DNA ties prisoner to 2 of 6 serial killings from 1976

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — DNA evidence linked an Oregon prisoner to at least two of the six serial killings of young women that terrified the San Francisco Bay Area and a city in Nevada four decades ago, investigators say. 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. Police in San Mateo County announced murder charges against Rodney Halblower, 66, in connection with the 1976 killings of Paula Baxter, 17, and Veronica Anne Cascio, 18. 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.

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. 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. 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. At the time, Halbower was being paroled in Nevada after serving a sentence for the 1975 rape of a blackjack dealer, which occurred two months before the body of University of Nevada-Reno student Michelle Mitchell, 19, was found.

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. 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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