Night of 2 Slayings Recalled at Lucas Hearing

Times Staff Writer

Something was wrong when Michael Jacobs came home from work on the evening of May 4, 1979.

A dinette that had been ordered from Sears was on the front porch. The swinging doors to the kitchen, always open, were closed. There was no sign of his wife, Suzanne, or their 3-year-old son, Colin.

“I called out my wife’s name, Suzy. No answer,” Jacobs recalled, his tone somber.

Moments later, Jacobs discovered his son’s body in the hallway. Stunned, Jacobs walked out of the house to ask neighbors for help. Soon, his wife’s body was found inside a bedroom.


Michael Jacobs relived, in a Municipal Court hearing Monday, the day that his wife, Suzanne Camille Jacobs, and their son, Colin Michael, were slain. The hearing was to determine whether David Allen Lucas should stand trial for three more slayings.

“I just sat down on my front lawn,” Jacobs recalled. “That’s all I remember that day.”

Lucas, a one-time Spring Valley carpet cleaner with a record of assault and marijuana smuggling, is already scheduled to be tried in the October, 1984, killings in Lakeside of Rhonda Strang, 24, and 3-year-old Amber Fisher, whom Strang was baby-sitting. He will be tried at the same time in the November, 1984, slaying of Anne Catherine Swanke, 22, a University of San Diego honor student, and the attempted slaying of Jody Santiago, 30, in June, 1984.

Prosecutors are now trying to prove that Lucas also committed the 1979 slayings of Suzanne and Colin Jacobs, and in 1981 killed real estate saleswoman Gayle Robert Garcia.


In all six slayings for which Lucas is charged, the victim’s throat was cut with such force that the head was nearly decapitated, prosecutors have said. Santiago, who survived a knifing to her throat, identified Lucas as her attacker in an earlier hearing.

After several years’ delay, the San Diego County district attorney’s office may have a tougher time pinning the Jacobs and Garcia slayings on Lucas. Prosecutors must undo the damage done when they charged Johnny Massingale, a drifter from Kentucky, with the two Jacobs slayings, only to admit they erred and then charged Lucas instead.

“We have a chap named Massingale who confessed to these crimes on three different occasions,” said William Saunders, Lucas’ defense counsel for the Jacobs and Garcia slayings.

Massingale, who spent 10 months in County Jail awaiting trial in the Jacobs case, was arrested largely on the statements of two people who said that he boasted, in precise detail, about murdering a woman named “Sue Ann” and her son in a town east of San Diego.


In two tape-recorded interrogations, Massingale admitted guilt. Massingale’s lawyers, pointing out that Massingale is illiterate and has an IQ in the 60s, claim that the confession was coerced. Massingale later recanted his statements.

Last fall, Massingale’s attorneys alerted detectives to the possibility of similarities between the Jacobs killings and the slayings of Strang and Fisher. After Lucas was charged in the Strang, Fisher and Swanke slayings, detectives took a closer look at Lucas as a suspect in the Jacobs case.

Evidence found at the scene pointed to Lucas. For example, prosecutors are expected to present testimony showing that a piece of paper found at the scene bearing the words “Love Insurance” and a phone number match Lucas’ handwriting. Moreover, Lucas obtained auto coverage from Love Insurance a few months after the killings.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Massingale, who has since filed suit against the city and county. A short time later, they charged Lucas. Lucas has denied taking part in any of the crimes for which he is accused.


Ironically, the attempt to prosecute Massingale now poses the major problem in the prosecution of Lucas. Saunders says his defense of Lucas will focus on Massingale’s statements. He has subpoenaed Massingale to testify.

“We will fully explore the meaning of Mr. Massingale’s confessions,” Saunders said. “The questions about Massingale give them quite a problem. It really affects their case, and will really have an effect on a jury if we go to trial.”

Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Williams declined to discuss in detail the evidence linking Lucas to the Garcia slaying. He said the nature of the six slayings, and the attack on Santiago, are in “a very distinct category” in pathology annals of San Diego County.