Texas Man Charged in Four Decades-Old California Murders


DNA evidence helped crack unsolved murders, some dating to 1980, of three women and a teenage girl in California, leading to the arrest of a 75-year-old man in Texas, the authorities said on Friday.

Detectives from the Los Angeles and Inglewood, Calif., police departments traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to arrest the man, Billy Ray Richardson, whom the police linked to the murders of Kari Lenander, Beverly Cruse, and her sister, Debra Cruse, in 1980 in Los Angeles, as well as Trina Wilson in 1995 in Inglewood. All the victims had been raped, prosecutors said.

DNA evidence helped tie the crimes to Mr. Richardson, though the authorities did not elaborate on what new evidence had led to him. It was unclear whether Mr. Richardson had been known to any of the victims.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Mr. Richardson was charged on Thursday with four counts of murder and related charges. As of Friday afternoon, he was in a jail in Tarrant County, Texas, awaiting extradition to Los Angeles. An arraignment date had not been set.

The Los Angeles district attorney, George Gascón, said in a statement on Friday that he was thankful for those whose work had led to the arrest.

“I cannot imagine the pain that these families have endured,” he said. “Their loss is immeasurable. We hope that together we can bring justice to the families who have endured so much and have waited years for this moment.”

Attempts to reach surviving family members of the victims on Friday were unsuccessful.

In 2001, cold case detectives in Los Angeles reopened an investigation into the murder of Ms. Lenander, who was 15 when she was killed. Her body was found in a South Los Angeles neighborhood on July 26, 1980, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Officials said she was murdered and that she was the victim of a sexually motivated crime.

In 2012, the Los Angeles City Council approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for her murder.

At a news conference in 2012, when the reward was announced, Detective Tim Marcia of the Los Angeles Police Department said investigators had some “significant leads” about the murder. “But we need a name,” he said.

On the night Ms. Lenander was murdered, she and her best friend, 15-year-old Toni Garfield, were alone at Ms. Garfield’s house getting ready for a party and drinking tequila, Detective Marcia told The Los Angeles Times Magazine in a 2010 profile. The girls decided to go dancing and hitchhiked on their way back.

They were picked up by a white man, who said his name was Ken and that he was visiting from Canada. Ms. Garfield was dropped off at home, but Ms. Lenander said she was going to “keep partying” with Ken, the magazine reported. The girls separated at about 10 p.m., and Ms. Lenander’s body was found about five hours later.

Detective Marcia said there was a big break in the case in the mid-2000s after a DNA profile determined the race of the suspect. It had long been believed that the girls had been picked up by a white man, but a test by a private lab indicated that her killer was Black. It was unclear how much of a role that test played in identifying Mr. Richardson, who is Black.

“That information limited the direction I needed to go,” Detective Marcia told the magazine. “Instead of having one big, whole pie, I got it down to a quarter of the pie.”

A few months before Ms. Lenander’s murder, the naked bodies of Beverly Cruse, 25, and Debra Cruse, 22, were found on March 5, 1980, by their brother in a West Los Angeles apartment, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Mr. Cruse told the police he went to the apartment because he had not heard from his sisters for several days. The prosecutor’s office said the women had been shot in the head.

More than 15 years later, Ms. Wilson was found near an Inglewood park on Dec. 31, 1995, according to city records. The circumstances of her death were not immediately clear on Friday.

In 2012, the Inglewood City Council adopted a resolution offering $25,000 for information that could lead to the identification, arrest and conviction of those responsible for Ms. Wilson’s murder.

Vimal Patel contributed reporting and Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

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