Todd never responded, but had his Chief Deputy Shawn Nelson (right) write him instead. And Shawn insisted in his short letter (probably drafted at the direction of Baytieh) that Mike’s facts were all wrong, he would accomplish nothing, a re-investigation had been done, and “the case is closed.” (Mike points out that this came from an attorney – Shawn – who has never tried a criminal case.)

Finally that September, Mary made a Public Records Act request for all records pertaining to her son’s death. Spitzer denied her request, citing the investigation exemption of Government Code section 6524 (f) – WHICH IS DISCRETIONARY.

Yes, I’ve seen that outrageous claim before, like when I tried to help the family of Sergio Vasquez (killed by a gang in 2013) get his belongings back from the Orange PD, and when I tried to help the sisters of Jennifer Aiello (died in OC jail 2016) get her final mugshot from the Sheriffs – in both cases I was told there were still investigations ongoing when we all knew there weren’t. And in this case particularly it sounds absurd for Todd to claim an ongoing investigation when his right-hand man Shawn Nelson had just told us that “the case is closed.” “Yeah, well, they can do that, Vern,” sighed Mike, “but Todd’s denial was astounding, unheard-of. For a DA to use a discretionary exemption from the Public Records Act to prevent a mother from learning what happened to her son.”

Sounds like a law that needs to be changed. And a DA that needs to be changed as well.



And these guys want to be JUDGES…

Several of the men mentioned in the above story are names you’ll see on your ballot this week. Two of them actually want you to elect them as Judges of the Superior Court – Shawn Nelson and Brahim Baytieh!

We just saw Shawn, still Spitzer’s right-hand man, tell Mike Jacobs, with no explanation, that his “facts are all wrong” on Whip Walton and “the case is closed.” The same Shawn ridiculed and dismissed all the ladies who complained of the gross behavior of Spitzer’s old best friend Gary LoGalbo. Well it turned out those ladies were telling the truth, Spitzer canned and disowned his old friend, and is going around calling LoGalbo a “PIG” wherever anyone will listen to him. So I guess Shawn was wrong then too. Not judge material, would you agree?

Brahim Baytieh is much worse. It’s been known a long time that he was deeply involved, even an architect, of the Snitch Scandal, so – while it stretches credulity that Todd didn’t know about that until coincidentally right when Brahim ratted out Todd’s racist musings about a black defendant’s hankering for white women – he DID need to be fired.

And those of us who want some justice for the victims of OC police killings, and who find it outrageous that out of 142 fatal police shootings from 2010-20, not one led to charges against the police, know that Baytieh was the one who signed off on every single one of those police-exonerating reports, under both Rackauckas and Spitzer.

Whatever is motivating the 17-year coverup of Whip Walton’s murder, whether it’s to protect of the son of a police sergeant, to hide lazy, incompetent, corrupt work by the Sheriffs, or a combination of both, it all reflects badly on the man whose slogan as he runs for judge – what it says up top of his signs – is, duh, “Law Enforcement’s Choice.” Baytieh is ALSO not judge material. AGREE?

So you may want to do like me, and vote for their opponents Marc Gibbons in Office 11 and Frank Fascinelli in Office 22. Either that or we’ll be stuck with Shawn and Brahim as Judges for God-knows-how-long.

Finally Spitzer, the “Hope of Victims”

DA Todd Spitzer, a consummate politician up for re-election, likes to talk about “brands.” He has attempted to brand his opponent Pete Hardin with scary ideas of “L.A.”, and to brand his opponent Mike Jacobs falsely with the Snitch Scandal. If Todd has a brand he tries to embrace, it is protection of and caring for VICTIMS.

But Todd’s behavior toward Mary Walton, and his behavior toward the victims in the Robicheaux case, show that his loyalty is less to victims than to the powerful. And to “covering the ass” of the institutions of Sheriff and DA. And more than anything, if it’s a contest between law enforcement and anything or anyone else, Todd will side with law enforcement. And the Offspring of Law Enforcement.

Let’s not allow Todd’s fearmongering, crypto-racist, “#NoLAinOC” campaign to succeed! Let’s work to elect ourselves a new Orange County District Attorney, one who will stop the Cover-up of Whip’s murder, stop the Stonewalling of Mary Walton, and re-open the Walton case.

And a whole lot of other shady cases.

For your consideration: DA candidates Jacobs, Hardin & Chehock.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.