REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a task force to gather information on a series of cold case murders, dubbed the ‘Gypsy Hill Murders’ that took place in the first four months of 1976 in San Mateo County after linking the slayings to a murder in Reno.
The FBI announced at a press conference in Redwood City Thursday that they believe the 1976 murder of Michelle Mitchell, 19, in Reno may be linked to the Gypsy Hill Murder investigation, and that a joint task force involving the FBI and San Mateo County law enforcement agencies has been created to focus on the cases.
Cathy Woods was convicted of Mitchell’s murder. FBI spokesman Pete Lee said investigators still believe Woods was responsible for the murder, but given the new evidence, they also believe she had an accomplice.
According to Court records, Michelle’s car had broken down near the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, where she attended classes.
She called her mother for a ride home, but her mother couldn’t find her. Michelle’s body was found in the garage of a nearby house. Her hands were bound with twine and her throat was slashed.
KTVN-TV, the CBS affiliate in Reno reported a Reno Police Department spokesman confirmed to the TV station that it was DNA evidence recovered at Mitchell’s murder scene that ties all six murders together, and that the DNA does not match Cathy Woods.
The FBI task force will be knocking on doors near the peninsula crime scenes to try and jog the memories of neighbors.
They said they are being careful not to call the killer a “serial murderer” because it might narrow the imaginations of potential witnesses as they recall clues to the crimes.
In the first four months of 1976, Veronica Ann “Ronnie” Cascio, Tatiana Marie “Tanya” Blackwell, Paula Louse Baxter, Carol Lee Booth, and Denise Lampe were murdered in San Mateo County.
The new task force is comprised of FBI agents, officers from the Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco and Reno police departments, and deputies with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
Members of the task force plan to canvass neighborhoods where the victims were last seen and where their bodies were discovered, as well as pursue any leads that surface, in an effort to bring the killer to justice and provide closure for the victims’ families, according to FBI special agent Gerald Bessette.
No suspect has been identified in the “Gypsy Hill” cases.
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