Terry Dyer worked as a butcher before joining the Sheriff's Department.

Obituary: Terry Dyer, Sacramento County sheriff's investigator

Published: Sunday, Mar. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 24, 2013 - 8:09 am

Terry Dyer, who investigated high-profile murders as a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy and later as a private detective, died March 17 after a stroke, his family said. He was 78.

Mr. Dyer rose from patrol officer to lieutenant during 31 years with the Sheriff's Department, including assignments in robbery and homicide. In 1975, he investigated the slaying of Myrna Opsahl during a Carmichael bank robbery by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

He was a patrol commander on Folsom Boulevard in 1980 when he spotted a suspicious van linked to a missing UC Davis couple. Thirty-two years later, he recalled spotting the vehicle in testimony last September in the trial of Richard Hirschfield, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing sweethearts John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.

"You don't work in robbery and homicide unless you're good at your job," retired Undersheriff Larry Stamm said. "He had a great career."

Mr. Dyer, who graduated from the FBI Academy in Virginia, switched gears after retiring from law enforcement in 1989 to be a private investigator. He interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence for public defenders in notorious murders, including the cases of serial killers Morris Solomon and Dorothea Puente and the gunmen in the 1991 Good Guys store shootout.

"In his eyes, it wasn't a matter of proving them innocent," said his daughter Melissa Johnson. "It was just keeping them from the death penalty."

Born Aug. 29, 1934, in Los Angeles, Terrell Worth Dyer moved with his parents to West Sacramento and graduated from Woodland High School in 1952. He apprenticed and was a butcher at an Armour meat plant for several years before joining the Sheriff's Department in 1958.

"He was working in a 34-degree cooler and had no fat on his body to help keep him warm," his daughter said.

Mr. Dyer had three children with his wife of 60 years, Barbara. He enjoyed hunting and square dancing. He worked on the side for many years as a butcher, cutting deer he hunted and farm animals, which he stored in a walk-in cooler at his Rio Linda home.

Besides his wife and daughter, who live in Rio Linda, he is survived by his sons, Jerry of Sacramento, and Larry of Rio Linda; and four grandchildren. A service is set for 1 p.m. April 13 at Sunset Lawn Chapel of the Chimes, 4701 Marysville Blvd., Sacramento.

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.

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