DNA evidence has linked the cold-case rapes and slayings of two women on California’s Central Coast to a man who died of cancer in a Washington prison nearly four decades after the killings, authorities said Wednesday.
DNA taken recently from a razor that had belonged to Arthur Rudy Martinez matched DNA left by the suspect in two unsolved killings in Atascadero in the late 1970s, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference.
The body of 30-year-old Jane Morton Antunez was found in the backseat of her car on a dirt road on Nov. 18, 1977. She had been sexually assaulted, and her throat had been cut. Less than two months later, on Jan. 11, 1978, 28-year-old Patricia Dwyer was found sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in her home.
Martinez moved to Washington from Atascadero shortly after Dwyer was killed. He later was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of numerous rapes and robberies in Washington, but Martinez escaped from prison in 1994, Parkinson said.
Martinez returned to California and lived in Fresno under an alias for more than 20 years. He turned himself in on his Washington convictions after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2014 so he could get medical treatment in prison, Parkinson said.
He died about two months later at age 65 in the prison in Spokane.
At the time of the slayings, Martinez was working as a welder in Atascadero and was on parole for convictions of attempted murder and rape. At one point, he had been considered as a potential suspect in the killings, but there was no evidence at the time linking him to either crime scene, Parkinson said.
The sheriff’s office reopened the 41-year-old cold case in 2017 and decided to test Martinez’s DNA after one of his family members was connected to the case through a familial DNA search, the sheriff’s office said.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and are hopeful the resolution to these cases brings them some closure,” Parkinson said in a statement.