A murder suspect wanted in connection with 16 violent crimes committed in San Diego County since early December is now believed to be in an Oklahoma town where he grew up and near where he might have committed four similar crimes in the months before his crime spree here, an Oklahoma police official said Monday.
Residents of Tahlequah, about 50 miles from Tulsa, began contacting law enforcement officials reporting having seen San Diego murder suspect Billy Ray Waldon after a picture of Waldon was shown on a local TV news program Monday morning, Tahlequah Police Capt. Chuck Stephens said. He would not comment on whether the sightings were a definite indication that Waldon was in town or nearby.
“We’re kind of on pins and needles,” Stephens said.
One woman who called police said she had seen Waldon Monday morning purchasing liquor in a Tahlequah store.
A ballistics expert from Tulsa, in San Diego last weekend, said that bullets recovered from four Tulsa robberies and assaults, one of which resulted in a woman’s death, may have come from the same gun used in a string of San Diego crimes, San Diego police spokesman Bill Robinson said.
Robinson said that San Diego autopsies performed on Charles Gordon Wells and Dawn and Erin Ellerman all revealed .25-caliber bullets fired by Waldon’s gun. Dawn Ellerman and her 13-year-old daughter were killed Dec. 7, and their bodies were found in their burning Del Mar Heights home.
Wells was shot on the night of Dec. 20 while police were pursuing a man later identified as Waldon in the 3900 block of Cleveland Avenue.
Bullets taken from the San Diego victims matched bullets fired during a similar series of robberies in and around Tulsa during October and November, Robinson said. Some matching shell casings were found as well, he said.
A week ago, San Diego police issued an arrest warrant for Waldon in connection with the three homicides, an arson, a rape, seven armed robberies, two burglaries, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of attempted murder. Stephens said that before these charges, Waldon had never been in any trouble with the law.
Waldon, 33, a 6-foot-2 white man, eluded a massive San Diego police manhunt Dec. 20 and then disappeared from sight. San Diego police contacted police agencies in Los Angeles, Texas and Oklahoma, where Waldon is known to have ties. Robinson said that Waldon is armed and considered extremely dangerous. The reported sightings in Oklahoma are the most recent since he reportedly stole a car at gunpoint in San Diego Dec. 20.
Waldon became a suspect in the Tulsa crimes after Tulsa police officials saw certain similarities between the crimes committed in San Diego and those in Tulsa, Robinson said. Among the similarities: Most of the victims were women, and the female victims all had been shot from behind, he said.
Stephens said that one of the Tulsa victims was shot in the neck, as was Dawn Ellerman.
Additional evidence linking Waldon to the crimes in Tulsa was found in a car abandoned by Waldon nearly two weeks ago, Robinson said. He declined to identify that evidence but said police are getting a search warrant for a storage facility once rented by Waldon in San Diego.
Stephens, who attended the same high school as Waldon and graduated a year ahead of the murder suspect, said he was not familiar with Waldon in high school but did remember Waldon as a low-key person who never drew attention to himself.
Waldon was abandoned by his mother when he was 5 and was raised by his grandmother, Stephens said. Waldon never knew who his real father was, the police officer said, but Waldon and his grandmother were “as close as he would have been to a natural mother.”
Waldon’s grandmother adopted him while he was attending Tahlequah Senior High School. He graduated in 1970 and several years later entered the Navy, where his records portrayed a very confident young man who was “willing and able to work,” Stephens said. In 1981 or 1982, his grandmother died, and “after this you can see the decline in behavior . . . he becomes a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker,” Stephens said. Waldon was discharged from the Navy in January.
Stephens said that, around 1978, Waldon became a member of the Esperanto Society, which Stephens described as “a sort of Quaker pacifist group.”
When his grandmother died, he became interested in the Cherokee part of his lineage, Stephens said.