75-year-old Texas Man Arrested for Murders 40 Years Later
By: Sophie Fu
Billy Ray Richardson was arrested on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas, by police from Los Angeles and Inglewood. Authorities charged him with the rape and murder of four females.
Officials said DNA evidence was the key to solving these cold cases from 1980 to 1995. The victims included sisters Debra Cruse and Beverly Cruse, teenage girl Kari Lenander, and Trina Wilson.
Although investigators did not publicly reveal details about the investigation and how DNA evidence played an essential role in the cases, detectives provided some information about the teenager’s case that was the main focus.
Detectives from the Los Angeles police decided to re-open Kari Lenander’s case in 2001. Los Angeles police records stated that the 15-year-old was found dead on July 26, 1980, and her death was part of a sexually motivated crime.
A news conference in 2012 announced a $50,000 reward for information regarding her death and Detective Tim Marcia’s statements about leads on the case. According to detectives, Kari had been drinking tequila before a party at her best friend Toni Garfield’s house before going out to dance. They hitchhiked, and a white man named Ken, who claimed to have been visiting from Canada, picked them up. The friends separated around 10 p.m. after Kari said she wanted to “keep partying” with the man that picked them up, and Toni went home. Five hours later, Ms. Lenander was found dead.
A DNA profile test by a private lab provided crucial evidence about the race of the suspect. The man who picked the girls up was not White and instead Black. “That information limited the direction I needed to go. Instead of having one big, whole pie, I got it down to a quarter of the pie.” Detective Marcia commented.
The sister victims, Debra Cruse and Beverly Cruse, were found naked and shot in the head before Ms. Lenander on March 5, 1980. Their brother found the victims, who went to look for them in the West Los Angeles apartment after not hearing from them for many days.
Trina Wilson was the only victim found more than 15 years later, on December 31, 1995, close to a park in Inglewood. The city council offered $25,000 for information that could lead to finding the suspect. Other details about her death have not been provided to the public yet.
On Friday, the district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascon, said, “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.”