Foster City police are sparing no resources in the investigation of the city’s first homicide in nearly six years.
The department has assigned five full-time investigators – its only three detectives plus two additional officers – to solve the killing of 71-year-old Klaus Gachter, whose body was found Friday afternoon in his home on the 600 block of Waterbury Lane.
In addition to the five-person investigative team, crime lab technicians continue to process evidence. Other resources from inside and outside the department are available too, police Capt. Jon Froomin, who is commanding the probe, told Patch.
“This is the most serious case we’ve handled in the last six years since the last homicide case,” Froomin said.
“This is the most serious case we will handle.”
Froomin acknowledged that the case itself presents inherent challenges, with no known witnesses to a killing that apparently occurred behind closed doors.
“This is not a street shooting, where you have hundreds of people who saw what happened who can give you information about the case,” Froomin said.
A case that would seem to be difficult for any department would seem to be even more challenging to a force that’s relatively inexperienced handling homicide investigations – the downside from Foster City residents’ standpoint of living in a city with one of the state’s lowest crime rates, where incidents such as this hardly ever happen.
Froomin said he wasn’t aware if any of his investigators has experience working a homicide case, but said emphatically that his department is up for the challenge, acknowledging that they’ll be working under a microscope as the probe continues.
“People are going to judge us, that’s the bottom line,” Froomin acknowledged.
“It’s a significant case and it’s not one that we handle on a regular basis, thank goodness, but I can tell you that I’ve specifically selected the people that are working on this case and we have resources that we can rely on inside and outside our agency to make sure that we do the best possible investigation of this case.”
Police remain tight-lipped about details of the case they say would compromise the investigation.
No suspects or persons of interest in the case have been identified.
“All I can say is we’re casting a wide net,” Froomin said.
Froomin deflected the notion that the investigation does not appear to be going well from an outsider’s standpoint.
“The investigation is moving along, but this is a different kind of investigation,” Froomin said. “These things don’t happen overnight.”
Notwithstanding pressures from the public and the media to move quickly, a thorough investigation is more important than a quick one, Froomin said, noting that assuming police solve the case, their work will be the basis of a prosecution defense lawyers will surely try to pick apart.
“We are doing our best to not just think about today,” he said.
Gachter’s killing is Foster City's first since January of 2006, when according to published reports, Brandon Hepponstall, a 50-year-old wheelchair-bound man was stabbed to death by a 41-year-old Redwood City man he refused to sell drugs to.
Timothy Singler, Hepponstall’s killer, shot himself to death shortly afterwards.
Gachter’s killing has left a tranquil Foster City community not accustomed to hearing about homicides occurring so close to home on edge.
Police have hinted in public statements that they believe Gachter was likely targeted by his killer or killers.
“This homicide does not appear to be a random act of violence,” Chief Craig Courtin said in a prepared statement on Saturday..
Froomin said he believes Foster City residents are no less safe now than they were a week ago.
“We would encourage citizens, as we do throughout the year, to practice good crime prevention and personal safety strategies,” Froomin said, referencing a press release issued Monday recommending that residents always keep doors and windows locked.
“Our message has not changed from before the recognition of this incident to now.”
Gachter’s killing has nevertheless frayed some nerves in the normally tranquil bayside community where incidents such as this aren’t supposed to happen.
A resolution to this case might alleviate some of those concerns.
Froomin, however, acknowledged that the outcome that Foster City residents and the victim’s family desperately want, might not happen.
“We have put specific people on this case, we’ve got resources available to help us as needed and we’re doing the best job we possibly can on this case, but that may or may not solve the case,” Froomin said.
“I can’t guarantee the case is going to be solved. We’d love to solve the case, that’s our goal, but you can’t guarantee that.”
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Foster City Police Department Detective Bureau at (650) 286-3300 or the police tip line at (650) 286-3323.