Gregory Elarms, alleged killer of David Lewis, could face death

Longtime friend Gregory Elarms is accused of murder, 'lying in wait' for the East Palo Alto community leader

Gregory Elarms, the longtime friend accused of murdering East Palo Alto community activist David Lewis, could face the death penalty, Steve Wagstaffe, incoming San Mateo County district attorney, said Tuesday.

Elarms, 58, was arrested Sunday by San Mateo police for the June 9 shooting death of Lewis in the parking garage at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo.

He is charged with two counts: murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, with special allegations (use of a firearm to commit the murder) and a special circumstance of murder by lying in wait.

Elarms could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty because of the lying-in-wait special circumstance, Wagstaffe said.

The decision to pursue the death penalty "will be made at a subsequent date as we learn more about the crime and the defendant," he said.

Police announced the arrest Monday after an intensive 6-month investigation that only led to Elarms in the past several days and at least in part came from the suspect himself, according to San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer.

Elarms has a criminal record stretching back to 1969, Manheimer said. He has two felony convictions: a 1983 burglary conviction in Santa Clara County and a conviction in San Mateo County in 1986 for possession of a controlled substance for sale, according to court records.

In recent years, he had cleaned up his life and ended his drug use, friends said. He was a friend of Lewis, dating back to their childhood in East Palo Alto.

Police allege Elarms spotted Lewis in the parking lot at San Mateo Medical Center, where Lewis worked, and followed him to Hillsdale mall, where he confronted Lewis in the parking garage.

Witnesses told police a verbal altercation took place, and Lewis was shot in the back as he walked away. He died after being transported to Stanford Hospital, Manheimer said.

Elarms' case was to be referred to the private-defender program and an attorney will be appointed for him, Wagstaffe said.

Manheimer said on Monday that police are continuing to investigate the case, but they are sure Elarms acted alone.

Noting the trauma to the East Palo Alto community, where Lewis was a popular and well-known figure, Manheimer on Monday thanked the East Palo Alto community and East Palo Alto police for their participation and many tips in trying to solve the crime.

"We hope this is the Christmas present the community and the family have all been hoping for," she said.

Elarms is due back in court in Redwood City on Jan. 4.

Related material:

David Lewis allegedly killed by longtime friend

Video from press conference

David Lewis: The impact of a singular man

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Like this comment
Posted by SuperDude
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Death sentence in California??? Get real. He will die of old age in prison before they juice him. Look to Texas for an example of how to administer swift justice.

2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

While it's a relief that the killer can be brought to justice, it seems a little off saying it's a "Christmas present the community and the family has been looking for." Finding a missing child, yes, that is a gift, a murderer coming forward who may face the death penalty, I dunno.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I agree this is not a Christmas present to the Lewis family.......why someone would make that statement is beyond me. There are now only more unanswered questions ... [portion removed by Palo Alto Online] What is the truth, the truth is what I want to hear. There are no winners in this tragedy, both families have lost, those of David's & Greg's.....

Like this comment
Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Dec 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

The following is a statement from San Mateo Police Department spokesman Sgt. Dave Norris, concerning any other persons implicated in the homicide of David Lewis:

"San Mateo police are confident that Gregory Elarms acted alone. Any other misperceptions out there are probably related to a follow-up investigation."

Like this comment
Posted by jaidyn gregory elarms
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm

i dont think a man like my grandfather greg elarms should deserve death penalty or life in prison. i think the police should really look into the case and stop thinking they found the murderer because they dont have enough evidence to accuse my grandfather. just because he turned himself in doesnt mean he did the crime.

Like this comment
Posted by CareBear
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

This is really sad, but I have hope in a re-trial with a conviction! Miranda vs Arizona. I have FAITH in Him!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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