Crime & Public Safety

Sister of cold case victim ‘numb,’ surprised suspect ‘living under our noses’ for 36 years

Sheriff Tanner on arrest in 1980 shooting death, sexual assault in Beaufort

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner spoke on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, about the arrest made Wednesday in connection with the 1980 shooting death of David Krulewicz, 18, in Beaufort, and the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.
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Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner spoke on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, about the arrest made Wednesday in connection with the 1980 shooting death of David Krulewicz, 18, in Beaufort, and the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

It was the first time she’d made peanut brittle.

On a December day in 1979, Diane Larsen — then Diane Krulewicz — had just pulled the treat out of the oven to cool when her brother, David Krulewicz, arrived.

“He sat and ate the whole batch,” Larsen said Thursday afternoon. She sat on the screened-in porch of her Bluffton apartment, her long, gray hair matching the clouds working to give way to blue skies.

He told his sister that day that even though he’d just turned 18, he felt like he’d been around forever. He’d done everything he wanted to do, he said, gone everywhere he wanted to go.

“And in retrospect,” Larsen said, “that was his way of telling me goodbye.”

Just weeks later, her brother was taken from her.

David Krulewicz was shot to death inside a parked van just before midnight on Jan. 5, 1980, on a dirt path off Old Salem Point Road in Beaufort. With him was a 15-year-old girl, whom the gunman robbed and sexually assaulted. After the attack she fled and called the sheriff’s office.

Officers began working the case early the following morning.

The crime was investigated, but the case went cold.

It stayed that way for almost four decades.

A break in the case

On Wednesday, Isaiah Gadson Jr., 63, of Burton, was charged with murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and armed robbery in connection with the crime.

On Aug. 2, S.C. Law Enforcement Division DNA analysts found a match between the person who attacked the teenagers 36 years ago and Gadson, who had been arrested in June on an attempted murder charge.

When he was arrested in June, Gadson had to submit a DNA swab, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Investigator Capt. Bob Bromage said Thursday. Gadson’s DNA was sent to a database, and that led to the match. When asked Thursday if Gadson would have remained unknown to law enforcement — assuming he wasn’t recently arrested and his DNA collected — Bromage said, “That’s probably correct.”

Law enforcement “did everything they could possibly do” to solve the crime in 1980, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Thursday. There was no DNA science available to law enforcement at the time, he added. To his knowledge, it’s the longest running cold case the agency has ever worked.

On Aug. 2, DNA match in hand, Bromage and others began doing some background research on Gadson.

They found a case from 1983, when Gadson had sexually assaulted a woman and was charged with, according to Tanner, “criminal sexual assault in the first degree.” He ended up pleading guilty to “assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature,” according to Bromage.

The 1980 and 1983 crimes had “similar” characteristics, Bromage said.

When Gadson was arrested in 1983, he was driving a vehicle similar to one a witness described seeing near the 1980 crime scene. And, in the glove box of Gadson’s vehicle, there was a .32-caliber pistol.

It wasn’t a crime for Gadson to have the pistol in 1983, Tanner said, but the weapon was confiscated.

“And what we believe, and what we know based on the evidence, is that David Krulewicz was killed with a .32-caliber bullet,” the sheriff said Thursday.

After serving a year for his 1983 crime, according to Tanner, Gadson moved back to Beaufort County.

Until now, he was never a suspect in the murder and sexual assault near Old Salem Point Road, Bromage said.

‘Numb’

“I just didn’t think (Gadson) would be living under our noses the whole time,” Larsen said, explaining that she thought her brother’s killer would have likely moved away or died.

“Numb,” she said, when asked how she felt when Bromage called her Tuesday and told her there was — finally — a break in the case.

On the night her brother was murdered, she’d stayed up late watching a movie. She was sitting in the dark when law enforcement officers knocked on the door of her brother Danny’s trailer, next door. Danny left with the officers, and she soon learned he’d had to identify David’s body.

Larsen remembers David as a man who loved life. Their birthdays were just a few days apart in December, so they celebrated them together.

She would sometimes wear his clothes.

When he visited her in December of 1979, she didn’t know what to make of the conversation they had.

She just watched him eat all the peanut brittle.

And enjoy it.

Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston

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