It seems like anytime you turn on the TV, you can usually find a crime drama that’s dedicated to cold cases. They have been deemed cold cases because all the investigative leads have gone “cold” and there is no resolution to the case. The popularity of these shows has increased as viewers become more interested in learning how these cases are solved. Recently, you didn’t have to turn on the TV to find out about the latest cold case, because it happened right here in San Luis Obispo County.
Our Cold Case/Unsolved Unit Detective at the Sheriff’s Office was able to identify a suspect in two homicide cases in Atascadero that were more than 40 years old!
First, some background on the cases and then I’ll tell you how the Detective was able to solve these murder mysteries.
On November 18, 1977, at approximately 2:00 p.m. the body of Jane Morton Antunez was found in the back seat of her car on a dirt road, off Santa Barbara Road in Atascadero. Antunez’s 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 the day before but never made it.
A couple of months later, on January 11, 1978 at approximately 3:45 p.m. the body of Patricia Dwyer 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. Both victims arms were bound behind their backs by different bindings that were found at each scene.
There were numerous persons of interest in these cases, but no suspect was ever identified. That is until our Cold Case Detective started re-investigating these cases in June of 2017. A lead in the case was received from the Department of Justice’s Familial DNA Search team in Richmond, CA. The DNA profile was a close match to an inmate serving time for unrelated charges. Through investigative means, it was determined that the inmate had a relative who was living in Atascadero at the time of both murders. Detectives were able to identify Arthur Rudy Martinez as the suspect in these murders. Detectives were able to locate a DNA source from Arthur Martinez and compare Martinez’s DNA to the suspect DNA left at both scenes and confirmed Martinez killed both victims. Martinez died in 2014 in a Washington State Prison. He was serving time for an unrelated case.
While we were not able to make an arrest in these two homicide cases, we feel that by solving these crimes, we were able to give the families of both Jane and Patricia some closure about what happened 40 years ago. We would not have been able to solve these two cases without the dedication and tenacity of our Cold Case Detective Clint Cole. He did an outstanding job! And also for the support of the County Board of Supervisors who saw the value and approved funding for this important position in 2016.
We had 43 unsolved homicides dating back to 1967. With Detective Cole’s help, that list is now down to 41. And he’s already started working on two more unsolved cases in the County. And remember how I told you at the beginning of this column about finding unsolved crime dramas on TV? Well, as you might expect, there has been a lot of media interest in this story. And there’s even more interest in the cases Detective Cole is working on right now. So, look for those to show up on your TV screens in the future.