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Friends of murdered Humboldt State student Corey Clark continue search for answers two decades after he was fatally shot in 2001

Police say there are no new leads 20 years after the 29-year-old college student was fatally shot in Eureka, California, on October 6, 2001.
Corey Clark's story was featured in El Leñador in October 2017.
Corey Clark's story was featured in El Leñador in October 2017. Photo by Héctor Alejandro Arzate, published in El Leñador

On a crisp, fall night in October of 2001, Humboldt State University student Corey Clark made his way to Club West after the homecoming football game.

Corey and his friends spent many of their weekends out on the town in Eureka, California, and they say the 29-year-old was always dressed to the nines, looking for a good time.

Keion Morgan, an Humboldt State University alumnus, remembers his good friend Corey as someone who strived to bring the community together, no matter their skin color or sexual identity.

Corey Clark
Corey Clark

“There was something about Corey,” Keion said. “People just gravitated toward him. They respected him. And he respected others. He just wanted everybody to be treated well.”

Corey was also described as a peacemaker, and someone who was social justice-minded -- who cared that people were treated well. So it was no surprise to his friends when he jumped in to break up a fight at Club West on one of their nights out.

“He just wanted to keep the peace, wanted everyone to get along,” his friend Cherie Anaya told Dateline. “But one of the guys wasn’t happy he broke up the fight. So now he had a target on his back.”

For several weeks, Corey looked over his shoulder, and confided in Cherie that he felt scared.

“Just weeks after that night, he was gone,” Cherie said. “He was lured to that apartment and he was shot.”

Cherie told Dateline that she and Corey dated for six years and lived together with their dog. They had broken up prior to his murder, but Cherie said they remained close friends.

So when she got the call on the night of October 6 that her friend had been shot, she rushed to the hospital to be by his side.

“It was devastating,” she said. “And every year is still so hard, you know? It just doesn't get any easier.”

Corey Clark and his dog he shared with his former girlfriend, Cherie Anaya.
Corey Clark and his dog he shared with his former girlfriend, Cherie Anaya. Cherie Anaya

According to Eureka Police Department Public Information Officer Brittany Powell, Corey was rushed to the hospital in critical condition after he had been shot in the head at point-blank range in an apartment on the 900 block of K Street in Eureka, California. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Corey’s friend Keion told Dateline he remembers being shocked and confused when he got the call that his close friend had been shot.

“To see him in that state, was just heartbreaking,” Keion said. “I remember seeing his face – his eyes wide open, but shut. He was gone. But his facial expression, it was just like, ‘this is how it’s gonna end? After how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked?’”

In the fall of 2001, Corey was a 29-year-old starting his last senior semester at Humboldt State University where he was studying sociology. In the years past, he had been unsure of what career path to take, so he took classes and worked until he found his home at HSU.

“He was determined to get that degree, it’s what he worked so hard for,” Keion said. “I don’t know what path he would’ve taken next, but I know he wanted to do something big. He wanted to help heal the racial divide between people and just bring healing to the community.”

After Corey’s death, there was an outpouring of love and support from the community. Vigils were held to honor his life with a large attendance from students and faculty. His funeral was held at the university and his friends recall it being packed, with people who knew him, and even some who didn’t.

“He was this vibrant, kind, amazing human being,” his friend Kay Serotta told Dateline. “He loved life and lived it fully.”

Kay told Dateline she and her husband met Corey through the California Conservation Corps years earlier and he quickly became part of their family.

“We all became fast friends,” she said. “But it was more than that. He was our family. And we were his. He’s still part of our family and that’s why we need answers. We need to fight for him. He would’ve done the same for us.”

Corey was determined to achieve the best in life and was working hard toward receiving his bachelor’s degree in December 2001. But he never walked across the commencement stage or even held his diploma. He was awarded that posthumously.

As this week marked 20 years since his murder, his case remains unsolved. And his friends have questions.

His friend Kay and former girlfriend Cherie told Dateline they believe they know who killed Corey. They believe he was lured to the apartment on K Street that night by a woman who was connected to one of the men involved in fight at Club West.

A few weeks after the murder, the woman was reported missing and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. The Eureka Police Department would not comment on this information due to the case being an open investigation.

Police confirmed to Dateline that no arrests were made and no one was charged in his murder.

Officer Brittany Powell told Dateline that there have not been any new leads in the case, but they continue to investigate. She would not release information regarding who Corey was last seen with on the night of his murder or if the disappearance of the woman was connected to his case.

“We strongly encourage anyone who has information to call the police,” Powell told Dateline.

The murder of Corey Clark isn’t the only homicide at HSU that affected students in the past 20 years.

On April 15, 2017, David Josiah Lawson, a 19-year-old Humboldt State sophomore, was murdered at an off-campus party.

Kyle Zoellner was arrested the same night, but charges were dropped and a grandy jury seated in 2019 declined to indict anyone in the case.

Several of Corey’s friends said that when they heard about Josiah, they began to draw parallels between the two cases, as noted in a piece published in the student newspaper El Leñador by Héctor Alejandro Arzate in October 2017.

Keion Morgan, who knew Josiah since he was young and recruited him to attend HSU, told Dateline that when he got the call from Josiah’s mother Charmaine Lawson in April 2017, he felt like he was having déjà vu from the call in 2001.

“I was in shock and thinking how is this happening again,” Keion told Dateline. “To get another phone call about another Humboldt student, another Black man, his life, his future just taken from him… my heart stopped. I thought, this is Corey all over again.”

At the time, Josiah had been the president of Brothers United, a group that stemmed from the Corey Clark Coalition, Triple C, which was a support system Keion and others created following Corey’s murder.

“We wanted to do something in honor of Corey,” Keion said. “This Triple C was meant to bring men of color together to support one another.”

The group later transformed into Brothers United, with the goal to provide support for Black men in the predominately white institution and white area in which they felt unsupported.

Both Corey and Josiah’s cases remained unsolved, but their family and friends continue to fight for justice.

Kay tells Dateline she has talked and cried with Josiah’s mother Charmaine Lawson often.

“Not only were our loved ones taken away from us, they’re cases still aren’t solved,” Kay said. “So that’s what we fight for now. Justice. It’s been 20 years. It’s time.”

Charmaine, who continues to fight for justice for her son Josiah, told Dateline earlier this year that she never wants his name to be forgotten.

“I just want to make sure my son’s name is never forgotten in Humboldt County -- never, never,” Charmaine Lawson told Dateline. “That is the legacy I am going to strive to make sure is upheld.”

Keion, Kay, and Cherie, say they want the same for their friend, Corey.

“If he were here today, I know for a fact he would’ve been the one leading marches for George Floyd, rallying for the LGBTQ community and speaking out against the hate crimes that were happening against Asian Americans last year,” Keion said. “He would’ve been the flag bearer for it all.”

Corey’s friends are hoping by getting his name and picture out in the public, someone will come forward with answers. But most of all, they say they just want his story to be heard.

“I am optimistic there will be justice,” Keion said. “But I know all Corey would want is peace. Let his legacy be that he was a good person. A good person who wanted the best for everyone. That’s his legacy.”

Anyone with information about Corey’s case is asked to contact the Eureka Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Section at (707) 441-4300.