SANTA BARBARA (AP) — DNA evidence links the 1981 killings of a Santa Barbara County couple to a serial killer and rapist who has never been caught, officials said Thursday.
Degraded DNA taken from semen and other evidence at the crime scene was compared to samples from other cases linked to the killer, and all pointed to the same man, the Los Angeles Times and the Santa Maria Times reported, citing information from the sheriff’s department.
“With recent advancements in DNA profiling methods, it was important for us to push forward and reevaluate evidence in this case before it deteriorated and became useless,” Sheriff Bill Brown told the Times.
Investigators had long suspected that the July 1981 deaths of Cheri Domingo, 35, and Gregory Sanchez, 27, while house-sitting in Goleta were the work of the killer dubbed the “East Side Rapist” and the “Original Night Stalker” (to distinguish him from convicted 1980s “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez).
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Investigators working with the California Department of Justice took more than 50 pieces of evidence from the Goleta slayings, obtained a small amount DNA and matched it through a database. The killer is suspected in at least eight killings and some 40 rapes that took place from 1979 to 1986 in Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Ventura and Orange counties.
The last attack was in 1986, and investigators don’t know whether the killer is still alive.
One of the fatal attacks in a Goleta condominium occurred 18 months before Domingo and Sanchez were killed. The victims were Dr. Robert Offerman, 44, and Alexandria Manning, 35.
Other cases believed to be related:
• Abraham Himmel and Jennifer Horinek, both 33 at the time, who survived an attack in their Goleta home in fall 1979.
• Keith and Patty Harrington, killed in 1980 at a home in Orange County’s Niguel Shores. Authorities say the attacker entered the unlocked home, tied up the couple, raped the woman and then bludgeoned them to death.
• Manuela Witthuhn, killed in her Irvine home in February 1981.
• Janelle Cruz, bludgeoned in her parents’ Irvine home in May 1986.
The same man may have started his crime career with a string of more than 100 home burglaries in Visalia, a Central Valley town, and ended with the killing of a man who tried to stop a burglar from abducting his daughter, retired Ventura detective Russ Whitmeyer told the Orange County Register in 2009.
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