National City Police Sgt. David Bavencoff has protected and served National City for 16 years.
But it is his effort in helping to solve a Vermont cold case that has earned him National City’s Officer of the Year.
Bavencoff, 42, downplays the honor.
“It’s really not a big deal, because each agency in the county has their own officer of the year, so I’m only officer of the year for National City,” Bavencoff said.
Four years ago, Bavencoff was on a mission to solve the 1986 murder of Lisa Bell, a National City woman found dead in her car with a gunshot wound to the head.
While researching the Bell case, Bavencoff stumbled upon a sticky note with the name David Allan Morrison scribbled on it.
Morrison is currently incarcerated for the 1988 kidnappings and raping of two Chula Vista women at gunpoint in two separate incidents.
Bavencoff said in his research he noticed National City Police detectives at the time had spoken to Chula Vista detectives about Morrison but neither agency ever interviewed Morrison about the killing of Bell.
“Detectives apparently felt that Morrison may have been involved in Lisa Bell’s murder, but it didn’t look like they had ever talked to him,” Bavencoff said.
Continuing his investigation, Bavencoff said he saw a note that the Vermont Sate Police had an interest in Morrison too, for the murder of Sarah Hunter.
Once he saw the note, Bavencoff said he went on the Vermont Police’s website, which at the time listed all of the state’s cold cases; Hunter’s case was on the list.
Bavencoff got an interview with Morrison and he said since he was going to interview him about Bell, he might as well ask Morrison about the slaying of Hunter.
“I contacted their detective and said, ‘Hey I’m going to talk to David Morrison, send me your case. And if it’s OK with you while I’m talking to him, I’ll ask him about your case,’” Bavencoff said.
After the interview, Bavencoff ruled Morrison out as a suspect in the death of Bell. However, Bavencoff said, Morrison just about admitted to killing Hunter.
“I don’t think he had anything to do with Lisa Bell, but he made several incriminating statements regarding Sarah Hunter,” Bavencoff said.
When Bavencoff asked Morrison about Hunter, Bavencoff said Morrison told him: “You’re putting the final nail in my coffin here.”
Morrison added that he was going to deal with it when he felt it was right in his own mind and his own heart. He also told Bavencoff that he wasn’t going to take the death of Hunter to his grave.
Lastly, Bavencoff said Morrison told him that Vermont police could have had him arrested many years ago, but Vermont police dropped the ball on the case.
When Morrison made these statements, Vermont police re-interviewed him and issued an arrest warrant for Morrison in July 2012.
Currently, Morrison is waiting extradition to Vermont for the trial of the murder of Hunter.
Bell’s death remains a mystery.
This is the second time in Bavencoff’s 16 years at National City Police Department that he was named Officer of the Year.