El Sobrante is an unincorporated community shadowed by the East Bay cities of San Pablo and Richmond. Across the water from San Quentin State Prison, El Sobrante blends into the featureless, urban sprawl of the East Bay
Until recently, 69-year-old Richard Hendrix rented a plot of pavement protected by a chain-link fence in the back lot of an auto repair and sales business in the El Sobrante area. There he lived in a motorhome. For his day-to-day commuting needs, Hendrix had a gold Volvo. He would often be seen coming and going, living his life, subsisting in El Sobrante.
On April 13, 2022, Hendrix’s landlord realized he had not seen his tenant in a few days so he contacted the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office to report his concerns. Deputies arrived and learned Hendrix had not been seen for seven days, which the landlord said was unusual.
Deputies went out back to check out Hendrix’s trailer. They noticed a chair had been positioned in front of the mobile home’s outward swinging door to seemingly prevent anyone inside from getting out.
After knocking several times, the deputies found the door to be unlocked so they proceeded to enter and were immediately met with the smell of decomposition.
On the mobile home floor, covered by clothing, tools, and garbage, was Hendrix’s dead body– almost like someone was trying to hide the deceased man. The deputies exited the mobile home and a death investigation was initiated.
Detectives arrived, began to canvas the area around the mobile home, and entered Hendrix’s former residence to examine the body. A closer inspection of Hendrix found two large zip ties, secured 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 39-year-old Covelo woman Pauline Dungan would become the lead suspect in the brutal crime.
After Hendrix was found, his mobile home was towed to a secure location allowing investigators a controlled environment for them to canvas for clues.
Witnesses divulged that two days prior on April 11, 2022, Pauline Dungan was seen driving Hendrix’s gold Volvo. The witness told law enforcement that Dungan said she had purchased the Volvo from Hendrix in the days prior. Investigators issued a be on the lookout notice for the vehicle.
On April 14, 2022, one day after Hendrix was found dead, buried in his possessions, with zip ties wrapped around his neck, a police officer from neighboring San Pablo would locate the gold Volvo and a woman that matched the description of Dungan.
Dungan attempted to flee the scene on foot but was apprehended and detained for outstanding warrants out of Mendocino County.
Dungan was taken to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office Field Operations Bureau, the same location detectives had towed Hendrix’s motorhome for processing.
On that same exact day, a forensic autopsy of Hendrix was conducted. The man was thought to have died on April 6, one week before deputies found his body. The cause of death was ligature strangulation. In addition, the pathologist found two wounds on the front of Hendrix’s head and two wounds on the back- the result of blunt force trauma.
Detectives began to believe that Dungan had beat the 69-year-old Hendrix with some sort of blunt force object which rendered him unconscious. She then wrapped zip ties around the man’s throat tightening them until he fully asphyxiated. Before leaving, she piled items from around the motorhome on his body where it lay until deputies found him a week later.
Dungan was released from custody soon after. At that point, all police had to go on was a theory and they needed time to shore up the evidence.
A witness told them Dungan had made odd statements about Hendrix not being around much longer before Hendrix’s homicide. Detectives found someone had tried to withdraw cash from Hendrix’s bank account days after his death. Surveillance footage from late March would show Dungan in the company of another man purchasing zip ties from a local hardware store. Most compelling, investigators conducted 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 who surfaced after her June 2nd arrest in Lane County, Oregon. Dungan then spent 39 days in the county jail on charges such as driving under the influence and resisting arrest before Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office detectives brought Dungan back to the East Bay.
39-year-old Pauline Dungan of Covelo now sits in the Contra Costa County Jail charged with the murder of Richard Hendrix. Added to the murder charge is an enhancement for the use of a deadly/dangerous weapon while committing the homicide.
Dungan is no stranger to a jail cell. Since 2015, the young woman has faced charges up and down 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 at that point wanted on three felony warrants including assault with a firearm on a peace officer, crimes committed while released, and obstruction.
Dungan was in Willits on August 8, 2015, when an officer observed her and a man smoking a joint. The pair consented to be searched and the officer would find meth in both of their possessions. During the interaction, Dungan would provide a false name. She would be booked that day for a felony warrant for assault with a deadly weapon.
In November 2015, Dungan would rack up a number of charges in Contra Costa County associated with cannabis possession, transportation, and manufacturing.
In March 2016, she would face charges of giving false information to an officer with the Pinole Police Department..
Three years later, Dungan would again face charges of providing false information to the police, this time in Sonoma County.
There are no records of Dungan’s life before 2015 when she was 32 years old. All reports in the local Mendocino County media refer to her as a “Covelo woman.”
Now, seven years after the first reports of criminality, 39-year-old Pauline Dungan faces the most serious charges of her life—accused of beating a man till he blacked out and then using zip ties to end his life.
Today, at 1:30 p.m., she will be arraigned in the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Judge Rebecca Hardie will preside over the formal reading of her charges and Pauline Dungan will likely enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Remember, any charges associated with this incident have not been proven in a court of law and the details of the incident are still being sorted out. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any individual described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.