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Crime News Accident, Suicide, or Murder

Utah Man Killed Wife In Their Backyard Fish Pond And Claimed She Drowned By Accident

David Mead claimed his wife, Pamela, had slipped and drowned in their koi fish pond after recovering from bunion surgery. The truth, investigators learned, was far more sinister.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

On August 15, 1994, neighbors called 911 to report “screaming and howling” at the house next door in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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When first responders arrived, a wildly distraught David Mead said his wife, Pamela, had fallen into their fish pond and drowned. He had dragged her body out of the water. 

“The EMT there pronounced her deceased,” Salt Lake City PD Sergeant Mike Roberts told Accident, Suicide or Murder, airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen

David was so hysterical he was restrained with handcuffs and put in a patrol car. Meanwhile, investigators processed the scene.

What Happened to Pamela Mead?

Pamela, fully clothed, was lying on her back near the koi pond that was about four feet deep and lined with rocks and bricks. 

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“On the back of her head they found that she had a fairly small wound,” said Howard Lemcke, Salt Lake County Deputy DA. “It seemed to be from hitting one of those rocks.” 

Neighbors who heard the noise from the Mead residence told investigators that it was pitch dark near the pond. They also said that the Meads appeared to be a happy couple. They had been married about three years and were new homeowners. 

Originally from Colorado, Pamela, 29, was a flight attendant who was “very kind, very good-natured,” said her friend Saranya Davis.

Pamela had undergone bunion surgery shortly before died, which made walking difficult. Investigators believed that could have contributed to her fatal trip-and-fall.

An autopsy was performed the next day. The medical examiner observed indicators of drowning as well as the laceration on the back of Pamela’s head. He saw no defensive wounds. 

“I ruled the cause of death a drowning and I ruled the manner of death as an accident,” Dr. Todd Grey, former Utah State Chief Medical Examiner, told producers.

But the unusual circumstances of Pamela’s death raised concerns with her family back in Colorado. They shared suspicions about David with Utah detectives. Her family also hired a private investigator, Roger Tinsley, to look into what they considered to be Pamela’s “incomprehensible” death.

Tinsley began by interviewing the Meads’ neighbors. Some believed David’s behavior on the night his wife drowned was “over the top,” as though he was acting. While that raised a red flag, it didn’t prove guilt.

David Mead's Affair, Exposed

Then, on August 18, a woman reached out to police and told them that her friend, Winnetka "Winnie" Walls, had been secretly dating David. Winnie agreed to speak with the police. 

Walls admitted that “she had been David’s kept woman for some time,” said Lemcki, but she claimed that she didn’t know he was married when their relationship began two years earlier. David timed his liaisons with Walls around Pamela’s work as a stewardess. 

Investigators also learned that his aviation maintenance business was in financial trouble. Pamela’s family had secured a loan to bail David’s business out. If he divorced his wife, his relatives could recall the note and he didn’t have the means to repay it, detectives said.

David saw killing Pamela as a solution, Walls said.

Walls told police that David’s plan to murder Pamela involved her having a “nasty fall.” Then he’d collect on a $250,000 life insurance policy he took out a few months before she drowned.

When Walls gave David an ultimatum to leave his wife or lose her, he put his plan in motion, according to detectives.

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Despite their suspicions about David, investigators didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest. The fact that Pamela’s death had been ruled an accident was another hurdle.

Grey reviewed the case, and found that the wound on the back of Pamela’s head appeared to have been caused by a blow, not a fall.

He deemed the cause of her death “pending.”

Nine days after Pamela’s death, investigators finally interviewed David. He said he was working on the night of August 15 — and that he had asked Pamela to feed the fish.

David claimed that he returned home that night at 11 p.m. When he couldn’t find Pamela in the house, he went to the backyard, where it was dark because the outside lights weren’t on. He found her in the pond.

He admitted to his affair with Winnie, which he downplayed as “a fling,” according to police. David agreed to take a lie detector test the next day. 

In the meantime, detectives dug deeper into the life insurance policy. They learned that David’s brother had asked the company not to discuss the policy with authorities.

Pamela’s family then told police that David had also been involved with a woman named Stormy Simon.

They claimed that Pamela had overheard a phone conversation between David and Stormy. David had allegedly said he didn’t want to divorce Pamela and that “it would just be easier to kill her.”

As a result, Pamela went home to Colorado. But a month later, she returned to Utah to work on her marriage. 

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More evidence accumulated when detectives learned that the lightbulbs in the outdoor lamps by the pond worked but had been unscrewed.

They also learned that David’s family members had since destroyed the pond. David told Tinsley he had the pond torn down so no one else would get hurt.

At this point the investigation stalled. David passed the polygraph, his work alibi seemed airtight, and Walls recanted about everything she’d told police. 

David Mead Is Arrested and Convicted in Pamela Mead's Murder

A mugshot of David Mead, featured in Accident, Suicide, or Murder 417

Authorities were undaunted. “We just kept working on the case,” said Lemcke.

They caught a break when James Hendrix, David’s cousin, reached out. He told police that David asked him to kill Pamela.

“He gave him parameters,” said Roberts. “It has to be while I’m at work. It has to either look like an accident or a burglary or a robbery. I will give you $30,000 from the $250,000 settlement.”

Hendrix never acted and didn’t take David’s offer seriously. Yet days later Pamela was dead. 

Armed with this new information, investigators returned to Grey. He acknowledged that he had made an error and changed the cause of death to homicide, according to “Accident, Suicide or Murder.”

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Although the D.A. needed more evidence to press criminal charges, Pamela’s family filed a wrong death civil case. The proceedings began in late 1996. 

One of David’s coworkers told authorities that he had covered David’s shift the night Pamela died. That destroyed David’s alibi, but the civil case ended in a hung jury.

But the hole in David’s alibi allowed criminal charges to be made on August 15, 1997.

Stormy Simon reached out to the D.A., explaining that she had been afraid to come forward before. She agreed  to testify at David’s two-week trial, which began in October 1988.

During it, prosecutors argued that David struck Pamela in the back of the head in their dark backyard and then drowned her in the pond.

David Mead, then 31, was found guilty and sentenced to five years to life. In 2016 his first parole request was denied. According to Accident, Suicide or Murder, his next hearing is in 2037.

To find out the admission David made at the parole hearing and more about the case, watch Accident, Suicide or Murder, airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.