The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday that a suspect had been identified in two murders dating back to the late 70s.
WATCH LIVE: San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office announces "major development" in decades-old cold case.
Posted by KSBY on Wednesday, April 17, 2019
The first murder happened in November of 1977, and the second happened in January of 1978 in what is now considered the City of Atascadero.
At the time of the murders, the area had not been incorporated into the city, so it was considered to be under the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction.
On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office announced Arthur Rudy Martinez, who is now deceased, had been identified as the suspect in both cases.
Jane Morten Antunez was killed on November 18, 1977. Deputies say she was found in the back seat of her car on a dirt road off Santa Barbara Road in Atascadero. Her throat had been cut and she had been sexually assaulted. The Sheriff’s Office says she was living on the south side of Atascadero near the area where her body was found. She was reportedly going to her best friend’s house but never made it there. At the time, witnesses reported that she had picked up a man in a car, however, those reports were never confirmed.
Patricia Dwyer, who worked at Atascadero State Hospital, was found dead on the floor of her home on January 11, 1978. She lived in the 5500 block of Del Rio Road in Atascadero and had been stabbed and sexually assaulted. Investigators say she never let strangers into her home, but she had a key underneath the front mat of her home.
Investigators say both women had mutual friends but didn’t know each other.
In both cases, their arms had been bound behind their backs.
The Sheriff’s Office says Martinez was identified as a suspect in the killings using DNA evidence.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson said in a press conference that Martinez had been paroled to San Luis Obispo County in 1977 after serving time in prison for attempted murder and rape. Investigators believe Martinez fled to Washington State after the second murder.
Shortly after arriving in Washington State, Martinez was arrested in connection with several robberies and rapes. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison to be served in Washington State.
In May of 1994, Sheriff Parkinson says Martinez escaped from prison and fled to Fresno, where he lived for more than 20 years under the alias of Jose Laureus.
In April of 2014, investigators say Martinez turned himself in in the Central Valley after he was diagnosed with cancer in order to gain treatment in prison. He was sent back to Washington State after his arrest. In June, the Sheriff’s Office says Martinez died in prison.
Sheriff Parkinson says biological evidence had been recovered from both scenes at the time of the killings, but at the time, DNA evidence was not used in criminal cases.
In 2004, voters passed Proposition 69, which required DNA samples to be collected at the time of bookings for felonies.
A new law took effect in 2009, and since then it is estimated more than 2 million DNA profiles have been collected.
In this case, the Sheriff’s Office says it had the DNA profile of the suspect, but there was no database to look at in order to connect the profile to Martinez.
In March of 2018, detectives met with the Department of Justice DNA lab in Goleta and tested more than 20 DNA samples. Through a familial DNA search, detectives were eventually able to come back with a similar match to Martinez.
The Sheriff’s Office says Martinez had already been identified as a potential suspect in the case because he was identified as a parolee, however, no specific evidence had linked him to the crimes.
Detectives later contacted an old girlfriend of Martinez in the Central Valley area and were able to obtain new DNA evidence which they say linked Martinez to the crime. The Sheriff’s Office tells KSBY the DNA was collected from an old razor.
The Sheriff’s Office says a witness in Antunez’s murder also identified Martinez as the killer.