Donates photos at City Council meeting

ATASCADERO — What appeared to be a routine photo dedication to the City of Atascadero at the Nov. 26 council meeting, resulted in a surprising telling of how one woman’s dedication helped in identifying a primary suspect of two cold case murders.

Charlotte Gibbon stood before the Council displaying three photos of Atascadero which she entitled “Working Together,” and began to dictate what the artwork represented.

“Madam Mayor and City Council members, it brings me much joy to be here tonight on this Thanksgiving week, to be able to present these three pictures to give them as a gift to say thank you to you for your guidance and support and the abundance of basic resources that the city has to offer and had offered me in helping give two murdered Atascadero women, Jane Morton Antunez and Patricia Eilene Dwyer, a voice and in this building where it all began,” Gibbon said.

Gibbon told the Council that exactly 42 years ago to the day, she was made aware of Antunez’s murder that took place on Santa Barbara Road. As an adult, she realized that the murder was never solved.

“And the question that came to my mind was, ‘Why?’” Gibbon said. “So I decided to give her a voice.”

Gibbon began her investigation in City Hall with the help of Judi Schaeffer who directed her to the Atascadero Police Department, the Library and the nonprofit Historical Society. 

“Judy may not have had the answers to all of my questions but she showed me where to find them and encouraged me on my way,” said Gibbon.

At the Library, Gibbon received help from retired Librarian Brian Coburn and Regional Librarian Jackie Kinsley. There Gibbons combed through Atascadero News articles stored on microfiche. 

“Jackie even went out of her way many times to go make copies in San Luis Obispo when the copiers were down here in Atascadero,” Gibbon said detailing the amazing support the Library provided.

Gibbon’s search took to what she called “one of the most hidden treasures in our community,” the Atascadero Historical Society. In her presentation, she thanked them for access to their records and for introducing her to former Atascadero News Editor and Reporter Lon Allen. 

“He was so important in his first account stories of January 11, 1978, Mr. Allen was the Editor and Reporter for Patricia Dwyer,” Gibbon said and also thanked former Atascadero News Reporter Brad Humphrey who covered the Antunez murder.

“One of the most special resources here too and I want to say ‘thank you’ is to the people of Atascadero that came forward and sent private messages regarding this case to me,” Gibbon said. “Of course, I faced times of deception, discouragement, doubt, fear but I managed to get through them all because I always felt like my city supported me”

In June 2016, Gibbon met with San Luis Obispo County Deputy Clint Cole who went over the evidence, clues and facts of the murders which led to the reopening of the investigations. 

“He sat with me for two-and-a-half-hours and reviewed all the information I had collected,” said Gibbon. “Even though it did not lead to an arrest, it had enough to bring the cold case active again and did help eliminate a few suspects in the beginning.”

Gibbon thanked detectives Cole and Jeffery Robasciotti in their efforts to follow the leads she provided. Through the preservation of DNA in the original 1977 and 1978 investigation, law enforcement concluded that deceased inmate Authur Rudy Martinez was their primary suspect. Based on Martinez’s history of violent assaults on women and the timeframe he was in Atascadero, authorities deduced he was most likely the murderer of the two women. 

On April 17, Sheriff Ian Parkinson held a press conference and detailed the findings and conclusions of the investigations.

“Within 72 hours of the press conference the Associated Press had made June and Patricia’s voices heard worldwide,” said Gibbon. “In closing, Elizabeth Morton, sister of Jane asked that I please mention the family’s deep appreciation for the amazing team who helped me.”

The three enlarged photos mapped the progress of her investigation starting at City Hall. Council and City staff has yet to determine where the photos would be put on display.

“I had no idea what you were going to present other than photos and I am deeply touched and thank you so much for sharing that with us,” Mayor Heather Moreno said.

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