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Task Force to Seek Serial-Killer Link in the Slaying of 32

Times Staff Writer

Law enforcement officials said Wednesday that two victims have been added to a list of prostitutes and female transients who may be the victims of a San Diego County serial killer.

The addition of the two brings to at least 32 the number of women whose bodies have been found in remote areas of the county.

Officials also announced this week the creation of a joint city-county task force of detectives and prosecutors to investigate whether the growing list of victims could be related to the Green River serial killer in the Seattle area.

Sgt. Liz Foster of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday that the 12-member San Diego Metropolitan Homicide Task Force is made up of detectives from the Sheriff’s Department, the San Diego Police Department and prosecutors from the district attorney’s office.

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They are working out of an office at an undisclosed location in Mission Valley, sifting through evidence dating back three years in the deaths of dozens of young women, many of them prostitutes and known drug users.

The task force was established last Thursday, but its members had already quietly begun meeting and sharing information in June.

Wednesday, law enforcement sources said they have concluded that skeletal remains found in July and August in North County fit the pattern of other victims in the investigation.

Investigated 40 Deaths

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However, officials in San Diego and Seattle, where the Green River slayings drew intense publicity in the early 1980s, Wednesday were quick to avoid claiming that the two sets of killings are related.

Capt. Robert Evans, of the Green River Task Force, said his unit has investigated 40 deaths and eight missing-person reports in the Seattle area, most of them dealing with young women involved in prostitution and drugs.

He cautioned that it is too early to say that the same killer is responsible for the deaths there and the slayings in San Diego.

Many of the San Diego victims have been found in secluded sections of East County, but authorities are now finding bodies in North County, particularly near a stretch of Black Mountain Road between Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos.

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The two new skeletal discoveries fit the serial pattern because the victims were young women whose bodies were found dumped near roadways.

The first of the two most recent discoveries occurred July 15, when scattered human bones were found by a Poway man walking his dog near Black Mountain Road and Emden Road.

San Diego County coroner records show that the remains were determined to have belonged to a female. They were then taken to the San Diego Museum of Man for further examination.

A museum official told the coroner that the bones had belonged to a female between the ages of 15 and 24, and that the bones had been at the site for two to four months.

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That location is about 4 miles from where officials last spring found the remains of two other women whose deaths matched a serial-killer pattern.

On May 29, the nude body of Melissa Sandoval, 20, was found in bushes near Black Mountain Road just west of Via del Campo Road. Sandoval, who was strangled, was a known prostitute.

On April 13, the decomposed body of an unidentified white female was found in the same area of Black Mountain Road. That victim was determined to be between 20 and 30 years old.

The second recent discovery was on Aug. 28, when charred bones were found in an open area near California 78 not far from the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

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Catherine M. Spearnak contributed to this report.


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