HANFORD — Following a two-day court hearing, Superior Court Judge David Minier ordered Tuesday that the human remains of Debbie Hawk be returned to her family members for burial or cremation.
Debbie Hawk, 46, had disappeared from her Hanford home on June 13, 2006, and her body was found nearly 10 years later.
Debbie Hawk’s three children, who had returned from visiting their father, Dave Hawk, in Lemoore, found blood trails from their mother’s bedroom to the garage. Authorities found Debbie Hawk’s van abandoned in southwest Fresno two days later.
Dave Hawk was arrested for the killing in 2008. A Kings County jury convicted him in 2009 on charges of first-degree murder for financial gain, tax evasion, embezzlement, grand theft and perjury.
Prosecutors secured the conviction based on circumstantial evidence showing Dave Hawk killed his ex-wife to hide the theft of more than $300,000 from their children’s trust fund accounts.
The whereabouts of Debbie Hawk’s body remained a mystery until March 18, 2016, when her skeletal remains were found in a field near Stratford. Following the discovery, prosecutors and Dave Hawk’s attorney, Mark Coleman, agreed to preserve the remains for DNA testing.
On Feb. 22, The Kings County District Attorney filed a motion and request to return Debbie Hawk’s remains to her family.
DA’s officials said a hearing on that request began on March 8, with Kings County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Mark Lusk testifying to the location of the remains, collection methods, and condition of the remains and soil where they were located. Additional testimony was taken from the two farm employees who located the remains while excavating a field, officials said.
Assistant District Attorney Phil Esbenshade conducted the hearing, which continued on April 10, where California Department of Justice DNA Analyst Christopher Johnson testified to the DNA testing that was conducted on the remains.
Officials said Johnson testified that no DNA profiles were located on thirteen acrylic fingernail fragments that were found within the remains.
A press release from the DA’s office said Johnson further testified that he conducted DNA analysis on several teeth, and found only a degraded profile of Debbie Hawk. No profiles other than that of Debbie Hawk were found during analysis.
Officials said Johnson further detailed how the condition of the remains and the significant time period that they were exposed to the elements severely compromised any chance of a locating the DNA profile of a perpetrator. He also stated that DNA testing was complete, and that, in his opinion, no further DNA testing would be fruitful, officials said.
Following the hearing, the District Attorney’s officials argued for immediate return of Debbie Hawk’s remains to her family for burial or cremation. Minier granted the request and a court order was signed. No future court dates are scheduled.