POINT REYES, Calif. -- Four hikers found dead along a remote trail in the Point Reyes National Seashore probably were the victims of a ritualistic killer responsible for the deaths of three others found over the past year, sheriff's deputies said Sunday.
Sheriff Al Howenstein told a news conference in San Rafael that evidence showed the killer employed 'mental torture in which the victim pleads not to be murdered.'
The sheriff warned hikers to use the park with extreme caution and to travel in groups because he said the killer would strike again because 'these murders are not satisfying ... (his) needs.'
Teams looking for two women hikers reported missing on Friday found instead two badly decomposed bodies, fully clothed, buried side-by-side in a shallow grave near Sky Trail on Mount Wittenberg Saturday.
Howenstein said these bodied were so badly decomposed that coroner's deputies were trying to ascertain their sexes and identities.
An hour and a half later the searchers found the bodies of the two women they were looking for a half-mile away. The women, whose bodies were about 100 yards apart, were nude and their clothing scattered about.
He identified one of the two women as Diana O'Connell, 22. He would not reveal her hometown but said she was from the East Coast and had been staying in the San Francisco area with friends.
He said he would identify the other once her relatives were notified.
Howenstein said three other victims of the same killer were found in the same general area between August 1979 and October 1980. He linked all seven murders because of 'their ritualistic aspect.'
'The killer, who has a severe psychological problem, is motivated to put the vctims through some degree of discomfort prior to the killings,' the sheriff told reporters.
He said his investigators were convinced all seven people were the victims of the same killer because 'of the submissive positions in which the victims were found.' He did not elaborate.
Of Friday's slayings, Howenstein said, 'One was definitely in the killer's plans, the other was killed coincidentally.' Again he did not elaborate.
The sheriff said he did not think more victims would be found in the rugged park 'because we don't have any outstanding missing reports. However, we did not have those reports on the two bodies (decomposed) we found Saturday either.'
Howenstein said a psychological profile of the killer indicated he was 'beginning to fall apart psychologically as evidenced by the multiple slayings and the return to the scene of a previous crime ... He is capable of killing again because he needs psychological relief: These murders are not satisfying these needs.'
A witness who saw the killer flee one of the Mount Tamalpais slayings described him as about 6 feet tall of medium build with medium-length brown hair. His age was put at between 25 and 35.
The three other victims found previously -- all found on Mount Tamalpais -- were Anne E. Alderson, 26, found shot to death Oct. 15 near the Mountain Theater; Barbara Schwartz, 23, found knifed to death March 8, and Edda Kane, 44, found shot to death near the Rock Springs Trail Aug. 20, 1979.