California Styles of the Artist and Educator
Musselman and the Night Visitor:
A California Highway Patrol Commendation.
It may read like a 1970's police drama, but the tragic event still reverberates in the police community, and the I-80 Yolo Causeway between Sacramento and Davis has been renamed in honor of fallen California Highway Patrol officers Blecher and Freeman.
In the evening, on Christmas eve-eve of 1978, Musselman received a call from the Fresno County Sherriff's Office, asking if he would see them. Soon later, there was a knock at the door, and Musselman leaves with the officer, only to return hours later. It turns out that the sketch artist the local police departments typically used was away on holiday, and as the reader will find out, Musselman played a vital role in solving a crime that night... the commendation reads as follows:
THIS AWARD IS PRESENTED IN RECOGNITION OF YOUR ASSISTANCE TO THE CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL, THE FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, AND THE YOLO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPART MENT ON THE EVENING OF DECEMBER 23, 1978.
IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF DECEMBER 22,1978, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICERS BLECHER AND FREEMAN WERE BRUTALLY SLAIN WEST OF SACRAMENTO. A WITNESS TO THE POSSIBLE IDENTITY OF TWO SUSPECTS WAS LOCATED IN FRESNO THE FOLLOWING DAY. AT THE REQUEST OF THE FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, YOU DREW A COMPOSITE SKETCH OF TWO POSSIBLE SUSPECTS FROM THE WITNESS' DESCRIPTION. TWO SUSPECTS WERE ARRESTED WITHIN 24 HOURS AS A DIRECT RESULT OF THAT SKETCH, ONE PLED GUILTY AS AN ACCESSORY TO THE MURDER AND THE OTHER IS AWAITING TRIAL. YOU ARE COMMENDED FOR YOUR PROMPT, UNSELFISH ASSISTANCE IN THIS INVESTIGATION.
As it turns out, that Causeway was well known to the Musselman family, albeit nearly three hours away by car from their Fresno home. A year earlier, son Steven received a Bachelors degree from nearby University of California, Davis, and ten years before that, eldest child Ronald received his Masters degree from Davis as well.
The suspect in the killings was found guilty and received the then newly reinstated death penalty, yet the sentence was later reduced to a life sentence, without parole. The case remains a subject of debate and protocol 30 years later.