San Mateo County Deputies say a suspect in the so-called ‘Gypsy Hill Murders' that occurred in the 1970's in the Bay Area has been charged with two of six of the murders. One of those murders happened in Reno in 1976.
On Thursday, San Mateo County Deputies announced that the suspect, 66-year-old Rodney Halbower was extradited from Oregon State Prison to San Mateo County. He is being charged with two counts of murder and the special circumstance of murder during the course of a rape. Deputies say the two murders he's charged with are 17-year-old Paula Baxter, whose body was found in Millbrae, California and 18-year-old Veronica Cascio, whose body was recovered in Pacifica, California.
Deputies say Halbower was previously identified as a person of interest when a DNA link during an examination of cold case DNA profiles was discovered by San Mateo County Crime Lab, Oregon State Prison and the Washoe County Crime Lab.
Last March, FBI representatives announced that DNA from a February 1976 Reno murder matched samples found in San Mateo County, where five of the other murders took place between January and April of that year.
In 1979, a woman named Cathy Woods confessed to the Reno murder. She was tried and convicted of killing 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell in the area of 9th and Evans Avenue. Mitchell's body was later found in nearby garage. She was a sophomore nursing student at the University of Nevada when she died.
Authorities say Woods' DNA was not found at that crime scene. However, DNA that was recovered was found at the five other crime scenes in San Mateo County. A suspect in the Reno murder has yet to be charged.
The other victims were 14-year-old Tatiana Marie "Tanya" Blackwell, 26-year-old Carol Lee Booth and 19-year-old Denise Lampe. All had been stabbed to death, a few of them found with rope or cord tied around their necks.
Halbower has an extensive rap sheet. In 1976, he was convicted of rape, in Nevada. He escaped and went to Oregon, where he was convicted of attempted murder and assault and robbery. He was returned to the Silver State, where he went back to prison. In 2013, he was paroled and transported back to Oregon to carry out his sentence, there.
Authorities say the investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information should contact the FBI San Francisco Field Office at 415-553-7400 then press 0 and advise it is in regards to the Gypsy Hill cases. All calls are confidential.