Gypsy Hill killings

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San Mateo slasher
Other names The San Mateo Slasher
Wanted by
FBI, local police
Wanted since January 8, 1976; 41 years ago (January 8, 1976)
Victims 5+
Span of killings
Country United States
State(s) California
Location(s) San Mateo County
Target(s) Young females
Killed 5+
Weapons Knives
Date apprehended

The Gypsy Hill killings are a group of five unsolved homicides of young women and girls in San Mateo County, California, during early 1976. The killer became known in the media as "the San Mateo slasher."[1]


On January 8, 1976, the body of 18-year-old Veronica Cascio was discovered in a creek on the grounds of the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. She had been stabbed 30 times.[2] A transient was arrested but was released for lack of evidence.[3]

A few weeks later, 14-year-old Tatiana Blackwell was reported missing after leaving her home in Pacifica to run an errand. A body, later identified as hers, was discovered off Sharp Park Road in the Gypsy Hills section of the city on June 6.[4] She had also been stabbed multiple times.

Paula Baxter, 17 years old, went missing on February 2, leaving her mired car behind. Her nude body was found on February 4 in Millbrae behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Ludeman Lane. She had been stabbed 4 times, sexually assaulted, and hit on the head with a piece of concrete. Her killing was forensically linked to Cascio's.[5]

On April 1, 19-year-old Denise Lampe of Broadmoor was found dead after a search in the parking lot of the Serramonte Center. She had been stabbed 20 times.[6]

Carol Booth, 26, was reported missing by her husband on March 15, and was discovered in a shallow grave near Colma Creek on Grand Avenue in South San Francisco on May 6.[7]


The five victims were:[8]

  • Veronica “Ronnie” Cascio
  • Tatiana Marie "Tanya" Blackwell
  • Paula Louise Baxter
  • Carol Lee Booth
  • Denise Lampe

Possible victims[edit]

Michelle Mitchell[9]

Mitchell, 19, was last seen alive in Reno, Nevada, on February 24, 1976, when her Volkswagen Beetle broke down at the intersection of 9th Street and Evans Avenue. Witnesses reported seeing someone help push her vehicle into the parking lot across from the UNR agricultural building on Evans Street.[10]

Her body was discovered that evening in a garage on East 9th Street with her hands bound and her throat slashed. Three years later, Cathy Woods, a mental patient at the Louisiana State University Medical Center, confessed to murdering a woman named Michelle. She was charged and convicted of murdering Michelle Mitchell.[11]

Idell M. Friedman[12]

Friedman, 21, an employee of an import firm, was found assaulted and stabbed to death with an 8-inch-knife in her apartment at 116 Fairmount Street in San Francisco. She was murdered on March 17, 1976, only two days after Gypsy Hill victim Carol Lee Booth was reported missing.

Friedman's nude body was lying on the kitchen floor of her ransacked apartment. She was found by a co-worker who became concerned when Friedman did not show up for work.[12][13]

Investigation and arrest[edit]

Investigators connected some of the homicides to each other. All of the slain women were young brunettes, and most had experienced car trouble prior to being murdered. All of the bodies were found in wooded areas.

A lack of witnesses and forensic evidence stalled the investigations.

In March 2014, the FBI established a task force to re-examine the murders, after new DNA evidence cast doubt on the conviction of Cathy Woods, now 64,[11] for Mitchell's murder.[14] The DNA taken from a cigarette butt found at the Mitchell crime scene matched DNA taken from semen found at related crime scenes in San Mateo, California. This DNA was that of a man and therefore might exonerate Woods.[15][16]

On September 8, 2014, the FBI named Rodney Halbower as a person of interest in the Gypsy Hill murders.[17] Woods was released from prison on September 11 pending a new trial to take place on July 13, 2015.[18] In March 2015, prosecutors dismissed the charges against Woods.[19]

On January 22, 2015, Halbower was charged with two of the murders (Paula Baxter and Veronica Cascio). DNA evidence linked him to both.[20]


  1. ^ "1976 Nevada murder linked to California serial killer". WireUpdate. 8 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "2 Slain in Pacifica, San Mateo". San Mateo Times. January 9, 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via 
  3. ^ "Man Freed In Slaying". San Mateo Times. January 16, 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via 
  4. ^ "Youths Find Body In Pacifica Hills". San Mateo Times. June 7, 1976. p. 1. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Rick (19 March 1976). "Two Stabbing Slayings Still Remain Unsolved". San Mateo Times. pp. 1, 8. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via 
  6. ^ "Brutal DC Slaying; Police Seek Clues". San Mateo Times. April 2, 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via 
  7. ^ LaPierre, Frank (May 6, 1976). "Killer Loose: 4 Murders In 4 Months". San Mateo Times. pp. 1, 18. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via 
  8. ^ Ho, Vivian (7 March 2014). "San Mateo County 1976 slayings linked to old Reno murder". Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "Feds link Reno murder to unsolved 1976 'Gypsy Hill Killings'". KUTV. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Ivie, Erin (6 March 2014). "Gypsy Hill victims exhibited 'startling' similarities". Mercury News. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Marcus, Emerson (6 March 2014). "Authorities reopen '76 case of UNR student slaying (with video)". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Help Asked In Probe Of Slaying". SF Chronicle. March 19, 1976. 
  13. ^ Murphy, Dave (May 8, 1986). "Murders still haunt him because he has no proof". San Mateo Times. p. A6. 
  14. ^ "FBI launches task force for "Gypsy Hill Murders"". Washington Times. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  15. ^ Ashley Collman (9 September 2014). "Cathy Woods, found guilty of 1976 murder, gets new trial with new DNA links". Mail Online. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  16. ^ Moye, David (7 March 2014). "Crime Scene DNA No Match For Woman Convicted Of 1976 Murder". Huffington Post. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  17. ^ Erin Ivie (8 September 2014). "Gypsy Hill murders: Person of interest named in killings of Peninsula women". Mercury News. 
  18. ^ "Woman released in 1976 Reno murder case". Yahoo News. 11 September 2014. Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  19. ^ "Woman cleared of murder after 30 years in prison". USA TODAY. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  20. ^ "New Suspect Arrested, Charged in 1976 'Gypsy Hill' Murders". KTVN Channel 2 News. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 


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