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July 26, 2022
The Solano County Sheriff's Office posted a statement on July 21, 2022, identifying an elderly Fairfield man as the suspect in multiple cold case homicides. Seventy-six year old James Ray Gary was charged with homicide and arrested on July 19, 2022.
Gary was arrested at his home on Beck Ave and West Texas Street Fairfield, CA, and a warrant to search his home was obtained by police.
He was swiftly booked into Solano County Jail where he is being held on a million dollar bond. Although more charges are expected, Gary has so far (at the time of writing) been charged with one count of homicide but is soon expected to be charged with another.
The arrest came after Gary was connected to two unsolved murders- one from 1980 and another from 1996.
Latrelle Lindsay, a forty-six-year-old laboratory assistant who had been employed at the Merritt College biology department for almost two decades, was discovered dead in her Union City, Oakland apartment in July 1980. The August 01, 1980, issue of an Oakland Tribune article titled: Woman's death puzzles police, stated Lindsay had been found with a "small bruise on the side of her head and possible tooth marks on her arms."
Her night clothes had been torn, the electricity to her home had been cut and the screen fixed over her bedroom window had been ripped off the frame. Whoever had attacked and killed Latrelle that night seemed to be an old hand.
The article also noted that a person, or persons had, for the year leading up to the victim’s death, vandalized her property, including slashing her car tires and smashing her bedroom windows. She had also received a threatening letter that said, "something terrible will happen if you don't stop downgrading the neighborhood.” A magazine clipping of what was described as “a picture of a couple making love” accompanied the letter.
Police were contacted by Lindsay's daughter, Melzetta Gary, after she became concerned that she could not get in contact with her mother and dropped by the victim's home to discover her body that she spotted through the bedroom window which had been left ajar.
Latrelle Lindsay was a Black female living in a multicultural part of town on 2451 Medallion Drive, but investigators did not believe the crime was racially motivated despite the content of the letter.
It was later determined that the victim had been raped and murder and the cause of death was stated as: "asphyxia due to strangulation associated with blunt force injuries."
Years later in 1996, the plastic wrapped body of Winifred Douglas was discovered by California Department of Transportation workers along I-780 in an overgrowth just off Laurel Street in Vallejo, Oakland. Douglas was also forty-six-years-old. She too had died as a result of asphyxia and her body displayed evidence of blunt force trauma to both the head and neck.
Although one woman had been killed in her home and the other killed elsewhere and callously dumped by the side of the road, the injuries and causes of death, as well as the county in which they were killed bore striking resemblances that investigators would not connect at the time.
Evidence from the 1996 crime scene was preserved and in 2003 a DNA profile of the victim's killer was created and uploaded into CODIS, the FBIs national database- again, turning up nothing.
Decades passed without leads, until in 2012, the Solano County Office received the news that the unknown killer’s profile had been linked to both the 1980 case and 1996 case. Although the first update in the case for several years, detectives were still empty handed when it came to a suspect but were now aware that the perpetrator was a repeat offender. Despite his crimes, he appeared to have no criminal record and had managed to evade the law for decades.
The fact that same perpetrator from the 1980 cold case had gone on to kill again in 1996 suggested that he may have continued to offend and could have more victims to his name. It also meant the killer was still out on the streets.
The case remained frustratingly cold until, in 2021, the Solano County Sheriff's Office finally got a break when they received yet another notification connected to the mystery DNA a profile- a notification that would finally lead to the killer’s identity and subsequent arrest.
A police department in North Bay had been investigating a sex crime committed in 2021 and were able to obtain a DNA sample from their suspect- Seventy-six year old James Ray Gary. Gary's sample was evaluated against that of the samples collected from the 1980, 1996 and recent 2021 crime and determined to be a match. The discovery lead to his arrest.
James Ray Gary, now in is mid-seventies, is expected in court for a hearing on July 28.
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