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1981 Goleta murders tied to unknown serial killer
On July 26, 1981, 35-year old Cheri Domingo and 27-year old Gregory Sanchez were murdered in Goleta, apparently by the original Night Stalker. DNA evidence at the Goleta home matched evidence at Night Stalker crime scenes. //Contributed

A double murder that took place 30 years ago in Goleta has been connected to a notorious serial killer through the efforts of investigators with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and scientists with the California Department of Justice.

Investigators Gary Kitzmann and Jeff Klapakis pored over long-held case reports and evidence in the 1981 murders of Cheri Domingo, 35, and Gregory Sanchez, 27, according to the Sheriff’s Department. They worked with Department of Justice scientists who recovered low amounts of degraded DNA from pieces of evidence.

A DNA profile was obtained and submitted to the Combined DNA Index System.

The profile matched that of a serial killer known as both the “East Area Rapist” and the “Original Night Stalker.”

That killer has not been identified.

The Original Night Stalker is different from Richard Ramirez, the serial killer known as the Night Stalker, who is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

“We needed some closure for our victims, our victims’ families,” said Laz Salinas, commander of criminal investigators for the Sheriff’s Department. “It was a gruesome homicide.”

Domingo and Sanchez, who according to news reports had previously dated, were murdered July 26, 1981, at a residence in the 400 block of Toltec Way, where they were house-sitting.

Those slayings followed 18 months behind another double homicide in Goleta.

In that case, Dr. Robert Offerman, 44, and Alexandria Manning, 35, were murdered in a Goleta condominium Dec. 30, 1979.

The killings were part of a two-year rash of crimes in the area that also included burglaries.

Investigators said they are hopeful they will be able to link the Offerman and Manning killings to the Original Night Stalker as well.

Sheriff Bill Brown said in a written statement that it was important for investigators to take advantage of advancements in DNA profiling methods and reevaluate evidence in the Sanchez and Domingo killings before it deteriorated to the point that it would be useless.

“As this investigation shows, we never close a murder case unless a suspect is identified and brought to justice,” he added.

Colleen Spurgeon, an assistant lab director with the Department of Justice, said that DNA evidence would be expected to degrade after 30 years as it had in the Domingo and Sanchez murders.

“The DNA kind of breaks into smaller and smaller pieces,” she said.

New technology, however, has enabled scientists to use increasingly smaller bits of DNA, according to Spurgeon.

Salinas said investigators with the Sheriff’s Department were approached several months ago by scientists with the Department of Justice Crime Lab in Goleta, and the Sheriff’s Department submitted some cold case DNA to the lab.

Working together, the investigators and scientists identified key pieces of evidence from various cases that could be useful.

“I think the advantage for us was sitting across the table from a scientist,” Salinas said.

For years, there was speculation that the Sanchez and Domingo murders were tied to the Original Night Stalker, he said.

“But we never had any kind of physical piece of evidence... and now we do,” Salinas said. “It was exciting. I think everybody had a little bounce in their step.”

A component of semen was recovered from two small stains on one of the items of evidence. Despite the presence of semen, investigators were unable to determine that either victim was sexually assaulted.

Salinas said the next step is to find out the identity of the Original Night Stalker.

Investigators hope to solve more cold cases, as permitted by time and funding constraints, as they balance the cold cases with the constant influx of new crimes to tackle.

“We never close them out,” Salinas said. “We keep that evidence and do our best to try to address each and every one.”

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