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Irreconcilable Differences 

A Eureka woman's alleged plot to frame her husband for attempted murder

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office is weighing whether to criminally charge a Eureka woman with making false statements to police after she allegedly stabbed herself in an effort to frame her husband for attempted murder.

The case's origins stretch back to 4:21 p.m. on Dec. 19, when Humboldt Bay Fire received a medical aid call reporting a woman had fallen down a staircase in the 900 block of I Street and arrived to find a neighbor standing on the lawn, waiting to point them inside a two-story Victorian. At the top of a staircase inside, firefighters and paramedics found Crista Myers, 39, covered in blood and being tended by a neighbor, who was holding a blood-soaked towel to the left side of her neck. A "significant amount of blood" could also be seen on the floor and walls, according to a Humboldt Bay Fire incident report.

Paramedics determined Myers was alert and oriented but seemed confused. In addition to the "obvious injury" to the left side of her neck, they determined she had a half-inch laceration to her chest and a 2-inch cut down her right forearm. Myers allegedly said her husband — 33-year-old Matthew Salmon — had attacked her with a kitchen knife.

Within minutes, police arrived on scene and were provided with Salmon's name and physical description, as well as the make and model of his car and his last known whereabouts. As Myers was transported to a local hospital for treatment, officers learned Salmon might be in Fortuna and reached out to police there for help locating him.

Fortuna Police Lt. Matt Eberhardt said his department received an agency assist request at 4:45 p.m. that day saying that EPD detectives were looking for Salmon and had information he might be in the Riverwalk Drive area. Eberhardt said officers who spotted him there at 6:42 p.m. detained him until they could hand him off to Eureka police.

"He didn't make any statements to the officers other than that he had an idea of why he was being detained," Eberhardt said.

Salmon was booked into jail that night and soon charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse. But Myers' story, and the case against Salmon, quickly began to unravel.

First, there was the fact that Salmon had an alibi — he'd been with his kids at the time Myers had allegedly been stabbed, having picked them up at 3:30 p.m. that day, according to a sworn declaration his ex-wife filed with the court. GPS data from Salmon's phone then reportedly confirmed the alibi.

EPD detectives also quickly began to realize things were amiss after interviewing Myers at the hospital and processing the crime scene, according to Sgt. Leonard LaFrance. Declining to go into specifics, LaFrance said detectives generally look to pull security camera footage to see if it captures someone coming or going, or their car in a parking lot, and interview neighbors and other witnesses in an attempt to corroborate a victim's account of what happened.

"They just weren't matching up with what we traditionally see at these kinds of crime scenes," he said.

Ultimately, EPD spokesperson Brittany Powell said investigators determined that Myers was home alone when "the incident occurred," adding that "blood stain patterns" and an analysis of Myers' wounds helped detectives determine they had been self-inflicted. During a court hearing Jan. 18, prosecutors dismissed all charges against Salmon, saying plainly that he did not commit the crimes alleged.

In an application for a domestic violence restraining order filed Dec. 29, Salmon said he believed Myers hatched the plan against him because she was angry about her own arrest on Dec. 18 on allegations that she'd scratched Salmon and hit him repeatedly.

"I feel she did this to get me in trouble because she got in trouble," Salmon wrote in the documents, adding that he'd bailed Myers out of jail the morning of Dec. 19 — just hours before she'd allegedly try to frame him.

(LaFrance, for his part, said the couple did not have a history of disturbance calls or police contacts prior to Dec. 18.)

If Myers knowingly made a false report that she'd been the victim of a felony, it would be a violation of California Penal Code 148.5 — a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The case represents a bit of a mess for the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, which employs Myers' sister as a prosecutor.

District Attorney Stacey Eads told the Journal that her predecessor Maggie Fleming reached out to the California Attorney General's Office about taking over charging decisions and possible prosecution of the cases, but did not hear back. Eads said Fleming then assigned Deputy District Attorney Wayne Philips — who joined the office "relatively recently" — to the cases involving Myers. Philps, she said, determined no domestic violence charges would be filed in the Dec. 18 arrest and worked closely with EPD Detective Amber Cosetti in reviewing the attempted murder case against Salmon, eventually determining "the charged party could not have committed the acts alleged."

EPD has also now handed off its investigation of Myers for allegedly making false statements to police off to the DA's office. Eads told the Journal previously she would also ask the AG's office to take over review and possible prosecution of the false statement allegation against Myers, but that efforts seems to have been unsuccessful. She told the Journal on Feb. 20 that the case remained under review by Philips, saying it's been "walled off" to "preclude any appearance of impropriety," with only a "select few" people in the office involved in the review and charging decision in an effort to prevent Myers' familial relationship with a member of the DA's staff from affecting the case.

David Levine, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, said Eads seems reasonable.

"Once the AG declined to take over the investigation, the DA implemented a second-best, but acceptable, way to proceed," he said. "This is commonly known as erecting a Chinese wall, a technique named after the Great Wall of China."

Eads did not immediately respond to a Journal inquiry about a timeline for the review and decision.

Salmon declined to comment for this story and attempts to reach Myers were unsuccessful.

As to Myers and Salmon, who marked their first anniversary on Valentine's Day, Salmon filed for a legal separation Jan. 4. He cited "irreconcilable differences."

Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at (707) 442-1400, extension 321, or [email protected].

Editor's note: This story has been updated from a previous version to correct an error regarding Matthew Salmon's alibi. The Journal regrets the error.
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Thadeus Greenson

Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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