‘Who Killed Josiah’ examines the consequences of a divided community and the effect David Josiah Lawson’s death had on his family
In Humboldt County there are some people that don’t know about David Josiah Lawson, but others will remember his name and story for the rest of their lives.
When Karen Foshay, an executive producer for KCET – a television station in Southern California, heard about Lawson’s murder she felt she had to follow the story. Foshay produced the 29-minute episode “Who Killed Josiah?” for KCET’s news documentary series SOCAL Connected.
After three months of working on the news documentary, “Who Killed Josiah” premiered on KCET’s website, kcet.org, and YouTube on Oct. 22 and will air on KCET-HD and KCETLINK on Nov. 12, 13, 14 and 16.
Foshay’s husband attended Humboldt State University as an undergrad. In January, when she and her husband were passing through Humboldt, she found herself on the scene covering a national news story when two local girls went missing from their backyard.
“Along the way I meet a photojournalist who told me about an LA student who was killed up here,” Foshay said. “I looked into it and I was really interested. Not the death itself, but what this death did for the area.”
“We couldn’t paint the community as racist. We had to be fair and give their voices and experiences justice.”Karen Foshay
The episode follows the murder of David Josiah Lawson, a 19-year-old Humboldt State University student, who was stabbed at an off-campus party on April 15, 2017. The show examines the consequences of a divided community and the effect Lawson’s death had on his family.
Foshay said that part of the reason she pursued Lawson’s story is because he moved to Humboldt from Perris, a city in Riverside County. She added that she understands many students move to Humboldt from Southern California. When she and her crew were investigating, they had to consider HSU’s policies, recruiting methods and how the institution approached the death of a student.
When the crew collected more information, they weren’t able to separate Lawson’s story from the area.
“The scenery and landscape is the backdrop,” Foshay said. “Rugged, scary, and drop dead gorgeous which frames the mystery of the story.”
The crew filmed at familiar places in Humboldt, such as HSU’s campus, Eureka and Moonstone Beach. The crew also interviewed recognizable local faces, such as Lawson’s mother Charmaine Lawson, photojournalist Mark McKenna and former KHSU Office Manager Lorna Byrant.
Toward the end of their investigation, Foshay said that she and her crew obtained four hours worth of dash cam footage that captured dramatic moments of the night of the murder, as well as a call a police officer made to Charmaine breaking the news of her son’s death.
“You have to keep asking questions and digging,” Foshay said.
“Who Killed Josiah?” depicts an emotional and complex story that provides a variety of perspectives from Lawson’s family and the community at large.
Foshay said that she wanted to respect the strong feelings on both sides.
“We couldn’t paint the community as racist,” Foshay said. “We had to be fair and give their voices and experiences justice.”