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"Everybody has skeletons in their closets," says Mark. "But I was amazed to find nothing in [David's apartment] that seemed on the seedy side...absolutely no signs of drug usage, no alcohol in the house, nothing like that. I've been around that enough to be able to recognize it. He didn't smoke, he only drank very, very little. That's unique. If somebody dug through all my junk, I'd be embarrassed about a few of the things."

But Mark Stevens says the police told him they had impounded the sheets from David's bed, a glass or mug with lipstick on it from the night stand, "and one long black hair. They asked if we knew anybody that had long black hair. Presumably that was [found] in the sheets."

Stevens says that Carl Withrow, while he was in Nebraska for David's funeral, seemed certain that the place cops should be looking was Dancers, a topless bar near Perfect Match's offices on Miramar Road. "He indicated he and David went there every other week or so -- and that the one girl that [David] knew there would [know] things. A female with long black hair who worked there... He thought that if he saw her he could get some information from her. Carl thinks that she knows something about who did it, or that she may have spent the night at [David's] place before."

Withrow doesn't go quite so far on the phone. "David and I have been [to Dancers] before," he confirms. "And there was a young lady over there that David liked."

Withrow says he did warn David about this particular girl. "I just didn't want him going over there and blowing his money. Those girls are pros at that. And David was very naïve. I just didn't want to see them take advantage of him."

Could David have brought the dancer back with him that night? "Yes, it's possible," says Withrow. "But whether that's the case or not I truly don't know. The only thing that I know is I talked to David from my home at about 9:30 that night, the 22nd -- I live right underneath him [in an apartment building on Turquoise Street in Pacific Beach]. We lived together, we worked together. I told him it was the holidays. David would work and work and work and work. He was a workaholic. He really didn't do much other than work and play computer games at his house.

"So I told him to get out of the office and start slowing things down and get ready for Christmas. He was supposed to come over and have Christmas dinner with us -- me and some other guys who live out here who have no family. I generally cook Christmas dinner for everyone when that happens. David was supposed to make the fudge. So he said, 'I'm going to shut everything down and get out of here.' And the next morning the [first] thing I knew was the police officers came knocking on my door."

  • The gold nugget ring, the Huskers watch, and the driving glasses: When police went to David Stevens's apartment on the morning of December 23, they found the watch and glasses on the coffee table and the ring hanging on David's bulletin board. Friends and relatives agree there is no way he would go anywhere without the ring on his right pinky, the Nebraska Huskers watch (he was a huge Huskers fan) on his left wrist, and his glasses, which he needed for driving. At least not voluntarily, or unless he was responding to some emergency.
  • The PI: It turns out David wasn't quite as unworldly as some friends picture him. Twelve years ago he went to apprentice as a private investigator under John Stevens (no relation) in Portland, Oregon. "He wanted to make a life change," says Stevens, still in the business. "He was a professional bodybuilder at the Athletic Club [in Portland], where I was a member. He approached me and said he wanted to start over his life. He knew that we did a lot of executive protection, bodyguard work as well as investigations. He literally stopped everything he was doing. I had some acreage out east of Portland, and he ended up putting a trailer on the property, and we went into training together for over a year. He interned under me. And we worked night and day together, getting him in shape to be an investigator. We traveled the country and did some pretty good cases together. I tell you what: I wouldn't want Dave on my tail if he thought I'd done something."

Stevens says David worked everything from kidnapping to narcotics to intelligence gathering. "He was a pretty good investigator. He liked change. Liked the rush of the chase. He was an adrenaline junkie. And sure, we [accumulated] enemies. Our enemy list would run from here to San Diego and probably back. A lot of our cases are narcotic-related, and they are more dangerous now. People get even, now, more than they did before. Dave had a real naïve side about him. Even though he would say to you, 'I don't trust this situation or this person,' he would want to. That naïveté would sometimes greatly hamper his ability to see the real danger."

Stevens speculates David might have been doing some freelance snooping in San Diego. "To me [his death] smells of assassination and cover-up."

David's friend Jeff Stout, a specialist in nutrition who went to college with David, says he feels responsible for sending his friend to California. It was Stout who found a telemarketing job for David at a La Jolla health-supplement company whose products he'd endorsed. But Stout later became so disenchanted with the company's products that he says he contacted distributors, informing them he was disassociating himself from the company. The result, Stout says, was to cut the company off from the retail health market and restrict its sales to telemarketing. At around the same time, late summer '98, the company asked David to leave the telemarketing division he'd built up and to sell in the field, a demotion, David felt. He quit with severance and took the lower-paying job with Perfect Match.

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