6 California Cold Cases SOLVED

True Crime Lists T

California has its fair share of murders across the United States, and as such, its fair share of cold cases, hundreds of which remain unsolved. But what about the ones that were solved? Here are six cold cases that were solved in California and how they were done.

1. Double Murder of Patricia Dwyer and Jane Antunez

Time taken for cold case to be solved: 41 years.

On 11th January 1978, investigators arrived at the Atascadero home of 28-year-old Patricia Dwyer. They found her on the floor of her home, having been sexually assaulted and stabbed in the chest with a knife from her kitchen drawer.

Her murder was linked to the death of 30-year-old Jane Antunez whose body was found on 18th November 1977, in the back seat of her car. She too had been sexually assaulted and her throat had been cut.

6 California Cold Cases SOLVED
Jane Morton Antunez (left)/Patricia Dwyer (right) CREDIT: San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office

Despite being an unsolved cold case for many years, investigators had continued to follow leads as DNA technology advanced. In April 2019, a press conference was held by the investigators who told reporters that both murders had been solved, 41 years after the fact.

Familial searching of DNA databases had led them to Arthur Rudy Martinez, a convicted criminal who died in a Washington prison in 2014. A DNA match from an old razor his ex-girlfriend had kept linked him to both crime scenes. He had previously been arrested on rape charges prior to the murders.

2. Murder of Mary London

Time taken for cold case to be solved: 39 years.

In Sacramento, on 14th January 1981, 17-year-old Sacramento High School student Mary London disappeared after she failed to show up for an after-school class. Mary was a developmentally disabled student who was reported missing by her family the same afternoon.

The next morning, her body was discovered near San Juan Road and Airport Road, with multiple stab wounds. The motive behind the murder remained a mystery and the case went cold until 39 years later.

In 2020, investigators used new investigative genetic genealogy and updated DNA testing to link Vernon Parker to Mary’s murder. Unfortunately for Mary’s family, Parker had died aged 18-years-old, one year after Mary’s murder. No details of his death have ever been released but suicide was the suspected cause.

3. Murder of Victoria DeSantiago

Time taken for cold case to be solved: 30 years.

In Fresno, on 3rd February 1979, eight-year-old Victoria DeSantiago and her three-year-old sister Eva were abducted as they made their way home from a store. A neighbour found Eva a few hours later who was in a confused state. Victoria was nowhere to be seen.

Three days later, Victoria’s broken body was found by workers at an irrigation canal. She had been brutally assaulted and beaten to death. The case remained unsolved for 30 years until 2009.

Cold case investigators matched DNA to child killer Fernando Caro, who had been living in Fresno at the time. Caro was already serving two life sentences for the murder of two children in 1980, when he was linked to Victoria’s death. It is believed he had killed at least five children. He died in 2017.

4. Unidentified Teenage Murder Victim

Time taken for cold case to be solved: 32 years.

In Ventura County on 18th June 1980, the body of an unidentified pregnant teenager was found in a high school parking lot. She had been raped, strangled, and then stabbed sixteen times.

She had been killed in a different location the day before and transported to the car park where her body was dumped. The case remained unsolved until 2012, when new DNA technology led to Wilson Claude Chouest.

He was already serving a life sentence for abduction, robbery, and rape when he was identified as the killer. In 2018, Chouest was found guilty of three murders of unidentified women. It remains unusual that the victim has never been identified, despite advances in DNA technology.

6 California Cold Cases SOLVED
CREDIT: Adrian Malec

5. Murder of Susan Saunders

Time taken for cold case to be solved: 34 years.

In Santa Ana, on 9th July 1978, Susan Saunders was shot dead as she sat in a car with her friend and colleague Michael Scott Reynolds. They were the managers of a Fiddlers Three Restaurant in Tustin.

An unidentified shooter walked up to the car and shot Reynolds in the back of the head, who would then remarkably go on to survive. Saunders ran from the car and was chased to a nearby liquor store where she was sexually assaulted, beaten and shot dead.

In 2006, the Santa Ana Police Department’s Cold Case Unit was formed to review more than 250 unsolved deaths, which included the Saunders murder. In 2012, the DNA produced a family match with the semen left on Saunders and it finally led them to career criminal James Lynn Brown.

Brown’s son, who never met his father, helped supply his own DNA, but in a cruel twist of fate, James Lynn Brown had already committed suicide in 1996 and so no arrest could be made.

6. Murder of John Carl Burkhardt

Time taken for cold case to be solved: 32 years.

In Fontana, in March 1990, 71-year-old John Carl Burkhardt was found stabbed to death at his home after missing a breakfast date with a friend. His friend went to the house to find it ransacked, and John’s body on the floor.

In 2003, a female witness told police she had gone to the house with Michael Joseph Vance to collect money from John. She saw Michael get into a fight with John and stab him to death. But Michael denied the killing and the police had no evidence to go on.

In 2021, thanks to improvements in forensic technology, fingerprints from the murder weapon were lifted and matched Michael’s record, who was already in prison for an unrelated crime. In the Spring of 2022, 32 years after the incident, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

As true crime proves time and time again, cold cases are inevitably getting solved quicker than ever, and those who have committed criminal acts, will be forever looking over their shoulders.

Help share the article

Leave a comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. There's a lot more the Italian authorities are not releasing over this case. Makes you wonder the extent of the…