Deadly days in Napa: Naked body in freezer is latest grim discovery

Deadly days in Napa: Naked body in freezer is latest grim discovery
Law enforcement officials stand outside a vineyard where two men were found shot to death, part of a deadly string of incidents in the Northern California city. (Christopher Chung / Associated Press)

The death of a 54-year-old man whose naked body was found in a freezer in Napa this week appears to have been a suicide, authorities said.

The discovery is the latest in a string of death investigations in the Northern California city, including an officer-involved shooting and a deadly dispute between a winemakers and an investor.


Napa police said they discovered the deceased man in the freezer while conducting a welfare check at the man's apartment about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Relatives said they had not seen or heard from the man since late February, said Lt. Debbie Peecook, a spokeswoman for the department. She said officers "suspect there were some mental health issues" with the man.

There was no sign of forced entry and no signs of a struggle, Peecook said. Officers noticed the door to the apartment was unlocked, which was not unusual for the man, she said. They found the man's body in a large horizontal freezer.

Police had conducted a welfare check for the man earlier this month and did not find him, Peecook said. The Police Department has not released the man's name, pending an autopsy, Peecook said.

Last Friday, a Napa police officer shot and killed a man who fled on a motorcycle as officers were trying to serve him a search warrant, Napa Police Chief Steve Potter said in a statement.

Officers had just arrived at the home of 41-year-old James Richard Jimenez to serve a search warrant for drugs and firearms when they suddenly saw him drive by on a motorcycle.

After a short pursuit, Jimenez lost control of his motorcycle in an intersection and, as officers approached, they yelled for him to show his hands, Potter said. Instead, police said he reached for a handgun and was shot three times by police.

He died at a hospital.

Police said Jimenez had an "extensive criminal history, which included several acts of violence, narcotic violations and gang affiliation.

On Monday, a loan dispute over $1.2 million turned deadly when a Napa Valley vintner gunned down an investor among the grapevines in his vineyard and later turned the gun on himself, authorities said.

Robert Dahl, owner of Dahl Vineyards in Yountville, and business investor Emad Ramsy Tawfilis, 48, of Los Gatos, were both found shot to death, according to the Napa County Sheriff's Office.

Dahl and Tawfilis had planned to meet Monday at Dahl's vineyard to discuss planned payments as part of a resolution over a longstanding loan dispute, Dahl's attorney Kuosha Berokim said.

After an assault in a winery building, Tawfilis ran through the vineyard with Dahl in pursuit in an SUV. Dahl fatally shot Tawfilis just as deputies arrived on the scene, sheriff's officials said.

Dahl fled in his vehicle but was later found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.


Also on Monday, Napa police found the corpses of a man and woman in their apartment living room.

Police said the man, Gene Meixel, 66, was found lying naked on the floor and appeared to have been dead for about one week. The woman, Sandra Peterson, 55, was seated in a chair fully clothed and appeared to have been dead for several weeks.

Police had not yet determined a cause of death and are awaiting an autopsy.

Peecook, who has been a Napa police officer for three decades, said the string of deaths is "very unusual" for the area.

"We have never had a couple of days like we've had in the 30 years I've been here," she said Wednesday.

In a Facebook statement to the normally quiet community, Chief Potter said that this week's incidents have "had an effect on all of us" and created stress for 911 dispatchers and members of the Police Department.

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