DNA evidence helped solve unsolved murders, some dating back to 1980, of three women and a teenage girl in California, leading to the arrest of a 75-year-old man in Texas, authorities announced on Friday.
Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department and Inglewood, California traveled to Fort Worth, Texas to arrest the man, Billy Ray Richardson, whom police have linked to the Kari Lenander, Beverly Cruse murders and her sister, Debra Cruse, in 1980 in Los Angeles, as well as Trina Wilson in 1995 in Inglewood. All of the victims were raped, prosecutors said.
DNA evidence helped link the crimes to Mr Richardson, although authorities did not say what new evidence led him. It was unclear whether Mr Richardson was known to any of the victims.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Mr Richardson was charged on Thursday with four counts of murder and related charges. On Friday afternoon, he was in a jail in Tarrant County, Texas, awaiting extradition to Los Angeles. An arraignment date had not been set.
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement Friday that he was grateful to those whose work led to the arrests.
“I can’t imagine the pain these families have gone through,” he said. “Their loss is immeasurable. We hope that together we can bring justice to the families who have endured so much and waited for this moment for years.
On Friday, attempts to reach surviving family members of the victims were unsuccessful.
In 2001, cold case detectives in Los Angeles reopened an investigation into the murder of Ms Lenander, who was 15 when she was killed. Her body was found in a South Los Angeles neighborhood on July 26, 1980, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Officials said she was murdered and the victim of a sex crime.
In 2012the Los Angeles City Council approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of anyone responsible for his murder.
To press conference in 2012, when the award was announced, Los Angeles Police Department Detective Tim Marcia said investigators had “important leads” on the murder. “But we need a name,” he said.
The night Ms. Lenander was murdered, she and her best friend, 15-year-old Toni Garfield, were alone at Ms. Garfield’s house getting ready for a party and drinking tequila, Detective Marcia told the Los Angeles Times Magazine in a 2010 profile. The girls decided to go dancing and hitchhiked on the way home.
They were picked up by a white man, who said his name was Ken and he was from Canada. Ms Garfield was dropped off at home, but Ms Lenander said she would ‘keep partying’ with Ken, the magazine reported. The girls separated around 10 p.m. and Ms Lenander’s body was found around five hours later.
Detective Marcia said there was a big break in the case in the mid-2000s after a DNA profile determined the race of the suspect. The girls were long believed to have been picked up by a white man, but a test conducted by a private lab indicated that his killer was black. It was unclear how much of a role that test played in identifying Mr Richardson, who is black.
“That information limited the direction I had to go,” Detective Marcia told the magazine. “Instead of having a whole big pie, I reduced it to a quarter of the pie.”
A few months before Ms. Lenander’s murder, the naked bodies of Beverly Cruse, 25, and Debra Cruse, 22, were found on March 5, 1980 by their brother in a West Los Angeles apartment, The Los Angeles Times reported.
He told police he went to the apartment because he hadn’t heard from his sisters for several days. The prosecutor’s office said the women were shot in the head.
More than 15 years later, Ms Wilson was found near an Inglewood park on December 31, 1995, according to city records. The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear on Friday.
In 2012, Inglewood City Council passed a resolution offering $25,000 for information that could lead to the identification, arrest and conviction of those responsible for Ms Wilson’s murder.
Vimal Patel contributed to the reports and Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.