Death and the Dentist
It is a case with all the elements of a pulp novel: A killing, lurid sex stories, a kidnaping, a high-speed chase. At the center of it all is a Gardena dentist, accused of committing a murder in his own office. Now, the final chapter in this bizarre tale is being written in court--but the jury won’t be hearing all the details.
David Paschal had an unusual reason for visiting a dentist’s office on a Saturday night. He was lured there by the prospect of sex with the dentist’s receptionist, authorities say.
Paschal, 26, was never again seen alive.
Twelve days later, Paschal’s body was found in the trunk of a car parked at Los Angeles International Airport. He had been shot at least nine times.
Paschal was killed in the dentist’s Gardena office--by the dentist himself, if the prosecution is to be believed, or by one of the dentist’s receptionists, according to the defense.
Opening statements are scheduled for today in the retrial of Dr. Michael Myron Olson, who is accused of murdering Paschal to prevent him from testifying about the dentist’s role in a kidnaping case for which Olson, 44, was subsequently convicted. If found guilty of the murder charge, Olson could face the death penalty.
Elements of a Pulp Novel
The bizarre tale that ends with Paschal’s murder begins with Olson’s kinky sexual tastes, authorities say, and has all the elements of a pulp novel, complete with a kidnaping and a high-speed chase.
But very little of this story will be presented to the jury.
“I am put at a tremendous disadvantage in trying to prove (Olson’s) guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the original prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Nikola M. Mikulicich, told Torrance Superior Court Judge William R. Hollingsworth.
” . . . The first question logically in (jurors’) minds would be, ‘Why would a dentist do all this?’ ”
Defense attorney Leslie H. Abramson was able to persuade Hollingsworth during the first trial, which ended in a mistrial, that evidence about drug-dealing or about the “defendant’s sexual activities, proclivities or interest” would be “prejudicial.”
The judge also ruled that the jury could hear “just the bare facts of the kidnaping,” rather than the story of how the dentist masterminded it and supplied the guns that were used. His kidnaping conviction and seven-year sentence were also ruled inadmissible.
Hollingsworth declared a mistrial Jan. 10 when Abramson objected to testimony of one of the receptionists, who said she and Olson had sex shortly after Paschal’s murder.
” . . . Sex with a body lying in the next room! It’s . . . bound to show bad character or immorality or ghoulishness, or whatever, on the part of my client,” Abramson said.
It took police more than a year to link Paschal’s death to the dentist, a corpulent father of three with what Mikulicich described in court as a “sort of a Svengali influence over the women” who worked for him.
Olson’s former receptionists--Victoria Jew, 51, a Hong Kong-born former beautician, acupuncturist and interpreter, and Sue Okada, 38, an immigrant from Korea--became his chief accusers. Both women lived in the dental office at various times and testified that they followed Olson’s orders because they were afraid of him.
The defense will argue that Jew, who was given immunity in the murder case in exchange for her testimony, wanted Paschal dead to stop him from implicating her in the kidnaping. Abramson will try to show that the women’s stories are “wildly inconsistent and improbable,” as she put it at the first trial.
Both Abramson and the new prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. John A. Delavigne, declined to discuss the case.
But according to court documents, the complicated tale begins with the breakup of Olson’s three-year relationship with another employee--a woman he accused in a 1980 lawsuit of absconding with $5,000.
In a $4.5-million countersuit, the employee, Jeannette Wardrop, claimed that the dentist had sexually abused her.
On one occasion, Wardrop said, Olson tore off her clothing, tied her up on a door in his offices and “while using a videotape recording device, proceeded to shoot (her) several times with a pellet rifle, inflicting serious injuries.”
To put an end to the suit, “the doctor wanted Wardrop and her whole family killed,” Los Angeles Police Detective Robert Tapia wrote in an affidavit filed with the court.
Disappeared With $50,000
Olson asked a man named James Brandon to locate Wardrop, and to buy drugs for him, court records show. Instead, Brandon disappeared with $50,000 Olson had given him.
Enter David Paschal.
Paschal, an accountant who lived in Fullerton, was a friend of Andrew Garcia, a young man who was engaged to Jew’s daughter. The dentist hired Garcia and Paschal in November, 1980, to help him kidnap Brandon’s brother, Ronald, from his home in Northern California, according to Mariposa County Dist. Atty. J. Bruce Eckerson.
Olson hoped to smoke out James Brandon and get his money back, according to the prosecutor.
Ron Brandon was located and abducted at gunpoint, but the plan was foiled when a neighbor gave chase and ultimately reported the kidnaping to police.
Jew was arrested along with the others, but charges against her were dismissed at the preliminary hearing because “we had nothing on her to tie her to the kidnaping,” Eckerson said.
At their trial, which was held separately from Olson’s, Paschal and Garcia denied that a kidnaping had taken place, but they were convicted anyway on Nov. 10, 1981.
Garcia was sentenced first and got six years. Paschal decided to recant his trial testimony while awaiting sentencing, court records show.
The dentist learned of Paschal’s change of heart, the receptionists testified during Olson’s preliminary hearing.
Okada said the dentist told her, " . . . one of the boys (is going to) blow the whistle.” Jew said Olson warned her that Paschal was “going to put all of us in jail.”
On Dec. 5, 1981, Paschal told his sister that he had a “meeting with the doctor,” Ann Paschal Small testified.
That afternoon, Jew testified, the dentist told her to call Paschal and tell him that Okada was coming over. The younger woman “was used as bait,” according to Detective Tapia.
‘Tried to Rape Me’
Okada herself testified that when she arrived at the dental office that night, Olson, who had been her lover for several years, gave her “a relax pill,” helped her undress and covered her with a blanket.
Then, she said, “David came with Victoria and tried to rape me.” But Paschal never actually had sex with Okada, both women testified. Instead, he went into the dentist’s laboratory to talk to Olson while Jew and Okada remained in the room next door, they said.
Suddenly, Okada said, she heard “a few gunshots.” Jew said she heard a noise that sounded like chairs pounding the wall. When they went into the lab, Paschal’s blood-soaked body was lying on the floor, they said.
While Jew was sent to buy plastic bags to hold the body, Okada and Olson made love, with the body in the next room, the younger woman testified.
The women said they then helped Olson clean up the blood and put Paschal’s body in the trunk of his own car. A friend of Olson later testified that the dentist paid him $200 to drive the car to the airport and leave it there, without telling him why.
Divers Recovered Gun
The next day, Okada testified, she accompanied Olson to the Redondo Beach pier and watched him throw a .38-caliber pistol, which authorities said later was the murder weapon, into the ocean. Divers later recovered the gun.
The following April, Olson was convicted of kidnaping Brandon, but it was almost a year before police got a break in their investigation of Paschal’s death.
In March, 1983, Okada’s husband reported that his wife had not been home for two months.
According to a court affidavit, the husband feared that Olson “was possibly imprisoning her due to the fact that she knew about a murder.”
The tip led investigators to Olson, but it would be years more until they could get the murder case before a jury.