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Napa vineyard dispute ends in murder

A disagreement over a vineyard in the Napa Valley has ended with the owner murdering his business partner and then killing himself.

Robert Dahl, owner of Dahl Vineyards, and one-time investor Emad Tawfilis had met at the former’s winery in Yountville to try and resolve a business deal which had soured – Dahl having not repaid a US$1.2 million loan from Tawfilis.

According to the SF Gate Chronicle, the meeting turned confrontational and Dahl allegedly pulled a .22 calibre handgun and wounded Tawfilis who turned and fled through one of the vineyards.

Dahl pursued him in his SUV still shooting at Tawfilis who put in a desperate call to the police. Tawfilis made it to the intersection of Hoffman Lane and Solano Avenue where he collapsed.

Dahl arrived and shot him through the head as he lay on the ground in full view of the sheriff’s deputies who were arriving at the time.

A short car chase ensued but with a police helicopter tracking him and more police arriving Dahl stopped in woodland on the Napa and Sonoma county border and tuned the gun on himself. Both men were declared dead at the scene.

Tawfilis’ investment group had loaned Dahl $1.2m for a company the latter had created but which soon folded and the money was never repaid.

With Dahl handed an 18-count contempt order by a Napa judge, the two had apparently agreed on an undisclosed amount of money. Dahl was also supposed to hand over five tanks of wine but failed to do so.

Despite being described as “smart” and “charismatic”, Dahl had a criminal record that included felony swindling dating back to 1989 when he lived in Minnesota. He was sentenced to 15 days in prison for stealing over $2,500 from company funds.

He was charged with a further count of theft in 1990 and sentenced to 15 months in prison though ended up serving just 90 days.

He founded Dahl Vineyards and some affiliate companies, Napa Point brewing, Napa Point Winery and California Shiners in 2013.

The company he apparently got Tawfilis to invest in was Patio Wine Company, which he set up in Minnesota but which had ceased trading some years before.

Gregg Knittel, the owner of a construction company in the area that Dahl had used to build his brewery told the Chronicle, that while very “charismatic” and “dynamic” he quickly learnt that Dahl was running the brewery business into the ground and that a number of his business practices were neither “ethical or legal”.

He described Tawfilis as a man “determined not to be duped” and that as the pressure on Dahl built he very likely, “lost control of himself”.

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