Police picked up Weldon McDavid a week after the shooting.
They pulled him over while he drove near his home in Fallbrook. The police and McDavid were aware that a man named Greg Mulvihill had been shot in Carlsbad, on a secluded dirt path, the night of September 1, 2016.
Two police detectives, Scott Stallman and Felix Salazar, spoke to McDavid at their Carlsbad headquarters on September 8, 2016. Their conversation in a police interview room was recorded. The video shows McDavid sitting opposite the detectives at a small, plain table. He had his back to the walls in a corner of the room, next to a door. McDavid looked defensive or stubborn: he was leaning back with his arms crossed.
The cops did not tell McDavid they already believed he was the one who phoned Mulvihill and persuaded him to go to the dark location after 11 p.m. Even though the man who called Mulvihill used a “burner phone,” an inexpensive pre-paid cell phone, investigators were still able to connect the dots. Mulvihill survived the shooting and escaped with his cell phone, so cops were able to get information from both the survivor and his phone. And now they wanted to talk with Weldon McDavid.
A confident guy
Detective Stallman asked McDavid, “What I want to know is, can you give me where you were at last week? Thursday night? From eight in the evening until midnight?”
McDavid said, “No.” He did not seem intimidated. McDavid, then 49, was normally a confident guy. He had been a Marine for 12 years and had served two tours in battle grounds overseas.
The detectives repeatedly asked if they could look at his cell phone, but McDavid declined to hand it over. “You guys are trying to accuse me,” he pointed out correctly.
But Detective Salazar denied it, “No, no we’re not.”
McDavid was not fooled. “Dude, yes you are.”
Everyone in the room knew that 45-year-old Mulvihill had survived the single bullet that had entered under his armpit and passed out his back. That was seven days earlier, and police had not arrested anyone yet. McDavid did not know what evidence the cops might have, so he was listening carefully and gave short answers.
One detective asked, “Is it possible for your DNA to show up in the area of the shooting?”
McDavid replied, “I don’t even know what the area is.”
One detective left the room and came back with a map. McDavid was shown the area, a small hill between Rancho Santa Fe Road and Avenida Soledad, with a dirt walking path connecting the two roads. McDavid said,“I don’t know the area.”
McDavid lived in a different part of San Diego County, away from the shooting scene, so his assertion that he did not know “the area” was reasonable. The detectives knew where McDavid lived; in fact, other officers had served a warrant and were searching his home at the same time he was being questioned. Police were looking for the gun used to shoot Mulvihill.
Detective Salazar decided it was time to reveal some genuine evidence they did have. It was as important and it was disgusting.
“Have you ever taken a dump out there in the woods? Like, a shit? I’m being serious right now.”
Suddenly, McDavid seemed to realize he was in trouble. “I know what you’re talking about now,” he said, taken aback but still careful.
Detective Stallman responded, “You do?”
McDavid confirmed, “Yeah.”
“Okay, explain it,” the detective invited.
McDavid was thinking fast. “I was on a dirt road, just running along, then I did have to shit.”
Salazar encouraged him, “That explains it.”
Detective Stallman wanted to know, “Where did you start your run from?”
McDavid said, “I’m not even sure because I parked my Jeep and — ”
Detective Stallman interrupted, “You’re saying September first you went for a run back there?” He pointed at their map.
McDavid: “Yeah, that’s where, yeah, because I did take a shit there.” His mind was racing: “I was feeling really bad and I... It was a short run because I got lost. After I shit I went back to my Jeep. I’m not sure what street it was on.”
The policemen pointed to their map and tried to get McDavid to explain exactly how he got to the location. They asked him from which direction he entered the dirt area. But McDavid was unsure of the street names.
His confusion about the street names might have been genuine. In reality, McDavid got a ride to the shooting spot from someone who was familiar with the area — the woman who was married to the man who was about to get shot.
Attempted murder trial
More than a year after Carlsbad police interviewed McDavid, he did reveal details of exactly where he was that night during the shooting. In October 2017, McDavid went on trial for attempted murder and testified in his own defense.
He explained to the jury that he left his Jeep at a park-and-ride near the 5 freeway in Carlsbad the night of September 1, 2016.
And then he got into a car driven by Diana Lovejoy, Mulvihill’s estranged wife. The couple was in the middle of a bitter divorce. Lovejoy and Mulvihill both lived near the area of the shooting, separately. Their divorce fight had been going on for more than two years.
At first the divorce-court judgments had favored Lovejoy, but by late 2015 the decisions started going against her. They first separated in 2014, and Mulvihill was allowed to see their young son only a few hours each week, and only with professional supervision. But eventually Lovejoy was ordered to share 50/50 custody of their only child, and Mulvihill was no longer supervised. The latest financial judgments were the worst: now she was ordered to make monthly support payments to Mulvihill. And very soon she would be required to pay $120,000 as a financial settlement to finish their divorce. That money would come from the sale of a rental condo that Lovejoy owned. Escrow was due to close soon, and her payment to Mulvihill was due in only three weeks.
Lovejoy had started court action against Mulvihill in July 2014 and it was the end of 2015 when the court decisions began to go against her. Coincidentally, it was the end of 2015 when Lovejoy met McDavid, at his workplace.
The shooting instructor
McDavid said he was working at Iron Sights, an indoor shooting range in Oceanside, when he met Lovejoy in 2015. He worked as a salesman behind the counter. Lovejoy came into the facility and bought a handgun from a different salesman, according to McDavid. She started her shooting lessons with a married couple, the owners of Iron Sights, but Lovejoy soon began to take lessons from McDavid — private lessons, because his bosses did not want him giving shooting lessons.
It was in the fall of 2017 when both McDavid and Lovejoy went on trial. They were co-defendants, both charged with conspiracy and the attempted murder of Mulvihill. Lovejoy chose not to testify during trial.
The prosecutor told the jury that Lovejoy “told anyone who would listen” about her awful divorce during those bitter years. She told people in the grocery store, her coworkers, and relatives. This sharing apparently included awful claims she made about her husband.
When he was in the witness box, McDavid said he was told that Mulvihill was molesting his own son who was not yet two years old when Mulvihill and Lovejoy separated. And McDavid believed that Mulvihill was a drug user.
“I was told that a police report had been made and the police had not done anything about it,” McDavid testified. The prosecutor asked him where he got that information. “From Diana Lovejoy,” he replied.
Lovejoy must have found McDavid sympathetic to her problems. Understanding. Even helpful.
Two years before McDavid met Lovejoy, he had already helped a different Carlsbad woman who also made terrible claims against her husband. That prior conflict was also a high-profile court case, often seen on the news in San Diego County.
A woman named Crystal Harris accused her husband of raping her. She said she secretly made an audio tape while her husband sexually assaulted her, and that tape was played in court as evidence. (Her husband Shawn testified that they were role-playing during a sexual encounter; he said they often pretended wild scenes for sex play.) The jury did not convict the husband of rape, but they did find him guilty of one forced-sex-act; he was sent to prison. (Shawn Harris served his term and has been released. He now lives in California and is required to register, for life, as a sex offender.)
The Crystal Harris case remained in the news because of decisions in her divorce case. Crystal was required to pay $47,000 of her husband’s legal fees, plus $1000 per month in support. Crystal Harris made more than $100,000 per year and during their 12-year marriage her husband was the stay-at-home caregiver for their children. But Crystal Harris was outraged that she was ordered to financially support her ex-husband, even after his criminal conviction, and she was very public about it.
It became a high-profile campaign for a change in the law. During her appearances on television, Crystal sometimes expressed fear of her ex-husband. And she was seen with McDavid; he said he gave her self-defense advice, including shooting lessons. Crystal was shown on Dateline firing a handgun at a shooting range while McDavid looked over her shoulder.
The criminal conviction of Crystal’s husband was in 2011. In 2012, the district attorney for San Diego County publicly called for a new law to prevent alimony for any spouse convicted of a violent sexual assault against a spouse. (In addition to existing law that banned alimony for anyone convicted of attempting to murder a spouse.)
A new California law was signed in late 2012 that stipulated victims of spousal rape would not be forced to pay financial support to their attacker. In 2013, McDavid was interviewed for a television program about Crystal Harris. He listened to the audio tapes that had helped to convict the husband, and McDavid said to his interviewer, “It was just too much. I really wanted to go and kill him.”
McDavid was seen making this statement on Dateline in 2013. In July 2014, Lovejoy began court actions against her husband. In her first filing, she claimed her husband had sexually touched her while she was asleep — and therefore without her permission, and therefore it was sexual abuse. She requested a restraining order against Mulvihill and got a court to order him forcibly removed from their family home; when he opened his front door he was ordered out of the house by armed deputies.
Lovejoy earned a higher salary than her husband. Mulvihill did support his family during the seven-year marriage, but when they separated he had been unemployed for four months. He was the stay-at-home caregiver for their one-year-old son when their divorce case began.
“It is not a coincidence,” said prosecutor Jodi Breton, “that Lovejoy claimed she was sexually assaulted by Mulvihill, and then ends up in a conspiracy to commit murder of her own ex-husband with the one man in San Diego County who was on national television saying that he wanted to kill the husband of another woman who had been sexually assaulted by her husband.”
Breton’s point was never made to the jury in McDavid and Lovejoy’s conspiracy trial. Defense attorneys for McDavid and Lovejoy successfully suppressed evidence about the Crystal Harris case.
McDavid as handyman
When he testified, McDavid said Lovejoy told him her husband had sexually abused her and their son. Lovejoy also claimed she was afraid of Mulvihill, and she suspected he was coming around her home at night. According to McDavid, this was why he went to Lovejoy’s home in Carlsbad and installed motion-detector lights and cameras for her. McDavid said he did this for Lovejoy in July 2016, less than two months before Mulvihill was shot.
Coincidentally, late June and July was also the time period in which McDavid said he had a sexual relationship with Lovejoy. According to his testimony, they had a total of three intimate encounters over a two-week period.
During his trial, McDavid admitted he was the one who phoned Mulvihill the night of September 1, 2016. He said he wanted to gather proof that Mulvihill was sexually abusing his son; McDavid’s plan was to get something Lovejoy could use in court to get exclusive custody of their child.
Phone records show that McDavid phoned Mulvihill three times that night: at 10:40, 10:44, and 10:53 p.m. McDavid identified himself as a “private investigator” who had “proof” that Mulvihill was abusing his son. He offered to let Mulvihill see some of this “proof” for free — later Mulvihill would be required to pay to get all the proof. A fake blackmail scheme. McDavid told the jury he actually had no “proof,” and that he wanted to get video of Mulvihill coming to the remote location at night — McDavid believed this action would look so incriminating that it would become the actual evidence of Mulvihill’s guilt. This convoluted plan befuddled some court-watchers. “Originally I planned on getting video of him coming up and picking up the information, then I would later sell him a thumb-drive of him, as evidence,” was how McDavid explained it from the witness box.
McDavid said he intended to use his cell phone to capture the incriminating video of Mulvihill. However, McDavid admitted that when Mulvihill actually showed up that night, he made no moves to record anything with his cell phone. It was too dark. Or it was too far. Or something. McDavid’s testimony was confusing and fuzzy.
The skeptical prosecutor pointed out that McDavid did not bring a camera, but he did bring a loaded weapon that had a “suppressor” or silencer attached. And there was a “brass catcher” on his rifle, to catch spent ammunition casings as they were expelled from his weapon. McDavid wore a camouflage shirt, he hid in the bushes, and laid down with his weapon in a sniper position.
On his third phone call that night, when he was pretending to be a private investigator, McDavid told Mulvihill to go to an electrical pole to pick up a sample of the “proof.” This landmark power pole was visible from Mulvihill’s nearby apartment. When Mulvihill got to the designated spot, he did not see any packet of information, but instead at the base of the power pole there was a towel with a cartoon character on it. The towel was carefully folded so Mulvihill was sure to recognize it as his son’s favorite beach towel.
When he testified, Mulvihill said he had spent so many thousands of dollars during his divorce, paying for attorneys and court-ordered tests and supervised visitations, that he could not resist going to see what this supposed evidence might be. The end of the excruciating divorce was so near, he couldn’t bear it being delayed again. Mulvihill said when he got to the location, he stood with a bright light in one hand; after he saw his son’s towel on the ground he noticed movement farther down the dirt path. Mulvihill said he called out, “Hello? Hello?” At the same moment, he realized he was looking at a camouflaged arm holding a rifle. He turned to run, he heard the rifle shot, and felt the bullet leaving his back. Mulvihill was able to run back to his car and drive a short distance away. His passenger dialed 911 before Mulvihill passed out. A transcript states that call began at 11:13 p.m.
The prosecutor submitted cell-tower records that suggested that McDavid phoned Lovejoy after the shooting at 11:17 p.m.; that call did not connect, so he redialed at 11:18 and that call connected and lasted about eight minutes.
You do a lot for Lovejoy
It was a week after Mulvihill was shot, on September 8, 2016, when police brought McDavid to their headquarters to explain how his DNA got on a towel they found at the shooting location. Besides the beach towel, they collected a different towel, in the bushes where the shooter had been hiding. This other towel had been used in lieu of toilet paper.
McDavid confirmed that he used one towel to clean himself.
Detective Salazar asked, “What kind of towel was it?”
“I don’t know,” McDavid answered. “It was a towel.”
Salazar persisted, “Where’d you get the towel?” The detectives had a good idea where he got the towels: they had checked with Mulvihill and he recognized both towels. The towels had come from what had been the family home in Carlsbad.
“It was there,” McDavid reluctantly admitted. “Yeah, there were two towels there.” Everyone in the interview room already knew this. The cops hoped McDavid would start giving up new information.
Salazar demanded, “Are you sure? Now you’re running and then there’s two towels there for you so you can take a shit?”
McDavid started to explain, “No, not for me. One of them was — ”
“Are you sure,” Salazar interrupted, “you didn’t get it from anywhere else?”
Everyone in the room knew where the towels came from. But McDavid maintained, “I didn’t get it from anywhere else. I saw the towels there. I was kind of worried that it was contaminated or something, but I had to shit. I was about to shit myself, so I grabbed one of the towels and I went back off the dirt path down where I couldn’t be seen. I let loose.”
The policemen then asked McDavid if he smoked, if he might have left any cigarette butts in the area. But smoking is not one of McDavid’s vices. So they went back to the messy-towel topic.
Salazar: “How much of a coincidence do you think it would be, knowing that the area that you took a shit is the area that Mulvihill was shot in? You know what I mean? This is why we’re talking right now.”
McDavid asked, “He was shot in that area?” But he knew, and they knew that he knew. They wanted him to start talking about Lovejoy.
Salazar pressed, “How is that possible? You see where we’re going now? It seems like it’s a big coincidence now, right? You do a lot for Lovejoy, this is your time now.”
McDavid immediately responded, “I wouldn’t do that.”
Detective Salazar prompted McDavid again, “This is your time.”
McDavid: “I told her, though, that I took a shit.”
Salazar encouraged, “Okay.”
Detective Stallman asked, “Why would you tell her that?”
McDavid ignored him. Instead, he looked at the map and pointed to a section. He just needed to explain his late-night run on that dirt path. “I was, I think, here. Okay. This way up, this is the first street, right? I turned here and up. I don’t know how far. There was a dirt road. It was the first dirt road.”
The detectives wanted more. “There’s a big-ass power pole,” Stallman offered. “You don’t remember seeing a big old power pole?”
“Oh, yeah, because it was buzzing,” McDavid said. “This is the power pole?” They all knew the significance of the power pole.
McDavid pointed on the map. “I took a shit back here. It was away from the power pole. I went past it because it was still pretty bright right there. Pretty lit up. I went past, where I couldn’t be seen from there or there, and took a shit. In the bushes, I got off the road just in case anybody else was out there, because I had seen some people earlier.”
“Where did you find the towel?” Stallman asked.
“In the lit-up area. In this part somewhere,” McDavid moved his finger on the map.
“Just laying out here?” Stallman asked.
“I have a feeling I’m being set up,” McDavid said.
“By whom?” Salazar asked. Maybe this was the moment McDavid would open up about Lovejoy.
“In fact, I know I’m being set up.” McDavid was still hoping for an escape path.
“Who is setting you up?” Stallman asked.
“I’m so fucking stupid,” said McDavid, and he put both elbows on the table and held his head in his hands.
“What’s up, Weldon? Let us know, what are you thinking?” Detective Salazar asked.
“I think I’m a fucking idiot.” McDavid knew he was in a bad spot, but he was still thinking. He tossed out one idea. “Why would somebody pay you to drop some towels somewhere?”
The cops immediately wanted to know who paid McDavid to drop some towels? How much did he get paid to drop those towels?
“I think I need a lawyer.” Soon McDavid would stop the interview completely. But not quite yet.
The detectives made one more try, “Who was it who gave you the money and gave you the towels? And made you nervous enough to take a shit?”
“I wasn’t nervous,” McDavid said. “I was supposed to drop the towels off but I had to take a shit so I used one. Dropped the other one where I was supposed to.”
It was important to McDavid to correct the officer who thought he was nervous.
I don’t get nervous
When McDavid spoke from the witness box during his trial, he was pleased to describe himself as an expert marksman. Some of his statements included:
“I don’t get nervous shooting.”
“The AR platform is an extension of my body.”
“A man-sized target at anything under a hundred yards is easy, all day long.”
“The only way I would miss a shot, it would be due to an F 5 tornado coming down.” He claimed that the night he lured Mulvihill onto the dirt path, “I didn’t intend to use a gun at all.” Then why did he bring a weapon? McDavid said, “Simple answer, to be prepared, in case he did bring a gun.” McDavid said he assembled his custom gun from upper and lower parts he had. He had a scope and a silencer, and he put the completed weapon inside a long-rifle bag. He said when he transferred this big rifle bag from his Jeep into Lovejoy’s car at the park-and-ride, he told her, “Well, just in case.” McDavid denied that he ever told Lovejoy he intended to shoot Mulvihill.
McDavid claimed that after Mulvihill said “Hello” that Mulvihill then said, “I’ve got a gun.” McDavid told the jury, “I was afraid when he said ‘I have a gun’ that he was going to start shooting.”
McDavid said, “At that distance, I figured that most shooters would not be able to engage me, so I chose to shoot the light, to actually shift it back to me having a tactical advantage.” He proudly informed the courtroom, “In the Marines we say we own the night.”
Perhaps his most ill-advised defense tactic was insisting that he was too good to miss a kill shot. McDavid said if he had wanted to kill Mulvihill, he would be dead. “The shot that I missed was the flashlight; I did not miss a man-sized target.”
It was confusing to hear the defendant explain that he was too good a shot to miss Mulvihill but admit that he did miss one shot — at the flashlight. That one bullet did not strike Mulvihill’s flashlight but instead entered Mulvihill’s body under his armpit. The prosecutor asserted that McDavid was aiming at the center of Mulvihill’s torso, but the target turned to run away as McDavid squeezed the trigger.
The jury deliberated less than a day before declaring both McDavid and Lovejoy guilty of conspiracy and attempted murder. In January 2018, a judge sentenced Lovejoy to 26 years to life and McDavid got 50 years to life because he fired the shot that caused great bodily injury.