Man arrested for 1985 murder

Published 3:40 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019

A longtime fugitive has been taken into custody by law enforcement officials in Puerto Rico, according to a news release by U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa E.Rodríguez-Vélez.

David Anthony Pike, 56, is wanted for the alleged beating and shooting of Calvin Lee Irvin, 23, of Plant City, on June 21, 1985. Pike was last seen in Opelika when he was 24 years old.

Pike was arrested Thursday under the alias Stephen Williams Varner in San Juan, according to Rodriguez-Velez.

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The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said Pike made bond after his arrest in 1985 and has been eluding law enforcement ever since.

A criminal complaint was filed in San Juan, Puerto Rico by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin against an individual claiming to be Stephen Williams Varner.

The complaint charged him with willfully and knowingly making false statements in a passport renewal application.

According to the complaint, the same individual executed a passport renewal on Dec. 7 under the same alias.

Due to inconsistencies in the renewal form, the case was referred by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to the Diplomatic Security Service for investigation on Dec. 31. A death record was also found for Varner at 22 years old in Alabama.

The investigation by the security service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General confirmed the person impersonating Varner was Pike, who is a wanted fugitive on capital murder charges in Chambers County.

The news of Pike’s arrest envoked waves of emotion through Irvin’s family. Crystal Douglas, Irvin’s niece, said the feeling was still “unreal” even after hearing of the news Thursday afternoon.

“It is something that we had all but given up hope on ever seeing him arrested,” she said. “That call, and to see him in handcuffs was the greatest feeling.”

Douglas said the news of her uncle’s death in 1985 was very hard on everybody in her family.

“He was my grandmother’s baby boy and the day she lost him, she changed,” she said.

Douglas said the news also affected her aunts and uncles and her mother, but being able to share the information of Pike’s arrest with her mother Thursday helped ease some of the pain.

“Being able to tell her today (Thursday) that he was arrested was one of the most amazing things I have ever been able to do,” she said.

Although Douglas’s grandmother passed away about five years ago, she said the family made a promise never to stop looking for Pike. She said Major T.J. Wood of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office also made the commitment to the family.

Norman Ramirez-Seda, resident agent in charge of the DSS office in San Juan, said his office is working with U.S. Marshals Service and Chambers County authorities to have Pike extradited to Alabama.

Once Pike is brought back to the states and begins the criminal process, Douglas said her family will be involved in the process every step of the way. Even more so, she said she can’t wait to look Pike in the eyes.

“I will have my uncle’s picture and my grandmother’s picture, and he will see their faces on those photographs,” she said. “He will see my face, and he will see my mother’s face and he will see my aunt’s face.”

According to The Valley Times-News reporting on June 24, 1985, Irvin was found shot twice by a shotgun at about 10 a.m. near Old Phillips Road between Highway 50 and Chambers County Lake Road.

Then-Chambers County Coroner Dave Collier said the gauge of the shotgun was unknown and Irvin was found in just a T-shirt and blue jeans without identification or money.

He said this incident happened in his first term as coroner and there was never another case like it.

“Nothing compared to this one,” Collier said Thursday.

Howard Carlton, who worked for the sheriff’s office for about 30 years, was involved with the case more than 30 years ago.

“I was there at the scene, and I’m the one that had the investigator called,” he said. “If I’m not badly mistaken, I’m the one that took Mr. Pike to the clerk’s office the day his grandparents signed his bond, and he’d not really been seen since.”

Carlton wasn’t an investigator in 1985, but said this is a case that people still talk about in Chambers County. He said he has thought about the unsolved case several times throughout the years.

“I knew David for years before this happened, probably about eight to ten years before the murder actually happened, so things like that keep coming back in your head every once in a while.”

Rodríguez-Vélez said the teamwork between DSS and the federal law enforcement agencies led to the arrest of this dangerous fugitive.

“We commend the work and dedication of all the agents who turned this passport fraud investigation into the capture of someone who had been running from justice for over 30 years,” she said.

The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office will host a news conference at 10 a.m. Friday at the Chambers County Courthouse in LaFayette concerning the arrest.