The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. found new evidence last week linking the three-decade-old case of a notorious serial killer and rapist to the murder of a Goleta couple in 1981.
The department confirmed the man dubbed the “East Area Rapist” and “Original Night Stalker” is guilty of the murder of 27-year-old Gregory Sanchez and 35-year-old Cheri Domingo on July 26, 1981. Detectives used new advancements in forensic technology to analyze DNA samples collected in a Goleta home on the 400 block of Toltec Way, where the couple was house-sitting the night of their murder.
Santa Barbara cold case investigators Gary Kitzmann and Jeff Klapakis used a new investigative technique pioneered by the California Dept. of Justice to analyze degrading DNA from over 50 items from the crimes including bedspreads, swabs and hairs.
According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff public information officer Drew Sugars, the evidence could provide new leads in identifying the serial killer.
“Where we had previously speculated who the person was, there is now a connection we can say for certain,” Sugars said. “Not only are we confirming something that was suspected, but this is also a new opportunity for an unsolved case that we have not given up on.”
In 2001, Contra Costa lab technicians debunked investigators’ beliefs that the aliases belonged to two unrelated criminals and confirmed a single suspect was responsible for numerous murders and rapes in Ventura, Orange and Sacramento counties.
Detectives believe the suspect is responsible for over 40 rapes and at least 10 murders in the Sacramento and Los Angeles areas between 1976 and 1986. Sugars said the case remained open for several decades due to a lack of incriminating data.
“[The suspect] always wore a mask, and people were able to ascertain he was a white male who we now think would be about 50 to 60 years old,” Sugars said. “It seems that he was getting progressively worse as he moved south to L.A. and eventually stopped in ‘86. He may have died, died in prison, may have left the state — we do not know what ended up happening.”
Additionally, investigators suspect the criminal is responsible for the murder of local 44-year-old Robert Offerman and 35-year-old Alexandria Manning in a Goleta condominium on December 30, 1979.
Sugars said the department hopes the new information will encourage people privy to the case to share unreported information about the crimes.
“This is an unsolved case that we do not want to give up on, and now that we can say it’s the same person, there may be someone out there that will go ‘Aha’ and remember someone they knew who lived in all those places at that time.”