Mystery of SFPD vice cop's killing in Walnut Creek 30 years ago remains unsolved

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
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It was 30 years ago Tuesday that a murder that shocked the San Francisco Police Department.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It was 30 years ago Tuesday that a murder that shocked the San Francisco Police Department.

July 10, 1988, San Francisco vice cop Lester Garnier was shot to death execution style in his Corvette.

Garnier was having Sunday night dinner with his parents at their Concord home. His father later told police his son left abruptly after receiving two phone calls - at least one of them from a woman.

Garnier was shot at close range while sitting in his car at a Walnut Creek parking lot.

"Some witnesses there heard the noise and looked out and saw at least one and possibly two women leaving the parking lot," Former SFPD Chief Frank Jordan said.

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Walnut Creek police took over the investigation.

They believed Garnier had been set up and killed by someone he trusted - perhaps a rogue cop - someone who worked with him in the Vice unit.

One reason for the theory is that Garnier was shot with an AMT-380, a backup gun which some officers carried.

A dozen San Francisco officers came under scrutiny, but ballistics tests on their guns were negative.

Still, the theory continued for decades, creating bad blood between the two police departments.

The investigation was going nowhere.

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"We don't have a motive. We have no murder weapon," said Walnut Creek Police Lt. Tim Schultz in a news conference in the early 2000's.

In 2008 there was a possible break in the case when investigators, using new technology, were able to identify a fingerprint on the Corvette which they had kept as evidence from the original crime scene.

The fingerprint belonged to a Catherine Kuntz, who was already in custody in Florida on an unrelated attempted drug charge.

Kuntz was born in Scotland.

She had an arrest record for drugs and was acquited of another murder 17 years before.

She also lived in the East Bay during the late 1980's when officer Garnier was killed.

Walnut Creek police were confident she was at the homicide scene and that she was involved. They called her a suspect.

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But in 2009, Kuntz was released from the Florida prison after serving her one year term for cocaine possession and was deported back to her native Scotland.

She was never charged in Garnier's murder.

Meantime, other evidence investigators said suggested that at least two other women may have been involved.

But they said Kuntz was still their only suspect.

The City and County of San Francisco offered a $250,000 reward.