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  • Oliver Northup Family photo

    Family and friends remembered Oliver "Chip" Northup, right, and Claudia Maupin, shown in 2012, as "a lovely couple."

  • Richard Chang /

    Police tape surrounds the south Davis condominium of Oliver J. Northup and his wife Claudia M. Maupin on Monday.

Davis community stunned by killing of prominent attorney and wife

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013 - 4:57 pm

Davis police spent Monday looking for clues in the double homicide of a longtime Davis attorney and his wife.

Police said they discovered the bodies of Oliver J. Northup, 87, and his wife, Claudia M. Maupin, 76, in their south Davis home Sunday night. Both suffered stab wounds, according to Davis police Lt. Paul Doroshov.

"There was a lot of trauma on the bodies," he said.

Doroshov said there were signs of forced entry, but that the house in the 4000 block of Cowell Boulevard "had not been ransacked."

"We can't say this was a burglary," he said.

Police had discovered the bodies Sunday at 9:20 p.m. after family members asked them to make a welfare check. The family had been worried after Northup failed to show up for a Sunday afternoon performance with his group, the Putah Creek Crawdads.

"We were all just mystified," said Stanley Dawson, who is married to Northup's former wife, Margaret. "He's usually very meticulous."

Barry Melton, the recently retired Yolo County public defender, groaned in disbelief when he heard of Northup's death.

"He's one of the nicest, kindest, sweetest people I ever met," Melton said of the man whom friends called "Chip."

Melton, lead guitarist and "The Fish" of the Woodstock-era band Country Joe and The Fish, said Northup played guitar and sang with the Crawdads, a Davis folk ensemble. Northup's last performance with the group was Saturday.

"I sang with Chip," Melton said. "He was a really great tenor."

A lawyer for 63 years, Northup in later years practiced criminal appellate law and gave seminars at the public defender's office when Melton was in charge. Even at 87, Northup continued to work out of his home.

The circumstances of the killings were a mystery Monday as neighbors watched dozens of police officers converge on the duplex. Police wouldn't speculate on a motive or possible suspects.

Greg Gibbs, 69, who lives next door, shares a wall with the couple. Gibbs said he didn't hear any unusual noise or see anything suspicious.

"I'm shocked and in grief," he said. "They were a lovely couple – good friends of ours."

Northup and Maupin had been married for 15 years, living in the condo for at least half of that time, daughter Mary Northup said Monday.

She tried calling her father numerous times Sunday and had a brother visit the home.

Maupin's daughter also visited the home late Sunday and called police to do the welfare check, according to Mary Northup.

The last homicide in this quiet college town was in 2011, when Kevin Seery was strangled in his J Street apartment. The Yolo County community was still grappling with the news Monday, as those who knew the couple struggled to come to grips with what happened.

"He had his client's best interests always at heart. He always wanted to do justice," said longtime Woodland defense attorney Steven Sabbadini, who worked with Northup early in his career.

Family and friends said the couple didn't have any known enemies. Both were members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. Northup was a founding member of the congregation and was incredibly active in the church, Rev. Elizabeth Banks said. He would have turned 88 next week.

Melton said he could think of no reason why anyone would hurt him. "He was a wonderful man," Melton said. "Just a kind, gentle spirit."

In response to the homicide, Gibbs, who serves as the homeowners association president, is forming a neighborhood watch program. Neighbors say the area is quiet, though there have been a string of break-ins nearby.

"It's a little scary," said Diane Westphal, who lives near the couple. "You don't expect to see something like this to happen here."

Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang. The Bee's Hudson Sangree contributed to this report.

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