David “Fish” Fishback struggled for years with alcohol and drugs. When the Idaho City man died of a heroin overdose in 2011, it was a shocking, painful blow to his family and friends, but it wasn’t completely out of left field.
Fishback is described by those who knew him best as a good buddy and confidante of Michael S. Dauber, a man who has been charged with first-degree murder twice since last year.
Dauber, the 46-year-old son of a late Chicago mobster, is accused of killing and dismembering friends Steven Kalogerakos and Joshua Reddington in separate crimes, years apart.
Now, Fishback’s loved ones believe there was more to his death than a simple overdose — and his daughter said the FBI was involved in investigating her father’s death. The FBI office in Salt Lake City did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
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DEATH ON THE STREET
Karen June Miller was getting her hair cut at a salon on Main Street in Idaho City late on the afternoon of July 26, 2011, when the door flung open and a panicked man stuck his head in.
“Somebody around the corner isn’t breathing,” Miller recalls the man saying.
She didn’t get a good look at him because the man then turned and ran. But he’d left his business card there earlier, when he and another man had been going door-to-door selling meat. Miller said she gave the meat seller’s business card to the first responding police officer, then Police Chief Scott Turner.
“I’m from Southern California. People who run off like that are always a bit suspicious to me,” Miller said.
Miller’s husband ran to help, and she was fast on his heels. They found David Fishback lying on his back on the porch of the Masonic Lodge, his legs hanging off the edge.
“He was dead. There was nothing,” said Miller, noting that there was water around him as if he’d been splashed.
She didn’t know Fishback by name, but had friendly encounters with him around town.
“He was one of the nicest guys. Whenever I ran into him, he’d say, ‘Good afternoon, ma’am,’ ” Miller said.
Talk about “meat men” from out of town selling drugs — along with meat — swirled around Idaho City following Fishback’s death.
CONNECTED TO A MURDER CASE
Fishback died of a heroin overdose, according to Boise County Coroner Pam Garlock. The manner of death was undetermined, meaning it was unknown if it was accidental or not.
Garlock declined to say Wednesday whether or not Fishback’s death was considered suspicious because she said it’s tied to an open investigation — the probe into the death of Steven Kalogerakos.
Kalogerakos, who once shared a house with Dauber in Idaho City, was 42 when he went missing in 2007. His dismembered body was found in the desert outside Idaho City in 2013.
In court documents in that case, Dauber’s public defender has requested that prosecutors provide copies of the police report, coroner’s investigation, medical report and death certificate on Fishback.
In court last year, Boise County Prosecutor Ian Gee told a judge that Dauber had admitted to others that he killed Kalogerakos and other, unnamed people. Among the reasons he gave the judge in arguing against bond was that Dauber had threatened law enforcement officials.
Dauber has pleaded not guilty to murdering Kalogerakos. A trial had been planned for 2015, but has been postponed until after another case is tried.
Dauber also faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Joshua Reddington, a 25-year-old Salmon man who went missing in 2000 and whose partial remains were found in 2014 in the crawl space of Dauber’s cabin in Idaho City. Dauber has pleaded not guilty, and the trial for that is set for September 2016. Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty.
‘MIKE NEVER LEFT HIS SIDE’
Fishback’s family and friends say that he was a close friend of Dauber’s.
“They did everything for each other. They were just best friends,” said Fishback’s 27-year-old daughter, Lora, who spent part of her childhood in Idaho City. “My dad never left his side, and Mike never left his side.”
She thinks they met while working in logging and shared common interests, including hunting. She said her father distanced himself from Dauber about a year before his death, no longer answering his calls.
“He just said Mike’s doing things he should not be. He didn’t tell me what,” she said.
Fishback was living in Montana for a while, but returned to Idaho City a couple months before his death. He apparently confided some of what may have been troubling him to one of his close friends, Dan Cano.
Cano recalled Fishback telling him that Dauber had asked him to help bury Kalogerakos’ body.
“It kind of caught me off guard, and I said ‘I don’t want to hear about it,’ ” Cano said of his response to the revelation.
Cano didn’t report it to police, he said, because he’d heard Dauber was already a suspect in the case.
“At that point, they were checking into him pretty hard,” Cano said. “I don’t think it was any information that would have been beneficial. They were already looking at him as a suspect.”
Another Dauber friend testified in court in February that Dauber asked him to help move a body.
Tom Tiffany said Dauber roused him from sleep and asked him to help move Reddington’s body — whom he described as having a bullet hole in his head — out of the loft of the cabin they shared.
Tiffany said he refused and then heard the sounds of a saw cutting through bones downstairs.