Robert Duston Strong and David Michael Knick, Presumed Killers of Sheriff's Sgt. Ira Essoe Jr., Must Be Freed

Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison has ruled that the presumed killers of an Orange County sheriff's sergeant must be released immediately.

Compelling legal twists led to Robison's ruling for Robert Duston Strong and David Michael Knick, the strongest being the lack of judicial support the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) received from the state's court of appeals and Supreme Court when it came to trying the presumed killers of Ira Essoe Jr. 

Robert Strong today
Robert Strong today

Essoe was investigating a car burglary in an Orange Mall parking lot in 1980 when he was shot and left paralyzed for life. Knick, of Yucca Valley, and Strong, of Riverside, were later convicted on attempted murder charges, sentenced to 16 years and 17 years in state prison respectively and paroled in the 1990s.

Shortly after Essoe died on Feb. 4, 2010, he was remembered as a fallen hero at a moving memorial service that included retired Sheriff Brad Gates delivering a eulogy.

The OCDA also didn't forget Essoe. Arguing that the cop had finally succumbed to his injuries from the shooting, prosecutors filed murder charges against Knick, now 54, and Strong, 55.

David Knick
David Knick

Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel ordered the pair to stand trial for murder after hearing evidence at a preliminary hearing in April. But, four months later, a state appeals court ruled they could not be tried for murdering Essoe, buying the defense argument that the penal code at the time of their attempted murder convictions only allowed them to stand trial for murder if the victim died within three years. Prosecutors had argued there is no statute of limitations for murder.

The state Supreme Court declined to review the case, and prosecutors announced Thursday they cannot proceed.

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