Before the riots, before the massive protests, before the burning of the Bank of America, an explosion rocked the campus community and took the life of one of its members.
Today marks the 38th anniversary of the UCSB Faculty Club bombing that claimed the life of resident custodian Dover O. Sharp and caused over $1,000 in damage. Since 1969, the case has lain dormant; however, a letter received by the Daily Nexus last Thursday offers new developments and potential leads. UCPD is currently looking into the content of the letter and is attempting to contact the author, but has not yet been able to do so.
Former UCSB philosophy graduate student Steve Ander is the supposed author of the letter that was postmarked from a town in Switzerland and originally written on Feb. 23. He claims to have witnessed the bombing, and described two or three nameless and sturdily built Caucasians as having been responsible for the homicide.
“I saw the men who I think did it. There were two or three of them, tall, solidly built. That’s all I recall of them. Caucasian,” Ander said in the letter.
In the note, which was scribbled on pink graph paper, Ander expressed remorse for not having come forward earlier. The letter’s focus often strays from the topic of the bombing; at one point, Ander reminisces about his rented hillside trailer and his landlord.
However, later in the document, Ander asserts that the three individuals responsible for the bombing visited him at his trailer and posed questions regarding the condition of the custodian.
“I was at my trailer and saw the two or three men I spoke of walking down the road,” Ander wrote. “They asked me of the caretaker – I do not recall if they asked of him by name – [and] went down the road. I followed them. Naively, I took them as bill collectors.”
Three UCPD officers were on hand to receive the document from a Daily Nexus reporter Monday, but would not handle the document without the use of gloves. Among them was UCPD Public Information Officer Matt Bowman. He said that regardless of the credibility of the document, all evidence must be initially presumed to be legitimate in order to ensure safety.
“We must take all matters seriously until determined otherwise,” Bowman said. “We treat all things as equally serious.”
When the bombing occurred, authorities were unable to arrest any suspect or group, and the case has since remained an open homicide.
“We have no idea who was involved in this act – no idea at all, and the last thing we want to is point the finger at any political faction, at any group or at any individual. That is for the proper authorities to discover (if they can) in due time,” read the editorial in the special noon edition of the 1969 issue of El Gaucho – a predecessor of the Daily Nexus.
The bombing was perpetrated during a period of unrest at the university due to student opposition to the Vietnam War. It was a precursor to the infamous I.V. riots and the burning of the Bank of America building.
The explosive used in the bombing was described by law enforcement in El Gaucho as a sophisticated device consisting of a timer connected to a wine jug filled with a volatile liquid, and a 6-inch piece of pipe packed with an explosive compound. The blast threw Sharp about 20 feet. He died at the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital three days later.
Sharp, 55, had two children but was separated from his wife and lived at the Faculty Club, serving as the caretaker. The victim’s coworkers described him favorably, characterizing him as dependable but reserved.
A follow-up article printed three days after the bombing revealed that law enforcement had still not discovered conclusive evidence necessary to prosecute suspects or close the case.
“Sergeant Robert Garcia of the University Police said Saturday that they had no real leads as to who set the bomb and that they were still trying to piece evidence together,” read the April 14 edition of El Gaucho.
According to Bowman, the recently received letter gives law enforcement an opportunity to revisit the unsolved case and determine if any new progress can be made in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“I am happy to say that this letter provided was new information to us, and now we can go back to where the investigation was concluded and see if this evidence sheds new light on a new lead,” Bowman said.
Bowman said the crime committed 38 years ago would still be tried in court if law enforcement officials are able to locate the person or persons involved.
“Even though this case is from 1969, it is an open homicide and we would still seek prosecution through the legal system,” Bowman said.