More than four decades after two girls were shot to death in Yuba County, two men were arrested on suspicion of murder Tuesday after DNA evidence tied the pair to the unsolved case that shocked the area, officials said.
Larry Don Patterson, 65, and William Lloyd Harbour, 65, were taken into custody by U.S. marshals and Yuba County authorities in Oklahoma and Yuba County, respectively, in connection with the November 1973 slayings.
It was mid-morning on Nov. 12, 1973, when the mothers of Valerie Janice Lane, 12, and Doris Karen Derryberry, 13, both from Olivehurst, reported them missing.
The good friends had left home around noon Nov. 11 to go shopping at a mall in the nearby town of Linda. They were seen around the town until early that Sunday evening. They did not return home, so their mothers went to the police the next day.
A few hours later, the bodies of the two girls were found along a dirt road near Camp Far West Lake outside of Wheatland. Valerie and Doris had been killed by shotgun blasts at close range, said Leslie Carbah, a Yuba County sheriff's spokeswoman. Boys who had been target shooting that day found the bodies in a wooded area near a Bear River diversion dam.
Despite more than 60 interviews and three years of investigation, detectives did not find any worthwhile leads in the slayings. The case went cold, but many in the community never forgot.
In 2014, Carbah said, Yuba County sheriff's detectives reviewed the case and sent crime scene evidence to the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services for testing. That December, DNA evidence yielded matches that identified Patterson and Harbour, Carbah said.
"The DNA finally gave us a lead in the case to chase," Carbah said. "Both have prior crimes that put their DNA in the database."
Patterson was convicted of rape in the 1970s and spent time in prison; Harbour has a history of drug charges.
Detectives had to reconstruct the events and build a case that showed how the pair could have committed the slayings. Prosecutors filed charges against the men before their arrests Tuesday.
"We express our sympathy and condolences to the families of Valerie and Doris after enduring decades of not knowing who was responsible for the brutal murders," Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor said at a news conference Tuesday.
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4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details from a news conference.