Convict charged with 1976’s ‘Gypsy Hill’ murders

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Authorities charge inmate with 1976’s ‘Gypsy Hill’ murders.

This undated photo provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office shows Rodney Halbower. Rodney Halbower, 66, already serving time in Oregon, was charged Thursday for two killings in California – part of the infamous “Gypsy Hill Murders.” The cold-case murders grew hot when Halbower was forced to give a DNA sample when he was transferred from a Nevada prison to one in Oregon in 2013.Nearly 40 years later, cops in the Bay Area arrested suspect Rodney Halblower believing that he may have been responsible for at least two of the five killings that occurred during the infamous and gruesome “Gypsy Hill murders.” (San Mateo Sheriff’s Office) Nearly 40 years after the infamous and gruesome “Gypsy Hill murders” shocked the Bay Area, California investigators said Thursday they have the man behind at least two of the five killings. Halbower, a 66-year-old Muskegon Heights native, has been charged with two counts of murder in what police believe were the serial killings of six young women and girls in 1976 in California and Nevada.

DNA evidence taken from Halblower last year, while he was serving time for an unrelated attempted murder in an Oregon prison, connected him to samples found at the two crime scenes. The slayings took place between January and April 1976 and were given their name because they all took place near Gypsy Hill Road in Pacifica, 15 miles south of San Francisco. She awaits a new trial, but Halbower’s DNA is linked to the crime. “We hope that situation will soon change, and Cathy will no longer face the threat of conviction for a crime she did not commit,” attorney Maizie Pusich told the Reno Gazette-Journal. A sixth body was found in Reno. “Based on the forensic links between a number of the cases, the time frame of the murders, and the methods used by the offender to commit these crimes, investigators are confident all the crimes were committed by the same offender,” The FBI said in a statement in March after a Gypsy Hill Task Force was created to revisit the cold case using DNA technology.

San Mateo Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said DNA evidence linking Halbower to both killings was found on the victims, according to the Associated Press. According to a FBI news release, that was based on a DNA match with evidence found in connection with the Feb. 24, 1976, killing of 19-year-old University of Nevada student Michelle Mitchell in Reno. The task force comprised officers and agents from the FBI, the sheriff’s offices in San Mateo and Washoe counties, and police in Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco and Reno. He is accused of stabbing Paula Baxter, 17, of Millbrae, and Veronica “Ronnie” Cascio, 18, whose body turned up at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. The relative said Halbower, who grew up in Muskegon Heights, has been in trouble since the age of 12 and has spent all but three or four years of his life since then in jails or prisons.

The attorney for Wood, who was a psychiatric patient at the Louisiana State University Medical Center when she confessed to Mitchell’s death, claimed says she only admitted to the killing so that staff would think she was dangerous, and let her have her own room at the mental hospital. ‘We are delighted that Cathy gets to go home and we get to try to prove to the rest of the world she was innocent all along,’ Pusich said after the hearing. ‘It’s a horribly sad situation but thank goodness today we are moving the right direction.’ Halbower was first sentenced to prison in Nevada for sexually assaulting a female blackjack dealer in downtown Reno in November 1975, an attack that occurred roughly two months before Mitchell was killed a few blocks away, Woods’ Pusich said. He told reporters he attended the hearing to show solidarity with other victims’ families, even though Halbower hasn’t been charged in his sister’s death.

Wagstaffe said Halblower has been ruled out as a suspect in murder of Lampe, but said DNA does link him to the the Reno, Nev., murder of Michelle Mitchell, which took place in 1976.

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