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Convicted murderer pleads not guilty to fatal 1978 stabbing in Laguna Beach

Convicted murderer pleads not guilty to fatal 1978 stabbing in Laguna Beach
Murder charges against Walter Lawrence Dalie were re-filed after he finished a prison sentence in Connecticut. (Los Angeles Times)

A 60-year-old convicted murderer pleaded not guilty Monday to fatally stabbing a man in Laguna Beach in 1978, officials said.

Prosecutors charged Walter Lawrence Dalie with one count of murder and two sentencing enhancements: that he carried out the crime during a robbery and that he used a knife, according to his criminal complaint.

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It’s the second time prosecutors have charged Dalie in the case. In 2011, he was charged with killing 55-year-old architect Brent Stapleton Tobey, but charges were dropped in 2015 after two witnesses died and prosecutors had to rework the case, the Orange County district attorney’s office said at the time.

At the time, Dalie was serving a prison sentence in Connecticut for another slaying. He was extradited to Orange County last week after finishing his sentence for killing his girlfriend in 1985.

Tobey, a prominent Laguna Beach architect, was stabbed in the back and head 17 times in his home on Nov. 20, 1978, authorities said. The case went unsolved for 33 years.

It wasn’t until 2002 that the Orange County Crime Lab found DNA from someone other than Tobey on his clothes. In 2010, they learned that it matched Dalie’s DNA.

Authorities said Dalie, at the time a 19-year-old Newport Beach resident working as a gardener in Laguna Beach, knew Tobey and was at his home the night of the killing with the intention of robbing him.

Dalie was raised in Orange County, attended Dana Hills High School and was a parolee who lived in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach in the 1970s and early ’80s, according to a 2011 news release.

After the charges were dismissed in 2015, prosecutors said more lab work would be key to refiling charges — including a hair sample found at the scene.

Tobey’s roommate discovered his body, according to police. The two had planned to have dinner that night to celebrate the conviction of Laguna Beach resident James Scramlin, who killed Tobey’s friend Albert Willard in the Temple Hills area of Laguna Beach in 1977.

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