Santa Rosa double homicide suspect was out on bail for domestic violence

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Dalton Carlson was agitated and armed with a hammer, knife and ammunition outside the west Santa Rosa home he once shared with his estranged wife when police officers arrived Friday morning.

His wife, Jessica Carlson, was dead in the kitchen, killed in a savage attack.

Across town, Carlson’s father Dale was dead, too, left bloodied on the floor of his Montgomery Village neighborhood home.

But the officers who found Dalton Carlson, 32, Friday morning didn’t know about either death, Santa Rosa Sgt. Josh Ludtke said Monday. They suspected Carlson — described as disturbed and “running around the street” — was on a stimulant like methamphetamine, and neighbors said he had smashed a car window and climbed on the roof of Jessica Carlson’s Glenbrook Drive home. The officers saw no evidence he’d gotten inside.

They knocked on the door, peered through windows and called her phones. No answer. Only a couple of pit bulls appeared to be inside.

They arrested Carlson on suspicion of being on drugs and violating a “peaceful contact” restraining order Jessica Carlson had secured from a judge the week before. Then they left.

“Should the officers have gone in and could she have been saved if they had? That’s a very important question,” Ludtke said Monday. “If there is something we could have done better, we want to find that out. At the time we had no idea there had been murders, and there were attempts to reach her. We didn’t feel we had the ability to force our way in.”

Monday, police arrested Dalton James Carlson on suspicion of killing his wife and father. He’s been held at the Sonoma County Jail since his arrest at 10 a.m. Friday. Detectives were still investigating a motive behind the killings.

Jessica Carlson, 37, and Dale Carlson, 57, both died quickly — if not immediately — from their injuries, according to preliminary findings from autopsies done Monday. The trauma was extensive and pathologists couldn’t immediately determine how either was killed, Ludtke said. A gun appeared to have been fired in at least one of the homes. Police are also still trying to narrow time frames for when the assaults occurred.

“We don’t know if the confrontations happened anywhere near the time when he was contacted outside the (Jessica Carlson) house,” Ludtke said.

A couple of Dale Carlson’s friends were worried enough about him to visit his house Saturday morning. They hadn’t seen or heard from him in about 48 hours, and he was the kind of man who always answered a phone call.

About 11 a.m. Saturday, they went to the longtime carpenter’s Valley Center Drive house near the Montgomery Village shopping center.

When he didn’t answer the door, they walked around to the backyard and went in through an unlocked sliding glass door. They found Dale Carlson in a gruesome scene on the floor in the house, Ludtke said.

Police arrived quickly, and within a half hour discovered Dale Carlson had been mentioned in the report about his son’s arrest the day before, according to Ludtke. Dalton Carlson had listed both the Glenbrook Drive and Valley Center Drive homes as his residence during various contacts with police.

Dale Carlson’s Hyundai sedan was missing and officers were sent across town to see if it was at the Glenbrook house. They found it parked about a block away.

While they were there, Jessica Carlson’s mother found her slain daughter and called 911.

It was just after noon Saturday.

Jessica Carlson and her husband were estranged but still married, and it’s unclear when Dalton Carlson moved out.

When the killings occurred, Dalton Carlson was out on bail from a Dec. 10 domestic violence incident when he apparently assaulted his wife and damaged her cellphone, according to a complaint filed in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Santa Rosa police seized a firearm from the house Dec. 25 and were asking the court to permit the department to delay returning it to Dalton Carlson, according to a petition filed Feb. 14.

Police still have that gun, Ludtke said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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