The homicides of five young women in San Mateo County in 1976 are believed to be linked to a killing in Reno that same year, and authorities are asking the public for help in solving the crimes.
At a news conference outside the Redwood City courthouse Thursday, FBI Special Agent Gerald Bessette announced that a joint task force involving the FBI and San Mateo County law enforcement agencies has been created to focus on the killings, known as the "Gypsy Hill murders."
Between January and April 1976, six women in their late teens or 20s mysteriously disappeared and were later found dead. Within the past few months, the FBI connected the killing of 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell, who disappeared in February 1976, to the five Peninsula crimes and formed the task force hoping to uncover new leads in the case.
There were similarities between the slayings, including the time frame in which they were committed and modus operandi, or pattern of behavior, authorities said.
“We have reason to believe the deaths are linked,” Bessette said.
The first Peninsula victim was Veronica “Ronnie” Cascio, who disappeared from a bus stop in Pacifica in January 1976.
Tatiana “Tanya” Blackwell also disappeared that month, and Paula Baxter went missing in February. Carol Lee Booth disappeared in March, and Denise Lampe was reporting missing in April that year.
The new task force comprises FBI agents; officers from the Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco and Reno police departments; and deputies with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
Members of the task force plan to canvass neighborhoods where the victims were last seen and where their bodies were discovered, as well as pursue any leads that surface, in an effort to bring the killer to justice and provide closure for the victims’ families, according to Bessette.
“No tips or observations are too small for us,” Bessette said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the FBI’s tip line at (415) 553-7400.