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Suspect has criminal record

Ex-firefighter charged with mother's murder
by: contributed photo, David Francis Gaul

A 55-year-old man charged with killing his 90-year-old mother in Clark County, Wash., on Wednesday, Jan. 2, is a former Gresham resident with a lengthy police record, Gresham Police officials say.

Clark County Sheriff's deputies arrested David Francis Gaul around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at the home of his mother, Junette M. Gaul, on 17th Avenue in Hazel Dell near Vancouver, Wash. A decorated former Portland firefighter, Gaul was charged with first-degree murder after police found him lying next to a deceased Junette Gaul with his right arm wrapped around her head, according to a probable cause document issued by the sheriff's office.

On Friday, Jan. 4, the Clark County Medical Examiner's Office determined Junette Gaul's death was caused by 'blunt force trauma to the head and chest and strangulation.'

David Gaul was released from the Inverness Jail in Multnomah County on Thursday, Dec. 27. He had been incarcerated since March 25, 2007, when Gresham Police arrested him on driving under the influence of intoxicants-related charges. At that time, Gaul lived at 2010 S.E. Meadow Court, Gresham, confirmed Sgt. Claudio Grandjean, Gresham Police spokesman.

The March arrest topped off a series of police encounters going back to 1994. Gaul's records, which The Outlook is in the process of obtaining, contain victim reports, including an incident where police assistance was rendered, related to burglary and fraud.

'We have had many documented contacts with him,' Grandjean said. 'Most people don't have this many entries. Our most recent contact is March 25.'

When Gaul was released from Inverness on Dec. 27, his address was listed as his mother's house in Vancouver, according to Clark County Sheriff's officials. Kerrie McNally, David Gaul's niece and Junette Gaul's granddaughter, said family members wanted Gaul, whom she described as a longtime severe alcoholic, away from his mother. They arranged for him to live at a house in Rockaway Beach, but he declined the offer.

'He threatened the whole family,' McNally said in a phone interview. 'We were worried when he got out of jail. We wanted him away from her.'

'He blames everyone else for his problems. He didn't accept responsibility,' she said. 'We tried to encourage him to quit (drinking), but a person has to be committed to that decision.'

McNally said she warned her grandmother of David's increasing irrationality, but Junette Gaul refused to believe what she heard.

'Grandma never thought he would ever hurt her,' she said. 'I don't think any mother would believe their child would be able to do anything that horrible. I think she thought she could help him up until very recently.'

When Gaul became increasingly irate in claiming relatives, including his mother, stole money from him, Junette Gaul started keeping her distance, according to McNally and the probable cause statement. She was in the process of obtaining a restraining order against her son when she was killed.

'We had to go through (Clark County) District Court,' McNally said. 'We were supposed to bring it back to a judge' on Thursday, Jan. 3.

Before his apparent downward spiral, Gaul had an impressive career as a Portland firefighter. In 1992, he received the Portland Fire and Rescue Sliver Medal of Valor for working with two other firefighters to save two children trapped in a burning basement the previous year.

McNally remembers her uncle's positive years.

'(David) was a good man, a good guy,' she said. 'I have no question in my mind that alcohol abuse led to this whole thing. I know what that can do. Before, he was actually a very funny, fun guy to be around. That was just too long ago.'

McNally describes her grandmother as a gentle, beloved individual.

'Everybody loved her. I don't think she had an enemy in the world,' she said. 'I don't know if I ever heard her raise her voice.

'This is an incredible tragedy. I don't know how else to put it. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and this is not going to be real anymore.'

Gaul is being held on $750,000 bail.