Musk Hts native linked to 1976 serial murders

Rodney Halbower in 2013 (left) and 1976 (right).

SAN FRANCISCO (AP/WOOD) — A 66-year-old man has been named a person of interest in a string of killings in the San Francisco Peninsula and Reno, Nevada 38 years ago.

The FBI announced Monday that cold case investigators have linked Rodney Halbower, originally of Muskegon Heights, to the killings of five young women in San Mateo County in 1976, referred to as the Gypsy Hill murders. Halbower is currently serving time at the Oregon State Penitentiary for an attempted murder.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports investigators connected DNA evidence on a cigarette butt left under the body of a sixth murder victim in Reno, Nevada to Halbower. The DNA also linked the Nevada murder to two of the killings in San Mateo County.

Halbower had recently given a DNA sample, and investigators think his DNA matches evidence found in some of the unsolved slayings near San Francisco.

Six young women were killed between January and April 1976, according to the FBI:

Top, left to right: Veronica Cascio, Tanya Blackwell and Paula Baxter. Bottom, left to right: Michelle Mitchell, Carol Booth and Denise Lampe.
(Top, left to right: Veronica Cascio, Tanya Blackwell and Paula Baxter. Bottom, left to right: Michelle Mitchell, Carol Booth and Denise Lampe.)
  • 18-year-old Veronica Cascio went missing Jan. 7, in Pacifica, Calif. as she walked from her home to a bus stop. Her body was discovered the next day.
  • 14-year-old Tanya Blackwell was last seen Jan. 24 in Pacifica as she walked to a 7-Eleven store near her home. Her body was recovered on June 6.
  • 17-year-old Paula Baxter was last seen Feb. 4 leaving a parking lot in Millbrae, Calif. Her car was found the next morning and her body was discovered the day after that.
  • 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell went missing more than 200 miles away from the San Francisco area in Reno, Nev. on Feb. 24 after her car broke down. Her body was discovered the same day.
  • Carol Booth, 26, was last seen March 15 in South San Francisco as she walked from a bus stop toward her home. Her body was found in the area on May 4.
  • 19-year-old Denise Lampe was killed on April 1 in her car in a Daly City, Calif. parking lot. Her body was discovered the same day.

Investigators say they are “confident” the murders were committed by the same person.

The FBI is still asking for any information members of the public may have. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI Tip Line at 415.553.7400, press 0 and then say the call is in reference to the Gypsy Hill cases. The FBI says calls are confidential.

Halbower does have a short criminal history in Michigan. Michigan State Police records show that Halbower was found guilty of felony larceny in 1966 and sentenced to up to four years prison. In 1970, he was found guilty of burglary and sent to prison again for up to 10 years.

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