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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Decades-Old Murder Rap Ends Tribal Chair’s Run

KLAMATH, Calif. (CN) - Yurok Tribal Chair James Dunlap resigned this past week after news of his decades-old conviction for murdering his infant daughter resurfaced via social media, Northern California news outlets reported.

According to a September 1988 San Jose Mercury News story, San Mateo police took Dunlap to a psychiatric hospital after he stabbed his three-month-old daughter Brittaney to death with a buck knife. Police suspected he was high on methamphetamine, the paper said.

A jury convicted Dunlap of second-degree murder and found him legally insane in 1990, the Humboldt County news magazine North Coast Journal reported on its website. He spent three years in Atascadero State Hospital before being released to outpatient status, and was found "restored to sanity" in 1995, the magazine said.

Social media chatter about the murder emerged on March 15, according to the magazine, and the tribe announced Dunlap's resignation later that day.

In an interview with the Lost Coast Outpost on March 17, Dunlap said he had disclosed the incident to the tribe when he ran for office but had omitted "the gory details." The Tribal Council learned those details anyway, and promptly asked for his resignation, Dunlap said.

The tribe said in a statement that Thomas O'Rourke Sr. had been sworn in as tribal chair the day after Dunlap resigned.

The Yurok Tribe did not respond to emails requesting comment.

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