Nearing retirement, one Poulsbo detective is teaming up with federal analysts in hopes of solving a four-decades-old cold case before the time comes to hang up his holster.
For Poulsbo Police Detective David Shurick, finally closing the file on the 1977 murder of Donald Hellie is less about leaving the department on a victorious note than it is about providing some justice for a man who had nobody to fight for him.
Hellie was 47 years old when he met his brutal, untimely end. Hellie’s home had become a local hangout for Poulsbo’s youth, and despite the steady stream of teenagers going through the 6th Avenue home, neighbors of Hellie described a man who was pleasant, timid and often kept to himself.
“He never did anything wrong. He wasn’t a violent person,” Shurick said. “He was one of those guys that would give [you] the shirt off his back. That was his reputation back then.”
According to Shurick, Hellie’s home became known among teenagers as a place they could go to drink and party, away from the eyes of parents and authorities. Hellie often joined the teens in their exploits, drinking to excess and passing out in a stupor. Once he had passed out, Shurick explained, Hellie’s guests would sometimes seize the opportunity to steal money and other valuables from his home.
“It was kind of sad in a lot of ways,” Shurick said. “Don was trying to work on that alcohol problem. He was trying to get a grip on it.”
On Sept. 17, 1977, Hellie was found lying on his right side, on the living room floor of his Poulsbo home. Blood had been spilled all across the room, and it appeared that he had been bludgeoned and stabbed multiple times. An autopsy report later listed Hellie’s cause of death as a stab wound, which pierced his left lung.
“It was an extremely violent death,” Shurick said. “It’s up close and personal.”
A coroner’s report shortly after Hellie’s body was discovered found 21 superficial stab wounds to his head, chest and abdomen.
In the years since Hellie’s murder, the case has passed over the desks of several Poulsbo detectives. Now nearing his own retirement, Shurick is hoping to enlist the help of the FBI and other experts to heat up the cold case and bring closure to the 41-year-long mystery.
“There were 18 people of interest initially,” Shurick said. “Fifteen are still living.”
In re-examining the case, Shurick said, one of the persons of interest continued to rise to the surface, prompting the detective in 2017 to reach out to experts for a second opinion.
“Retired homicide detectives and crime analysts showed up at our doorstep to take a look at our case,” Shurick said. “They walked away with the same feeling about our suspect.”
Shurick explained that while he could not release details about the suspect for fear of jeopardizing the case, he could confirm that in February 2019, profilers with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit will be examining evidence from the case.
“They’re the ones who are going to be able to hopefully take a look at this and give us a good profile on this individual,” Shurick said before adding that the department will be submitting all of its physical evidence from the case to a private lab for testing, the results of which will then be sent off to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System. “If our suspect has any DNA on anything we have, we’re going to know about that.”
Shurick said that as he works to bolster the evidence against his prime suspect, Poulsbo residents need not fear for their safety.
“Our No. 1 person of interest is in prison currently. He’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. He’s not a danger to the public,” Shurick said. “My gut feeling is we’re on the right track. I need a little bit more to get it court-worthy … probably need one more piece of physical evidence.”
While he admitted it might be a long shot, Shurick asked for anyone with any knowledge of Hellie’s murder to reach out to him directly by calling 360-394-9783.
— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.