By Carlos N. Olvera
Local history, in this column, has included people, events, buildings and stories—mostly positive. Death and murder is an unfortunate part of history but its presence shapes a community, just as the pleasant happenings of the past. Dana Point has had its share of such unfortunate events. Here are a few of the most headline-grabbing incidents in the city’s past, all of which have left an indelible mark in local history.
It was 1958 and the Seyfert family, enroute from Arizona in a converted yellow school bus, was traveling through Dana Point after visiting family in San Clemente. The father was taking his family to the “promised land.” The mother had left a note with her sister fearing for her and the children’s lives. After the family passed through the immigration checkpoint, the father urged his older son to keep his hand on his revolver. The sister, having heeded the alarm in Mrs. Seyfert’s note, notified police of the danger and the bus was stopped at Pacific Coast Highway and Blue Lantern. Mrs. Seyfert and a 4-year-old daughter broke free from the bus and made it safely past the two responding deputies just seconds before gunfire erupted. When Mr. Seyfert exited the bus with a revolver in hand and was instructed by the deputies to drop it. He did. However, his 14-year-old son ran out and started firing. The 10-year-old then came out and scooped up the dropped gun. The shootout left one deputy dead and one wounded. Mr. Seyfert and both sons also died. Apparently in the melee, the father had shot himself and his 10-year-old son.
A spree of violent rapes in the Sacramento area in the 1970s attributed to the East Area Rapist (EAR) was escalating as he moved south to Orange County, with at least 40 victims on the way. Murders in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties at the time were attributed to the Original Night Stalker (ONS). In August of 1980 the ONS struck in Niguel Shores, killing newlyweds Patrice and Keith Harrington. As the use of DNA technology advanced, the crimes were eventually linked. A case in 1979 in Goleta wasn’t linked to the Niguel Shores case until 2001. This DNA match created Proposition 69, passed in 2004, to help track serial killers. This 40-year-old cold case is still open and connections have still been made as late as 2013. The EAR/ONS attacks now are listed at 50. According to reports, the FBI has begun a new all-out effort to find him.
Another tragedy began to unravel in September 1987 and took 28 years to solve. Early one morning, walkers found the body of an unidentified young woman behind the Ocean Institute. It was presumed she had either jumped off the cliff or was pushed. Little evidence was found but a purse at the top of the cliff next to an empty Coke can with a map and phone number. The number was that of a cab company that reported she had taken a cab from Mission Viejo to the top of Cove Road at about 4 a.m. This story became the subject of a television episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.” After 25 years as a cold case, the Orange County Coroner put out a public plea for help with the identification of the “Dana Point Jane Doe.” Finally in early 2015, through pictures, friends from Whittier contacted authorities identifying the deceased as Holly Glynn. Glynn’s body had been cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.
In January 1988, a Dana Point woman collapsed and died. She was an 11-year trustee of the Capistrano Unified School District. Her name was Janet L. Overton. Four years after her death, a grand jury brought an indictment against her husband, Richard. Overton had been poisoned slowly over time with cyanide and selenium. Always maintaining his innocence, Richard Overton’s trial led to the discovery of a similar situation with a former wife in 1973. Dorothy Boyer, his first wife, accused him of attempting to poison her as well. It was also discovered that another woman he was married to at the same time he was married to Boyer, Caroline Draper, was convicted for the attempted murder of her third husband. Richard Overton was married four times. Evidently, divorce was not a solution back then. Richard Overton died in 2009 while serving a life sentence at Folsom. He was 81. The murder trial was the longest and costliest in OC history.
Also in 1988, a Dana Point resident (reportedly), Michael F. Goodwin, a former business partner of racing hero Mickey Thompson, was arrested on suspicion of murder of Thompson and his wife Trudy. Goodwin was arrested in 2001 and jailed in 2007. After two decades of investigation and numerous TV shows on the subject, nearly all considering him guilty, he has remained behind bars. Even after losing a 2015 appeal, the defense has not given up. Look for an upcoming book and TV miniseries.
In 1993, a killing in Dana Point added fodder to the phrase “going postal.” Over the previous seven years stories of postal workers going on shooting sprees across the United States dominated the news. Here, it was Mark Hilbun, a dismissed Dana Point Post Office employee who added to the horror. Hours after a post office shooting was reported in Michigan, Hilbun first killed his mother and her dog by stabbing them. Then at the post office he shot and killed mail carrier Charles Barbagallo, shooting him once between the eyes, and wounding several others. Hilbun had worked at the post office for four years. A painting of “Charlie” Barbagallo—my former mailman—hung on the wall at the post office serves as reminder. Hilbun was convicted in 1996. Twelve Dana Point postal employees left after the rampage and the Postmaster never returned to work.
Carlos N. Olvera is chairman of the OC Historical Commission and a Dana Point city councilman.