April 19 (UPI) -- Investigators say they've cracked a pair of 40-year-old California murder cases by using DNA testing to identify the killer -- a method similar to that used by authorities last year to identify who they say is the Golden State Killer.
Officials said DNA taken from prison inmate Arthur Rudy Martinez conclusively matches DNA left at the scene of two homicides in San Luis Obispo County in 1977 and 1978. Both victims -- Jane Morton and Patricia Dwyer -- had also been sexually assaulted. Police say Morton was killed in her car and Dwyer was stabbed to death in her home.
Martinez, who'd been paroled after unrelated convictions for attempted murder and rape, lived in the area at the time of the deaths but left soon after, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Wednesday. He moved to Spokane, Wash., and received life sentences there for several robberies and two rapes. After 16 years in prison, he escaped and lived under an alias in California until 2014 when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He returned to Washington state and turned himself in to receive medical treatment in prison, Parkinson said. He died behind bars two months later.
The homicide cases were reopened three years ago with investigators seeking a familial DNA match to the evidence. Authorities said it led them to a relative of Martinez and a former girlfriend who provided investigators the DNA sample from a razor he'd used. A lab determined the DNA from the razor matched that from the crime scenes.
"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.
Last year, California authorities identified the suspected Golden State Killer by using a similar method. DNA evidence linked James DeAngelo to the killer's crimes and he now faces multiple murder charges. The Golden State Killer is responsible for as many as 12 deaths and 45 rapes in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1976 and 1986. Authorities in the Bay Area are also trying to use DNA to identify the Zodiac killer, who killed at least five people in 1968 and 1969.