Former Yurok Tribe Chairman James Dunlap
Published March 19, 2016
KLAMATH, CALIFORNIA — On Tuesday, James Dunlap resigned his position as tribal chairman of the Yurok Tribe, based in Klamath, California. Dunlap resigned after reports surfaced on social media he had fatally stabbed his three-month old baby daughter in 1988.
Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. was sworn in as chairman of the Yurok Tribe on Wednesday.
“This is a sad day, but we are going to get through this and we are going to make sure that it never happens again,” Chairman O’Rourke said on Wednesday. “We are still a very young government and this is not something we will forget, but we are not going to dwell on it as we move forward.”
According to the Yurok Constitution, a vacancy that occurs during the first year of a Councilmember’s term is filled by the Tribal Council appointing the person who received the next highest number of votes in the last election if that person received at least thirty percent of the total votes. In the most recent election, Chairman O’Rourke earned greater than the required 30 percent of the total vote.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that on September 9, 1988, San Mateo police arrived at a house where Dunlap and his family were visiting relatives “just as James Dunlap, 30, of Hoopa, was lifting the girl over his head and yelling out that he had sacrificed her to God. The girl, Brittaney, had been stabbed with a buck knife in her crib, police said.”
Police then took Dunlap to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, where he reportedly told workers he’d killed his daughter “to set her free for God.”
Dunlap was ultimately charged with murder, and entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. After a jury convicted Dunlap in 1990 of second degree murder for the infant’s slaying, it deemed him legally insane at the time.
Guidotti said Dunlap was then sent to Atascadero State Hospital but, at the order of a San Mateo County Superior Court judge, was released to outpatient status in 1993. After a couple of years of community supervision and outpatient treatment, Dunlap was found “restored to sanity in 1995,” according to Guidotti.
In a news release, the Tribe said the tribal council “does not have any additional comments at this time.”