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40-Year-Old California Murder Cases Solved

By: Tianhao Chen

On Thursday, July 14th, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office reported that Billy Ray Richardson was charged for being suspected of murdering Kari Lenander, Beverly Cruse, Debra Cruse, and Trina Wilson.

The following day, Mr. Richardson was arrested in Texas and will be sent to Los Angeles for his initial hearing.

Authorities said that DNA evidence helped identify Mr. Richardson as the suspect, but they didn’t elaborate on how the evidence aided them in their investigation.

The cases date back to 1980 and 1995. On March 5, 1980, The Los Angeles Times reported that the brother of Beverly and Debra Cruse found the two women’s bodies in an apartment. He had gone to visit them when he lost contact a few days earlier.

A few months later, on July 26th, Kari Lenander’s body was found in a neighborhood in Southern Los Angeles. Detective Marcia explained to the Los Angeles Times Magazine in 2010 that Ms. Lenander and her best friend Toni Garfield were going back to Ms.Garfield’s house when a man named Ken picked them up. Ms. Garfield was dropped off, but Ms. Lenander decided to stay with Ken. A few hours later, she was found dead.

Ms. Lenander’s case was closed until detectives reexamined it in 2001. According to Detective Marcia, major breakthroughs in DNA profiling in the mid-2000s led them to identify the race of the suspect, who was Black. While they determined the race, it was uncertain if it helped them pinpoint the suspect. Detective Marcia said the finding narrowed her search as the “information limited the direction I needed to go.”

On December 31st, 1995, Ms. Wilson’s body was found near a park in Inglewood, which at the time her cause of death was unknown.

In 2012, with the cases still unsolved, the Los Angeles City Council issued a $50,000 reward for aide in finding who murdered Ms. Lenander. That same year, the Inglewood City Council offered $25,000 for aide in finding who murdered Ms. Wilson.

With the cases solved, LA district attorney George Gascon on Friday thanked investigators who helped solve this case, saying, “I cannot imagine the pain that these families have endured. 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.”

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