Brutal Zipper Tie Murder Leads Back to Covelo Woman, Law Enforcement Says

Pauline Dugan

El Sobrante is an unincorporated community in the shadow of the cities of East Bay, San Pablo and Richmond. Across the water from San Quentin State Prison, El Sobrante blends into the featureless urban sprawl of East Bay

Until recently, 69-year-old Richard Hendrix rented a parcel of roadway protected by a chain-link fence at the back of an auto repair and sales business in the El Sobrante area. There he lived in an RV. For his daily commute, Hendrix had a gold Volvo. He was often seen coming and going, living his life, subsisting in El Sobrante.

On April 13, 2022, Hendrix’s landlord realized he hadn’t seen his tenant for a few days, so he contacted the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office to report his concerns. Deputies arrived and learned that Hendrix had not been seen in seven days, which the owner said was unusual.

The deputies came out to check out Hendrix’s trailer. They noticed that a chair had been placed in front of the outward swinging door of the mobile home to apparently prevent anyone inside from getting out.

After knocking several times, the deputies found the door unlocked, so they proceeded to enter and were immediately greeted by the smell of decay.

On the floor of the mobile home, covered in clothes, tools and trash, lay Hendrix’s corpse – almost as if someone was trying to hide the dead man. Deputies exited the mobile home and an inquest into the death was opened.

Detectives arrived, began surveying the area around the mobile home, and entered Hendrix’s former residence to examine the body. Closer inspection of Hendrix found two large zip ties, fastened and tightened around the dead man’s neck.

Documents obtained by MendoFever and reporting by Nate Gartrell of the Bay Area News Group would tell the story of how Pauline Dungan, a 39-year-old Covelo woman, would become the prime suspect in the brutal crime.

After Hendrix’s discovery, his mobile home was towed to a safe location, allowing investigators a controlled environment to search for clues.

Witnesses revealed that two days before, on April 11, 2022, Pauline Dungan had been seen driving Hendrix’s gold Volvo. The witness told law enforcement that Dungan said he bought the Volvo from Hendrix in the days before. Investigators have issued a lookout for the vehicle.

On April 14, 2022, a day after Hendrix was found dead, buried in his possessions, with zip ties wrapped around his neck, a nearby San Pablo police officer located the gold Volvo and a woman who matched the description of Dungan.

Dungan attempted to flee the scene on foot but was apprehended and held for outstanding warrants outside of Mendocino County.

Dungan was taken to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office Field Operations office, the same location where detectives had towed Hendrix’s RV for processing.

On the same day, a forensic autopsy of Hendrix was performed. The man is believed to have died on April 6, a week before deputies found his body. The cause of death was ligature strangulation. Additionally, the pathologist found two wounds on the front of Hendrix’s head and two wounds on his back – the result of blunt trauma.

Detectives began to believe that Dungan had beaten 69-year-old Hendrix with some sort of blunt object that knocked him unconscious. She then wrapped zip ties around the man’s throat, squeezing them until he was completely asphyxiated. Before leaving, she piled items around the campervan on top of her body where it lay until deputies found it a week later.

Dungan was released shortly thereafter. At this point, all the police needed to do was theory, and they needed time to back up the evidence.

A witness told them that Dungan had made bizarre claims about Hendrix having been gone for a long time before Hendrix’s homicide. Detectives discovered that someone had attempted to withdraw money from Hendrix’s bank account days after his death. Surveillance footage from late March reportedly shows Dungan in the company of another man buying zip ties at a local hardware store. More convincingly, investigators performed an analysis of the zip ties wrapped around Hendrix’s neck and found Dungan’s DNA. She had touched them with her own hands.

The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office eventually issued an extradition warrant for Pauline Dungan which surfaced after her June 2 arrest in Lane County, Oregon. Dungan then spent 39 days in the county jail on charges including driving under the influence and resisting arrest before detectives from the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office brought Dungan back to East Bay.

Pauline Dungan, 39, of Covelo, is now in Contra Costa County Jail charged with the murder of Richard Hendrix. Added to the murder charge is a charge for the use of a deadly/dangerous weapon in the commission of the homicide.

Dungan is no stranger to a prison cell. Since 2015, the young woman has faced charges all over the North Coast.

On July 1, 2015, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office posted on their Facebook page a “warrant Wednesday” featuring Dungan who was then wanted on three felony warrants, including assault with a firearm on a peace officer, crimes committed while on release and obstruction .

Dungan was in Willits on August 8, 2015, when an officer spotted her with a man smoking a joint. The couple consented to be searched and the officer would find methamphetamine in both of their possessions. During the interaction, Dungan would provide a fake name. She would be sentenced that day for an arrest warrant for assault with a deadly weapon.

As of November 2015, Dungan would rack up a number of charges in Contra Costa County associated with possession, transportation, and manufacturing of cannabis.

In March 2016, she would be accused of giving false information to a Pinole police officer.

Three years later, Dungan would again be charged with providing false information to police, this time in Sonoma County.

There is no record of Dungan’s life prior to 2015, when she was 32 years old. All local Mendocino County media reports refer to her as a “Covelo woman.”

Now, seven years after the first crime reports, Pauline Dungan, 39, faces the most serious charges of her life – accused of beating a man unconscious and then using restraints to end his life.

Today at 1:30 p.m., she will be arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court. Judge Rebecca Hardie will preside over the formal reading of her charges and Pauline Dungan will likely plead guilty or not guilty.

Please keep in mind that not all charges associated with this incident have been proven in court and details of the incident are still being sorted out. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any person described must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.


About Catherine Sturm

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