A San Francisco vice cop is found murdered in his car and witnesses report seeing him with two women just before his death.

Composite of a woman seen in the parking lot
Gender: Female 
DOB: Approx 1961
Height: 5’6”
Weight: 110 lbs.
Hair: Blonde
Remarks: The mayor’s office in San Francisco is offering $250,000 reward

Vice cop Lester Garnier was murdered
Walnut Creek, California, is an affluent suburb of San Francisco. On the morning of July 11 th , 1988, a shopping center groundskeeper noticed a Corvette sitting alone in the parking lot. A man seemed to be napping behind the wheel. But the man wasn’t asleep, he was dead.
The victim was identified as Lester Garnier, an undercover vice officer with the San Francisco Police Department, who lived in nearby Concord.   Detective Jerry Whiting of the Walnut Creek Police Department:
“The cause of death was determined to be two bullet wounds. This was an extremely cold-blooded, deliberate killing. The sort of person that would do something like this is extremely dangerous. There was very little evidence left at the crime scene that would give us much help in identifying the criminal. We’ve been unable to find any motive at all for the killing of Les Garnier.”
If he was off duty, Lester was usually behind the wheel of his prized 1984 Corvette. He enjoyed the good life, but was also devoted to his parents. Jean Garnier is Lester’s mother:
“Lester was a wonderful son. He always was there for us. He gave us security, knowing that if anything happens, he’s always there for us.”

A witness saw 2 women in the parking lot
Those who knew him said Lester had a reputation as a ladies man. His natural charm with women also came in handy on the job. His beat was San Francisco’s Mission District, the neighborhood he was born and raised in and an area with its share of streetwalkers. According to Detective George R. Willis of the Walnut Creek Police Department, Lester often duped prostitutes by posing as a customer:
“We found that he had made numerous arrests for prostitution. We certainly examined that aspect of his life and we weren’t able to find any connection with our case. We interviewed several of the prostitutes that Lester had arrested and found that many of them spoke highly of him, even though he had arrested them.”
Before his murder, one of Lester’s final assignments was to stake out a San Francisco brothel said to be patronized by civic leaders and police officers. After it was raided, Roger Boas, a local mayoral candidate, pleaded guilty to charges of having sex there with underage prostitutes. Several police officers were also investigated, but only one was charged and later fired. Rumors circulated that corrupt members of the police force had Lester murdered in retaliation for his work in busting the ring. According to Det. Whiting, that theory was investigated:
“We did address those issues, but we found no connection at all between Mr. Garnier’s death and the Roger Boas case, or any other case, for that matter.”
On the evening of his death, Lester left his home to meet a friend for a movie in San Francisco. Less than 20 minutes later, according to Det. Whiting, he called from his car with a message:
“During this conversation, he cancelled a meeting with his friend saying it was getting late.   After that, we don’t know what happened to him until his vehicle showed up in the parking lot shortly before 11:30 P.M.. That time period is very critical.”
Det. George Willis:
“As a portion of our investigation, naturally, we searched for witnesses and we discovered that there was a carpet layer working in one of the stores late that evening.   As he went out to his truck, he heard what sounded to him like firecrackers. It was around the Fourth of July, so he discounted those sounds as firecrackers. Shortly after, he looked up and saw two women walking across the parking lot. The women entered two different vehicles and left.”
The witness described one of the women as being in her late 20s, about 5’6″ and said she weighed about 110 pounds. The other was described as being in her mid 30s, tall, with a slender build. Det. Whiting:
“We also located one witness who was actually driving through the lot. As he drove past the Corvette, he saw a woman open the passenger door and exit the vehicle. He saw her walk around the vehicle and appear to look in the driver’s side of the Corvette. It’s possible that these were just two separate sightings, not associated with each other.   However, it’s also possible that they are somehow related.”
Under hypnosis, the second witness helped police create a composite drawing of the blond-haired woman. Her appearance was similar to the other eyewitness description.
Det. Whiting showed the composite to the carpet layer:
“He felt that this sketch closely resembled the shorter of the two women that he saw walking across the parking lot.”
There is one other clue suggesting this woman might be involved in the murder. Police used a fingerprint found in Lester’s car to identify the blonde-haired woman seen by the witness. She is a Scottish national who’s lived in the United States since 1985. Although she’s been named as a suspect, authorities don’t have enough evidence to file charges.
The mayor’s office in San Francisco is offering $250,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season one with Robert Stack and coming soon with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.


  1. Kat

  2. Anonymous

    In Shelby Township Michigan, there is an unsolved case similar to this.
    A man was shot and killed in his Corvette In a shopping center (Walmart) that was under construction.
    Perhaps there is a connection.
  3. JB

    Just watched this on amazon was very intrigued since it happened right in Walnut Creek where I live. It is odd they finally got a match on that woman’s fingerprints and still there was no other leads, or anything else to help solve the case. I think it is a fact that cop killers get some extra thorough attention from investigators… I wonder how much was turned up that could not be publicized due to his under cover activities or other reasons perhaps?
  4. Sharon

    It seems strange that after all the trouble the police went to find out who these women were…..As soon as they did it became a cold case. I hope they interrogated her to find out who the other woman was and why they were meeting with officer Garnier. It seems they would have investigated her to find out what she does and who she associated with to thoroughly validate her story and exhaust all angles to their theories of what happened to this young man. In fact they seem to think he sat alone in the parking lot after meeting with these women until someone else came along and shot him and then he was found the next morning. Does anyone from the area remember this story and know details about that part of the investigation……Why these women were not pursued more aggressively?
  5. Dave

    I suppose the police would like to talk to these women, right?

Martinez Police Department Sergeant Paul Starzyk

Martinez Police Department Sergeant Paul Starzyk

Dead Attorneys of Contra Costa County

Attorney John Nejedly


The 1988 Murder of Police Officer in the City of Walnut Creek

Police on Tuesday identified a Florida prison inmate as a suspect in the 1988 slaying of an off-duty San Francisco police vice officer who was shot to death in downtown Walnut Creek.
Catherine Kuntz, 44, was identified by a fingerprint left in a Chevrolet Corvette belonging to San Francisco police Officer Lester Garnier, whose body was found slumped behind the car’s steering wheel July 11, 1988, in a parking lot, said Walnut Creek police Lt. Tim Schultz, who oversees investigations.
Schultz said police identified the fingerprint in 2002, but that subsequent investigative work did not confirm Kuntz as a suspect until now. She has not been charged in the crime, but investigators would like to talk to anyone who might have known her at the time of the slaying.
San Francisco police have offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to charges and a prosecution in the Garnier case. Schultz declined to speak about a motive for the slaying, only saying that investigators were pursuing multiple theories.
A native of Scotland who speaks with a noticeable accent, Kuntz in the late 1980s lived in Martinez, Concord and Walnut Creek and was married to a Navy serviceman stationed in Concord. She also was known to frequent Oakland and was a user of crack cocaine.
Schultz said Kuntz had a minor arrest record in the Bay Area that included shoplifting in Contra Costa County. In 1991, she was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Norfolk, Va., but was acquitted of the charge.
Schultz said Kuntz was known to go by the surnames Overend and Wise, and the nickname “Scotty.”
Kuntz is in prison in Ocala, Fla., serving a term for cocaine possession, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Her release is scheduled for June 19.
Police have not determined the specific connection between Kuntz and Garnier. Schultz said it was unclear if Garnier, a member of the San Francisco police vice detail, had arrested her before. He did not say whether Garnier’s police work had any bearing on his death.
After Garnier was discovered dead from two shots from an AMT .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol, a witness told police that he heard bursts of gunfire and saw two women walk through the parking lot and drive away. A slender blond woman was seen inside Garnier’s car before he was shot.
Police believe that Kuntz may have been that woman.
“She was at the homicide scene and she is involved,” Schultz said.
Garnier, who was 30 at the time of his death, lived with his parents in a home he had bought in Concord.
The announcement of a suspect was a sign that investigators have backed off a controversial theory for the slaying, which implicated several San Francisco police officers in a purported cover-up. Adding to two decades of tension between the two police departments was the fact that Walnut Creek police spearheaded the investigation into Garnier’s death, to the dismay of some on the San Francisco force who felt their department should have played a larger role.
San Francisco police Deputy Chief David Shinn said the idea that members of his department were involved in Garnier’s death has lost its momentum.
“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that,” Shinn said.
In fact, the departments extended kudos to each other for closing a rift.
“It’s unbelievable, the support we received from San Francisco police,” Schultz said.
San Francisco police Assistant Chief James Lynch credited both forces for their perseverance.
“Thank you … for not giving up,” Lynch said. “It shows the dedication to end and put closure to this case.”
Reach Robert Salonga at 925-943-8013 or rsalonga@bayareanewsgroup.com.
Information request
Anyone with information about Catherine Kuntz is asked to call Walnut Creek police at 866-311-3922.


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