COUNTY — A suspect has been named in two 41-year-old Atascadero homicide cases, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office reported Wednesday afternoon.
Arthur Rudy Martinez was identified by Sheriff Ian Parkinson as a suspect in the cold cases involving Jane Morton Antunez and Patricia Dwyer. Martinez died in a Washington State Prison on June 18, 2014.
These two cases from 1977 and 1978 were re-investigated by the Sheriff’s Office Cold Case/Unsolved Unit in June of 2017. Detectives received a lead in the case from the Department of Justice’s Familial DNA Search team in Richmond. This lead was generated by getting a DNA profile comparison and other evidence. The DNA profile was a close match to an inmate serving time for unrelated charges. Through investigation, it was determined that the inmate had a relative who was living in Atascadero at the time of both murders.
Detectives identified the late Martinez as the suspect in the open murders. Detectives located a DNA source from Martinez and compared his DNA to DNA left at both scenes and confirmed Martinez killed both victims. Most likely this case would never have been solved if the initial investigators did not collect the DNA evidence that was used in the comparison.
"We are extremely proud of Detective Clint Cole and his efforts to solve this 41-year-old murder mystery. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and are hopeful the resolution to these cases brings them some closure," said Sheriff Parkinson. "The Sheriff's Office is grateful for the support of the Board of Supervisors who approved this important position. With the advancements in DNA technology and having an investigative focus solely on these types of cases, this case proves the value of having this important position."
On Nov. 18, 1977, at approximately 2 p.m. the body of Antunez, 30, was found in the back seat of her car on a dirt road, off Santa Barbara Road in Atascadero. Her throat had been cut and she had been sexually assaulted. Antunez lived on the south side of Atascadero near where her body was found. Antunez was supposed to be going to her best friend’s house on Nov. 17, 1977, but never made it. Witnesses had reported she picked up a man in her car, but that was never confirmed.
On Jan. 11, 1978, at approximately 3:45 p.m. the body of Dwyer, 29, was found on the floor of her home at 5510 Del Rio Road in Atascadero. Dwyer was stabbed in the chest with a knife from her kitchen drawer and had been sexually assaulted. Dwyer told her friend on Jan. 10, 1978, she was going to the grocery store and then was going home to clean. It’s reported she would not have allowed a stranger in her home but hid a key under her mat. Dwyer worked at the Atascadero State Hospital at the time of her murder.
Both victims frequented the Tally Ho Bar in Atascadero and had some mutual friends but did not know each other. Both victims’ arms were bound behind their backs by different bindings that were found at each scene.
Detectives were able to place Martinez in Atascadero at the time of these crimes. Martinez was paroled to Atascadero in May of 1977 until he left in January of 1978 after the Dwyer homicide.
Martinez worked at a local North County welding shop while he was in San Luis Obispo County. Martinez then moved to Spokane, Wash., where he committed numerous robberies and two rapes.
Martinez was given a life sentence and began serving that sentence in November 1978. In 1994, Martinez escaped from prison. For the next 20 years, he lived in the areas of Fresno and Carruthers. Finally, on April 30, 2014, he turned himself in because he had terminal cancer. Martinez died in a Washington State Prison on June 18, 2014.
Detectives do not know if Martinez knew these victims prior to the murders and are asking for anyone who has any information about Arthur Martinez to call Detective Clint Cole at 805-788-2157.
The Sheriff’s Office thanked the DOJ Forensic Laboratories in Richmond and Goleta, and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation in Fresno for their assistance in this case.
“We are grateful that through this joint effort between scientists and investigators at the California Department of Justice and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office we were able to bring a measure of justice to the families of the victims in these horrific decades-old crimes,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Here in California we have the technology, we have the know-how, and we have the will to work together to take on criminals operating in our state.”