2012-06-22 / Front Page
Cold Case Task Force looking for public’s help
Team is focused on four unsolved county homicides
On Oct. 28, 1983, Moorpark resident Cathleen Saline was on her way home from a morning jog when she decided to get her mail. She never got to see the contents.
Someone stabbed Saline as she walked back to her Varsity Street apartment, leaving the married 26-year-old to bleed to death on the pavement.
Almost 30 years later, the identity of Saline’s killer remains a mystery.
Members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Task Force are working to change that.
The group, headquartered in Camarillo, has highlighted four unsolved Ventura County homicide cases, Saline’s among them.
“(It’s) an effort to try and tickle memories of witnesses that might be willing to come forward and give us something to work on,” said cold case investigator Arnie Aviles, one of four detectives in the sheriff’s cold case unit. “Right now, we need information from the public on possible suspects . . . (to) point us in the right direction and give us some clues.”
Searching for justice
The four homicides the group is bringing to light happened between 1978 and 1992.
On March 2, 1978, construction workers found Lawrence Crabtree, in his late 20s, bludgeoned to death in his Maynard Avenue home in Newbury Park. The unmarried banker’s home was in the process of renovation and evidence suggests that he may have interrupted a burglary in the night. No suspect was ever identified.
Jonathan Wayne Duxbury, the owner of an irrigation system company in Simi Valley, was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death on the morning of Feb. 15, 1991.
When employees arrived at work at 7:30 a.m. on Industrial Street, they found Duxbury, in his late 30s, dead in his office. He is survived by his wife, Terry Hill, who is believed to live in Arizona. No suspect was ever identified.
Felix Ruiz’s body was found on Nov. 2, 1992, in an orchard on Moorpark Avenue, between Los Angeles Avenue and Third Street in Moorpark.
Ruiz was survived by his wife, who lived in Tijuana, Mexico, at the time of his death. A motive for the killing was never established, Aviles said.
Aviles, who at the time of Saline’s death worked as a senior deputy in Ventura, said her killing sent shock waves through the area.
“It was so cold-blooded,” he said. “It’s pretty frightening that someone could go get their mail and be killed by someone they don’t know.”
The motive for the attack remains unclear.
“It wasn’t a robbery and it wasn’t sexually motivated,” Aviles said. “Was it a thrill killing? Why would a guy do that?”
No stranger to homicides
The Cold Case Task Force, formed in 2005, focuses on cold or “shelved” cases that might benefit from new advances in DNA testing. There are about 319 unsolved homicides in Ventura County, several that are decades old.
“ When these cases were originally investigated, DNA was not an investigative tool,” Aviles said.
Aviles, a retired sheriff’s deputy and crime scene investigator, works alongside full-time district attorney investigator Greg Hayes and part-time retired investigators Dennis Fitzgerald, formerly of the Port Hueneme Police Department and district attorney’s office, and Jay Carrott, formerly of the Simi Valley Pol ice Department.
T h e team members, who share a workload of about 35 cases, were selected by the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office for their homicide case experience. Combined, they have roughly 78 years working homicides.
After reading a cold case file, a process which can take a few days, Aviles said, the task force visits the evidence storage room to identify pieces of evidence suitable for DNA testing.
“Bodily fluids, hair, blood, semen, saliva . . . we’ve even gotten DNA from stool,” Aviles said.
The evidence is then tested in the sheriff’s forensic science laboratory, which analyzes approximately 12,000 cases a year.
Seeking a match
Renee Artman, the lab’s forensic services bureau manager, said that once the task members have made their selections “the scientists take over the work.”
If DNA is discovered, testresults are entered in a state database called the Combined DNA Index System, which contains approximately 2 million DNA profiles statewide and 11 million nationwide.
“The data is constantly changing,” Artman said.
The database has grown exponentially since 2009, when a voter approved initiative required that all adults who are arrested have their mouths swabbed for a DNA sample.
Supervising forensic scientist Shanin Barrios said numbers prove the database is working.
“About 42 percent of (DNAtested) cold case materials are matched to a person,” Barrios said. “They are usually matched to someone in jail.”
F o - rensic scientist and DNA database manager Suzette Sanders said deali n g wi t h old evidence presents a challenge— for one, there is less material to work with over time.
Also, she said, “Some (older) evidence may not react as strongly to tests.”
Each sample is different. Some can be tested in a few days while others take months.
“A bedsheet takes longer than a swab of blood,” Sanders said. “We try to move the samples through the lab efficiently without sacrificing quality.”
Pain never ends
Thousand Oaks resident Andrea Rosenstein knows firsthand the pain of losing a loved one at the hands of a killer.
I n 1980, Rosenstein’s 18-year-old sister, Sabrina Gonsalves, went out for ice cream with her boyfriend, John Riggins, and never came back.
Two days later, their bodies were found in a ditch in Sacramento.
The Davis residents were about to start college.
“The victims’ families never forget,” Rosenstein said. “They never move on. . . . It’s forever.
“My parents feel like half of their bodies are missing,” she added. “This is not a cold case for them.”
In 2000, the local district attorney’s office decided to reopen the case.
A blanket found at the scene (and kept in storage) was found to have traces of bodily fluids and underwent DNA testing.
The results were matched to a man serving a sentence in Washington state for child molestation.
“He would’ve been released (that same year),” Rosenstein said of the rapist-killer, Richard Hirschfield. “ Because of the DNA match, he is awaiting trial for my sister’s murder. . . . Who knows who else he would’ve hurt if it wasn’t for the DNA?”
Rosenstein said the work being done by the Cold Case Task Force is extremely important.
“People who get away with murder will do it again,” she said. “They will go on to hurt other people. When the state decides to solve a cold case, they are getting a murderer off the streets.”
Rosenstein said even the smallest bits of information might be useful in solving crimes like Saline’s.
“Do not hesitate to help the police in any way,” she said. “You are not only benefiting the victims’ families, you are also protecting future victims.”
“Technology is increasing almost on a daily basis,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to identify a killer, bring him to justice and to give the victims’ families some closure.”
“We need the public’s help,” Aviles added.
Anyone that might have information regarding any of these cases can call the Ventura County Cold Case Task Force at (805) 384-4733 or (800) 222-TIPS (8477).
‘People who get away with murder will do it again. They will go on to hurt other people. When the state decides to solve a cold case, they are getting a murderer off the streets.’
— Andrea Rosenstein sister was murdered in 1980