Seven years ago, while I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher assigned her class of twenty students a project that is not like any normal book report. As a 21-year old college student, I have yet to come across another teacher who’ll assign the same project as the one I had done my sophomore year. It was very strange for a high school English teacher to have her students, solely or in a group, conduct an investigation on a cold case. Yes, my peers and I had to do extensive research and piece together an evidence file based on the cold case we chose. Little did I know that the unsolved case I picked seven years ago would hit close to home.
A killer loose in the hills.
On July 17th, 1993, the body of a 21-year old male had been discovered in the driver’s seat of a light blue 1977 Cadillac by two hikers. The victim allegedly shot himself with a shotgun and the blast from the gun had blown off the left side of the victim’s head. Authorities investigated the crime scene and discovered an empty shotgun shell, belonging to the victim’s Remington 870 Magnum Pump shotgun, outside the driver’s side door. They then found bodily material at the bottom of the door jamb, which is strange considering the door had been shut before and after the victim took the shot. Situated between the victim’s thighs was a bottle of beer which the authorities had failed to test for fingerprints. On the victim’s feet were shoes that did not belong to him and stuffed inside his pocket was Skoal tobacco - the victim, according to his family, only chewed Copenhagen tobacco. My friends, I present to you a Sparks, Nevada cold case.
I present to you the cold case of Ricky Dyer.
The Storey County deputies that were investigating Mr. Dyer’s mysterious passing ruled his death as a suicide. Nothing about this case proves that it was suicide. From the empty shell outside the car door to a witness speaking out against the one suspect that worried Ricky, all is evidence that cries homicide.
Ricky Dyer, according to family and friends, was a kind young man. He was known to go out of his way to help others at home and at work. Ricky and his mother shared a strong bond for he would bring her home gifts such as flowers. He had moved out of his parents' place two weeks before his death. He was ready to live on his own, work, pay bills, and even buy a new car. Ricky purchased a 1977 Cadillac and was elated. While spending time away from his parents, Ricky began to notice his roommate’s bizarre behavior. His concern worsened and so he asked his parents, two days before his death, if they would help him find a new apartment. Two days after seeking help from his parents, Ricky Dyer had been found dead and his death had been ruled as a suicide.
July 16th, 1993 - the day of Ricky’s death
According to Mrs. Dyer, Ricky had cashed his paycheck from Raley’s grocery store and then paid rent in advance. John Miller, Ricky’s friend, stated that he and Dyer hung out in the parking lot of the grocery store at 10 P.M. drinking beer. Ricky had bought a 12-pack of beer and had only one because he planned on taking the rest home to his roommate. Before Ricky left, he and Miller discussed seeing each other the following day.
Why would someone, who’s supposedly suicidal, cash their paycheck and then pay their rent in advance, and then plan on seeing their friend the next day? Let alone, buy a pack of beer to share with their roommate the same night? Wouldn’t he want to be alone to make peace with himself? Every action Dyer took that night was not leading to suicide. Dyer had no intentions of self-harming. He just wanted to go home. But this evidence - evidence that sticks out like a sore thumb - was avoided like it was the plague. The police swept it all under a cheap rug and labeled the case death by suicide.
Prior to his passing, Ricky had confided in his parents about his roommate’s concerning behavior. The roommate was interested in role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and was said to have been into drugs. As said during a taped interview between private inspector Rich Hill and John Miller, Dyer’s roommate was using a drug called Crank, in other terms it is also known as meth.
“Ricky was trying to get along with Shaw until he could line up an apartment of his own,” wrote Mrs. Dyer.
Miller later told Hill that Shaw manipulated Ricky into playing a game of chicken. You press your arms together as tightly as you can while your friend drops a hot cigarette on them. To win the game you cannot pull apart your arms, no matter how much it hurts. The point of the game was to prove your manhood. Shaw was described to be very dominant and when it came to young men he’d have to go to the extremes to prove that he was the alpha. Ricky had fallen victim to Shaw’s domineering nature and was subjected to bullying.
Mrs. Dyer had a growing inclination that Shaw was responsible for her son’s death and requested that he’d be interviewed sufficiently. Deputy Petty had gone to the store that Shaw worked at to retrieve his statement. Petty waited two days before visiting Shaw’s house. Why the delay? Was he delaying so that Shaw could clean up any evidence that he might’ve forgotten about?
“I saw Rick last 7/16/93 @ work. I tried calling my house on the 16th to invite Rick out and party at a friend’s house. I called at 10:08 P.M., 10:15 P.M., 10:30, and 10:45 P.M. with no answer,” according to Shaw’s voluntary statement.
But John Miller later disputed this statement and claimed that Buchan (the friend hosting the party Shaw spoke of) didn’t confirm Shaw’s alibi.
When Ricky’s body had been discovered the crime scene appeared to have been staged. The shotgun that Dyer allegedly used on himself was found upright on the right side of his right leg. There were two unfired shells and a spent shell casing. Why would he load the gun completely if it only takes one shot? Positioned between his legs was a single bottle of beer. My question is, was this bottle from the 12-pack that he had purchased the night before? Also, why didn’t the bottle fall over when he had shot himself? Was there even blood on it? Outside the driver’s door, laying on the ground, was a shotgun shell.
Who fired it off?
Mrs. Dyer noticed that his watch had gone missing. Ricky would always wear a watch and yet it vanishes the night of his death? She also noted that there was blood outside the car even though he shot himself inside the vehicle.
“...the pocketknife he always carried wasn’t on him, and neither was the $150 that remained from his paycheck or the change from his purchase of the beer…Ricky was also found with a can of Skoal tobacco in his pants pocket. (Ricky hated Skoal, which was Donn Shaw’s favorite smoke.)” stated Mrs. Dyer and yet nothing found at the crime scene had been tested for fingerprints.
The weirdest piece to this whole puzzle is this:
“..for some bizarre reason, stripped him and dressed him in different clothing before they propped him up behind the wheel,” Mrs. Dyer wrote.
Shaw claimed that he hadn’t seen Ricky at all on the 16th but what’s puzzling is how he knew which car door had been locked, and what type of music was playing on the radio. When the police found the car the battery had died, and so did the radio. Shaw later described how Ricky returned from work, changed into a black shirt with “stripes” and new wrangler jeans. He even witnessed Ricky remove the shotgun from its case and then Ricky tossed the case onto the floor. If Shaw wasn’t home then how did he know that Ricky did all those things prior to harming himself?
Mrs. and Mr. Dyer requested a full autopsy but instead received a medical report that proved Ricky did have a few drinks. The report claimed that Ricky didn’t have scars caused by cigarette burns on his arms, when in fact, he did because Miller witnessed it.
Hills have eyes.
Nearly out of the woods, another statement found Shaw. A neighbor contacted Mrs. Dyer and had informed her that the neighbor’s daughter, Nicole, was told by her friend Amber that she and Elisa (another friend) were up in the hills on the night Ricky was killed. Neither of the girls knew Ricky but one of the two cars that they saw matched the 1977 light blue Cadillac that Ricky owned. They even described Shaw’s car which was parked next to Ricky’s.
Amber witnessed two guys standing outside Ricky’s car arguing - she described Donn Shaw and Shaw’s friend Dave. Dave, according to Mrs. Dyer’s blog had been in and out of mental institutions since Ricky’s death. He claimed that he would hear voices and had caused an uproar at the local grocery store over a conspiracy that the managers were sacrificing their employees to Satan.
Unfortunately, Amber’s statement was kept out of Ricky’s case file because one of the deputies knew her family. Photographs belonging to the crime scene had later disappeared from the file. All that had been left was a photograph of Ricky inside the Cadillac when he was found dead and the empty shotgun shell outside the car. Neither one of the photos were any help being that they were poorly taken. But the photo of Ricky inside the car is enough for me to speculate that he did not commit suicide.
I’ve linked the photo here in case you would like to take a look at it. If you examine the photograph you’ll notice that there isn’t any blood on the ceiling of the vehicle or on the white seats. Also, the apron that Shaw said that Ricky left on his bed is clearly seen stuffed against Ricky’s hip. Ricky had to have been shot outside the car and then was moved inside the car.
Ricky’s parents had visited Shaw’s house to collect their son’s belongings. They found a poem, written by Shaw, on Ricky’s bureau top. I believe the subject of this poem could have influenced Shaw’s impulsive behavior and could have been the cause of Ricky Dyer’s death.
Shaw wrote, “My world, the world of Dungeons and Dragons...swim in it and feel good, for this is my world.”
Seven years later, I find myself perplexed by this cold case. It remains open and unsolved, and Ricky’s family are desperate for answers. Seven years later, I find myself still theorizing why Ricky had been murdered. I have two theories. The first one is that Shaw had become emotionally attached to Ricky and refused to let him leave, and when he felt was losing control over Ricky he had murdered him. My second theory is that Shaw could no longer determine what was real or just another roleplaying game. These are just theories, speculations, nonetheless. But before I end this here I would like to point out something.
On January 17th, 1983, at the age of 21-years old, Timothy Grice supposedly took his life with a shotgun. He too played D&D. Could these cases be connected?
What are your theories?