Thanks to DNA from an old razor blade, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office has solved a rape and murder case that was more than 40 years old.
Two women were found raped and murdered in Atascadero, California, in the late 1970s. Police did not have enough evidence to link anyone to the crime, and it remained unsolved for 41 years.
Detectives reopened the cold case in June 2017 and received a lead from the Department of Justice’s Familial DNA Search team in Richmond, California, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office reported.
The investigation led detectives to a man named Arthur Rudy Martinez, who died of cancer in 2014 in a Washington state prison.
DNA taken from an old razor used by Martinez matches DNA left by the suspect at each crime scene, the sheriff’s office reported. Police obtained the razor by visiting Martinez’s former girlfriend who found the blade sitting in her bathroom medicine cabinet.
Martinez had a history of violent crime and, at the time of the two murders, had been on parole in Atascadero after serving ten years in prison for attempted rape and murder, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
It was during his parole that Martinez laid eyes on his first victim: 30-year-old Jane Morton Antunez, who was traveling to a friend’s house in November 1977.
Antunez never arrived and was found the following day in her vehicle on a dirt road. She had been sexually assaulted and then killed.
Just a couple of months later, in January 1978, Martinez repeated his crime, this time on Patricia Dwyer, 28, who was found raped and killed in her home.
At the time, police did suspect Martinez could be linked to the murders but did not have enough evidence to arrest him.
Following his crimes, Martinez quickly left the state and moved to Washington, where he was eventually placed in prison in 1978 for a string of robberies and rapes, the Tribune reported.
Martinez escaped from prison in 1994.
He lived the next 20 years of his life in California under an alias. When he became terminally ill with cancer, Martinez turned himself in, which authorities believe he did in order to receive medical care while in prison.
— SLO County Sheriff (@SLOSheriff) April 18, 2019
Detective Clint Cole, the sheriff’s office’s cold case investigator, believes that Martinez’s motive in the crimes was sexual assault.
“That was his history,” Cole told the Tribune. “All of his cases, including the Washington cases, were crimes of opportunity.”
Police are hopeful that the women’s families will find some comfort knowing the case has been solved after all these years.
“The solving of the case brings closure to the family and the community,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson during a media conference. “There’s many in the community that still recall the homicides that occurred at that time.”
Parkinson credited Cole with solving the crime that had been a mystery for decades.
“We are extremely proud of Detective Clint Cole and his efforts to solve this 41-year-old murder mystery,” Parkinson said. “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and are hopeful the resolution to these cases brings them some closure.”