FBI Hunts Killer Behind Unsolved 1976 Murders

Murders of 5 SF Bay Area women linked to Reno killing, say authorities
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2014 10:13 AM CST
Michelle Mitchell   (FBI Handout)
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(Newser) – The FBI is turning up the heat on a series of cold-case murders now almost 40 years old. Thanks to new DNA evidence, detectives say they suspect one killer is responsible for the murders of five young women around the San Francisco Bay Area in early 1976, and was an accomplice in the murder of another woman in Reno, Nevada, around the same time, NBC News and the San Francisco Chronicle report. Now, in an operation dubbed "Gypsy Hill," FBI agents will join local officers to canvas neighborhoods in an effort to surface residents' 38-year-old memories.

"No tips or observations are too small for us," said an FBI agent. "We have reason to believe the deaths are linked," he added, though he wouldn't divulge information on the DNA evidence, saying only that the murders were "crimes of opportunity." "We believe that this suspect was driving by and saw someone who was helpless and took advantage of that situation," a spokesman added. All of the victims—Ronnie Cascio, Tanya Blackwell, Paula Baxter, Carol Lee Booth, and Denise Lampe in the Bay Area, and Michelle Mitchell in Reno—disappeared within four months of each other, most while they were waiting for the bus, or next to a car that was sometimes broken down; their bodies were found later. The Chronicle notes that two month ago, Cathy Woods, the woman convicted of Mitchell's murder, asked that the evidence be reviewed, which ultimately led authorities to make the California connection.

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