Utah trucker arrested in Concord trans cold case murder

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday January 31, 2023
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Terrie Ladwig was found dead in 1994. Photo: Courtesy Twitter/HenryKLee
Terrie Ladwig was found dead in 1994. Photo: Courtesy Twitter/HenryKLee

A Utah man was arrested January 27 in the 29-year-old cold case murder of a trans woman in Concord.

James Grimsley, 55, was booked into Salt Lake County jail on a $1 million fugitive warrant, multiple news outlets reported, and has been charged by prosecutors in Contra Costa County with the strangulation of Terrie Ladwig, 28, on December 2, 1994.

Grimsley, a trucker, was implicated by forensic evidence, Concord police Lieutenant Sean Donnelly said. He is still in Utah.

"He has to go through the extradition process this week and we'll see what happens next," Donnelly told the Bay Area Reporter. "We've been looking at this case for a while. It's gained some traction in the past six to eight months but we aren't ready to say any more yet. Once the person is here in Contra Costa County and arraigned we'll be able to share out more info."

The case was revived as part of a periodic review of open cold cases, Donnelly told the Mercury News.

The B.A.R. reported on the case at the time. The B.A.R.'s Dennis Conkin reported in the December 15, 1994 issue that Ladwig was "a devout Catholic Filipina who loved dogs and romantic waterfront walks with her Navy officer husband."

Indeed, Terrie Ladwig had married Naval Petty Officer Steven Ladwig in Reno, Nevada the prior summer, Conkin reported. She planned to relocate nearer to the naval base where Steven Ladwig, a submarine crew member, was stationed at and also to undergo gender confirmation surgery.

The night of the killing, Terrie Ladwig called Steven Ladwig to tell him that someone was trying to break into their unit. He rushed back from Bangor, Washington to Concord, where he found his wife strangled at their home at the Sunset Pines Apartments on Adelaide Street.

Concord police didn't consider Steven Ladwig a suspect. Nor did they find signs of a break-in or sexual assault.

When news came out that Terrie Ladwig was a transgender woman, the Navy conducted an investigation into Steven Ladwig. At the time, their relationship would have run afoul of the United States Military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which banned from the armed services people who were openly non-heterosexual.

Steven Ladwig did not consider himself gay, according to Conkin. He was given an "other than honorable discharge" for "misconduct" the following month, according to a 1995 story in the San Francisco Chronicle. A reason was not given though "he was investigated for homosexuality but that is not why he was discharged," the paper reported.

Grimsley was charged with one count of murder, with no enhancements.

Contra Costa County District Attorney's office public information officer Ted Asregadoo told the B.A.R. that the office doesn't have a statement to make now.

"The court date has not yet been set," he said. "Therefore, we can't release the complaint. I can tell you it's a murder charge with no enhancements."

According to a police news release, "Concord PD worked closely with the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office and the Contra Costa County FBI Safe Streets Task Force to obtain the warrant and locate Grimsley."

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