A resident of Southern California is accused of two murders in 1981
VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man was charged Thursday in the 1981 murders of two women after DNA evidence linked him to the crimes, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Tony Garcia, 68, of Oxnard, appeared in court but his arraignment was continued until Feb. 23, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney to appear on his behalf.
Garcia, a Navy veteran and former martial arts instructor, is accused of kidnapping, raping and strangling 20-year-old Rachel Zendejas in Camarillo in January 1981 and strangling 21-year-old Lisa Gondek in Oxnard in December 1981.
Zendejas was found dead in a shed in Camarillo, and Gondek was found in a bathtub after an apartment fire in Oxnard, authorities said.
Garcia lived a few miles from the crime scene for decades before he was finally linked to the murders, authorities said.
“The fact of the matter is, this suspect has been hiding in plain sight for over 40 years,” Ventura County Sheriff Jim Freihoff said at a news conference Thursday.
In 2004, investigators determined the women were killed by the same man, but were unable to find a DNA match in a law enforcement database. Authorities said Garcia became a suspect in 2019 after investigators turned to genealogical DNA, which compares crime scene DNA to commercial databases that may include profiles provided by the killer’s relatives.
Garcia is charged with two counts of murder, with specific allegations that they were multiple murders and that one count involved kidnapping and rape. The district attorney’s office has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
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