San Diego Crimes

Like many people in San Diego these days, I’ve been thinking of injustice and waste. Of nightmares which stretch far beyond worst-case-scenarios.

Amber and Chelsea. Needless losses, awful beyond words. The circumstances of their murders terrify me as a parent and challenge my well-honed ACLU sensibility. If reforming the present sex offender registration system takes a witch hunt or two thousand, well, sign me up. I am that upset and disgusted. I’m not the only one.

I learned about Chelsea King at a Rancho Bernardo Starbucks the day after she went missing. She’d gone running near Lake Hodges. Again and again in news reports: “searching Lake Hodges.”

There are San Diegans for whom Lake Hodges does not mean picturesque, a place to kayak, walk around, bring lunch. These people knew a guy named Steve Foth. A sweet and funny musical fellow. Ten years ago his life ended at Lake Hodges.

I could describe the technicolor violence of his carjacking and murder, but I don’t want to. It is frankly too horrible. You can google his death just as easily as the creepily ironic lyrics to “Hitchhiker Joe,” the Rugburns hit he co-wrote with Steve Poltz.

Steve Foth was a good friend of M., the nifty smartypants I married 19 years ago today. When we lived in New York, Steve would visit, along with Dennis, his omnipresent companion in music, life and good-natured, even sunshine-y, debauchery. When we visited San Diego, we would see Steve in situ. The very early 90s. The Pink Panther, Kobey’s Swap Meet, Japanese restaurants with fluorescent lighting, the taco stand on University at 2AM — Steve Foth played expansive tour guide, his beautiful girlfriend Grace in tow.

Dennis and Steve came to New York for my wedding to M. I think they had the best time of anyone there, and that wedding was not devoid of merrymaking guests. Dennis and Steve were made for over-the-top big-time Beluga-Kobe tournedos-Viennese table New York Jewish weddings. The last time I saw Steve, he reminded me how much he loved that wedding. And dancing the Hora, too, he said. He loved that. M. and I had already split.

The first section of my first novel ends at a wedding similar to Steve’s own, at a friend’s vineyard in Temecula. I remember peacocks and a lovely, twangy “My Life” during the ceremony. Once night fell, people jumped into the pool. It was a chlorinated drunken frenzy. I was overdressed in a black silk cocktail dress.

Back then, I always overdressed. I wasn’t happy. I was younger, dumber, and full of fear. I appreciate most things a hell of a lot more now.

I was feeding my tiny kids in their high chairs, watching the local news, when a photo of guitar-playing Steve filled the screen. I heard his name, dropped the spoon.

Steve Foth, full of Chivas and Viennese table

9 responses to “San Diego Crimes”

  1. Mark Featherman Avatar
    Mark Featherman

    Really nice piece and remembrance. Thank you.

  2. Wow. I’m so sorry about your friend. And I know exactly what you mean about feeling torn between ACLU sensibility and wanting to ensure your own safety and the safety of your loved ones.

  3. how sad. i do remember him at the wedding and entering his name onto the guest list. how sad.

  4. I too remember Steve and what a wonderful time he had at the wedding. I also remember your telling me what had happened to him. Surreal…

  5. I think Chip had a good time at the wedding also…sunshine-y 🙂
    Thanks for the kind words about our old friend.

  6. I found your blog from searching Google regarding this case because one of my very best friends from when I was a child (Willard Hall) was part of this terrible crime.
    I’m still learning more information about this and I just found out from my Mother about Willie being in prison as she saw his grandpa in the grocery store and was asking about him.
    It just makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.
    Willie was raised by his grandparents in a tiny town in Oklahoma and they were good people. ,,
    I’m just so very sad for the loved ones of Steve’s.. just terrible.

  7. Is this the same Steve Foth that went to Vista High. I lost touch with him shortly after. We were two crazy-saxaphone-playing teenagers back then.

  8. Ciocc Campagnolo Avatar
    Ciocc Campagnolo

    I was friends with Steve in the1980s. My memories of Steve in his smart suit and tie, riding around on his red Vespa with rest of us, on our way to a dance club or a quest to find the best import MOD record from England, hasn’t escaped me. This is the Steve imprinted in my mind. So when I heard of Steve’s death more than a decade later, I could hardy grasp the scenario in which something like this could happen to such a kind, vibrant friend who I had known; not to mention the animalistic details of his kidnapping and killing. I still have many 80’s photos of Steve with friends which I hold dear. As I write this memory Steve’s killers are up for re-trial(Feb 16, 2019) for some bizarre reason. The amount of love I have seen for Steve on Facebook from people I knew in the past and those I never met has been heartwarming; though still, it does not mask the sickness I feel in Steve’s violent death. Peace, brother.

    1. I was a juror on the 2019 retrial. I only met Steve through his friends who came as witnesses but I was stuck by the way his friends spoke about him that he had to have been a very nice guy. I very much wanted to tell his friends and family how very sorry I was for their loss.

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“Grace to be born / And live as variously as possible.” Frank O’Hara


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