Thursday, 25 June 2015

The San Mateo Slasher

1976 saw a spate of murders thought to have been committed by just one person, nicknamed "The San Mateo Slasher" or alternatively the "Gypsy Hill Killer."  Five murders, plus two others thought of as being committed by the same hand, began on January 8th when the body of 18 year old Veronica Cascio was discovered.  She had been dumped in a creek by the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, California.  She had been stabbed numerous times.  Police did arrest a drifter but was released through lack of evidence.  The next victim was 17 year old Paula Baxter.  She was reported missing on February 2nd and found dead two days later.  She had suffered a sexual assault, there was blunt force trauma to her head and had been stabbed multiple times, just like Veronica.  Forensics had linked these two deaths so Police knew it was one man.  Paula had been dumped behind a Mormon Church on Ludeman Lane.  She had been stripped naked.  She had been seen leaving her car, as it had broken down.

    The killer did not slow down or take the time honoured "cooling off period" that was favoured by profilers and analysts.  (I believe they kill simply because they want to)  Next to meet a grisly death was Denise Lampe, from the Broadmoor area.  She was discovered dead in a parking lot of the Serramonte Center, on April 1st.  She too followed the pattern of many stab wounds.  Then in May, the body of Carol Booth was discovered on the 6th in a shallow grave in Calma Creek, just off Grand Avenue in South San Francisco.  She had been reported missing in mid March by her husband.  Victim number five was a schoolgirl, 14 year old Tatiana Blackwell, who had been reported missing from her home district of Pacifica.  Her body was discovered by Sharp Park Road in Gypsy Hills.  She had been stabbed multiple times.

    Police linked two other murders to this series but there has been no positive evidential proof that these were all committed by the same person.  There is just circumstantial links.  The first was that of Michele Mitchell, 19, from Reno, Nevada.  On February 24th, she suffered mechanical failure and witnesses saw a man helping her push her car into a parking lot on Evans Street.  Later that night, her body was discovered in a garage on East 9th Street.  She had been bound and her throat slashed.  This remained unsolved for three years until a woman named Cathy Woods, a patient at a mental hospital, Louisiana State University Medical Center, confessed to murdering a girl named Michelle, a couple of years previously.  The second murder is that of Idell Friedman aged 21, who worked for an import company.  She was found naked and stabbed to death in the kitchen of her home in San Francisco on March 17th.  She had also been physically assaulted.

    In March 2014, the FBI formed a task force to reinvestigate these cold cases.  Advancement in DNA testing showed that a cigarette found by the body of Michelle, yielded DNA matching evidence left on the body of one of the first five victims.  Cathy Woods was released and awaits a new trial.  Then the Police arrested and charged a man with two of the murders in January of this year.  He awaits trial.  The circumstantial links were that all the victims were young brunettes, so many had suffered car trouble - indicating that possibly the killer targeted women in distress.  Damn, there I go with my "trouble stirring guesswork!! - and most of the bodies were dumped in wooded areas.  To top it off, all suffered multiple stab wounds.  Was it one man, or more?