DNA Links Kidnapper, Rapist To 1980 Cold Case Murders In Ventura, Kern Counties

THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA.com) — A man serving a life sentence for kidnapping, robbery and rape was linked by DNA as the main suspect in the cold case murders of two women in Ventura and Kern counties, authorities said Wednesday.

Wilson Chouest Lemoore, 63, is serving a life sentence in state prison for the kidnap, robbery and rape of one woman and the kidnap and robbery of another that occurred in Tulare County in August and September of 1980, Ventura County sheriff’s officials said. For these crimes, Chouest is eligible for parole in 2017.

Chouest was identified Wednesday in connection with the sexual assault, stabbing and strangling death of a woman whose body was found in the parking lot of Westlake High School, 100 N. Lakeview Canyon Road, in Westlake Village at about 12:30 p.m. on July 18, 1980. Investigators at the time determined the woman, who was approximately five months pregnant with a son, had been killed elsewhere, then dumped in the school’s parking lot, according to sheriff’s officials.

Investigators then learned Chouest had also been linked through DNA to another Jane Doe homicide in Kern County. In that case, a woman’s body was found in an almond orchard near Delano on July 15, 1980, three days before the Ventura County Jane Doe was found.

With this evidence, detectives submitted a case to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for review, and Chouest was arrested on Sept. 30 for murder. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance in the case Thursday.

Investigators say they are still working to identify the two victims. Authorities say both women gave birth to children before their deaths and that investigators would like to return their loved ones to them.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The Kern County victim was described as a possibly American Indian or Hispanic woman, about 5-foot-4, 115 pounds, between 30 and 35 years old with brown hair and eyes, found wearing a pink top, blue jeans and white shoes. She has a 4-inch scar on her abdomen, a scar on her left buttock and left upper leg, and two tattoos on her left arm – a heart on her upper arm with “Shirley” inside, “Love You” above, and “Seattle” below; and on her lower arm, a rose with “Mother” above and “I love you” below. She may have used the name Rebecca Ochoa, going by the first name Rebecca or Becky, and may have worked as an apple picker.

(credit: Ventura County Sheriff's Department)

(credit: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department)

The Ventura County victim was described as a possibly Hispanic woman about 20 to 30 years old, between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-3, 110 to 120 pounds, black hair with bleached ends and penciled-in eyebrows. She was found wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, red corduroy pants and black open-toed high heel shoes. Authorities say she had extensive dental work that originated in the U.S

Chouest was known to travel through several counties during his four months of freedom in 1980, sheriff’s officials said. The women may have been kidnapped and murdered in Tulare, Kern, Ventura or Los Angeles counties.

Anyone with information about Chouest’s activity between June and September 1980 or has information about the victims’ identities can email tips to the Cold Case Unit at coldcase.187@ventura.org.

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