Gypsy Hill Murders: Suspect Arrested In 1976 Cold Case
The Gypsy Hill Murders have remained unsolved for nearly four decades. On Thursday, authorities in Redwood City, California, arrested and charged Rodney Halbower, 66, with two counts of murder and “murder during the course of rape.” At the time of his arrest, Halbower was incarcerated for an unrelated conviction of attempted murder.
Between January and April 1976, authorities in San Mateo County, California, discovered the bodies of four teens and one young women.
In the course of investigation, officials determined that all five victims were stabbed to death. They also believe the victims were sexually assaulted before they were killed.
The bodies of Tatiana Blackwell, 14, Paula Baxter, 17, Veronica Cascio, 18, Denise Lampe, 19, and Carol Booth, 26, were all discovered near Gypsy Hill Road in Pacifica. Therefore, the killings were deemed the Gypsy Hill Murders.
Authorities were hesitant to suggest the women were the victims of a serial killer. However, they could not deny the chilling similarities in the women’s appearance and the way they were killed.
Retired Sergeant Ronald Caine said he “worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for four months.” Unfortunately, as there were no suspects, the cases went cold.
As reported by Contra Coast Times, DNA testing was not available when the murders were committed. However, Caine made sure biological evidence was collected from each woman and preserved.
Although it took nearly four decades, the biological evidence may have helped solve the Gypsy Hill Murders.
As reported by Fox News, San Mateo County Crime Lab, in conjunction with crime labs in Nevada and Oregon, confirmed Rodney Halbower’s DNA was found on the bodies of Paula Baxter and Veronica Cascio. The labs also concluded that DNA evidence, recovered from a crime scene in Reno, Nevada, also matched the suspect.
The body of 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell was discovered in a parking garage in February 1976. Although her death was similar to the Gypsy Hill Murders in California, someone else confessed to the crime.
While housed in a mental institution, Cathy Woods confessed to killing Mitchell and leaving her body inside the parking garage. Although she was charged and convicted, authorities believed she had an accomplice.
A cigarette butt found near Mitchell’s body was preserved and kept as evidence in the crime. The San Mateo County Crime Lab has now concluded that DNA collected from the cigarette butt belongs to Rodney Halbower.
Authorities said Halbower was incarcerated in Nevada during the early 1970s. However, he eventually managed to escape. In addition to crimes in Michigan and Oregon, authorities believe Halbower killed at least two young women in San Mateo County, California, while he was on the run.
Although Halbower remains the primary suspect in the deaths of Tanya Blackwell and Carol Booth, he was ruled out as a suspect in the death of Denise Lampe.
Authorities are confident that they have solved at least two of the Gypsy Hill Murders. However, they are still seeking any information about the deaths of the other four women.
[Images via Daily Mail and SF Examiner]