Man Charged in Two of the 1976 ‘Gypsy Hills Murders’

In 1979, Louisiana mental health patient, Cathy Woods confessed, was tried and convicted of killing 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell of Reno. She has since been released, pending a new trial to take place in July 2015.

Michelle Mitchell

Michelle’s body was found in a garage near 9th and Evans Avenue, three-years earlier, hand’s bound and throat slashed. Witnesses reported seeing someone helping her push her VW Bug into the parking lot across from the UNR agricultural building on Evans Street.

She was a sophomore nursing student at the UNR at the time of her death.

Now San Mateo County, California investigators say 66-year-old Rodney Halbower has been extradited from Oregon State Prison to San Mateo. He’s charged with two counts of Murder with Special Circumstance in the cases of Paula Baxter and Veronica Cascio.

The body of 18-year-old Veronica was discovered pm January 8, in a creek on the grounds of the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, California. She had been stabbed 30 times.

Only 17 at the time, Paula went missing on February 2. Her nude body was found February 4, behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Millbrae, California.

She had been stabbed four times, sexually assaulted and struck on the head with a piece of concrete. Her killing was forensically linked to Veronica.

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

Nineteen-year-old Carol Booth was reported missing by her husband on March 15, and discovered in a shallow grave near Colma Creek on Grand Avenue, in South San Francisco, on May 6. Denise Lampe, 26, of Broadmoor, California was found after a search in the parking lot of the Serramonte Center, stabbed 20 times, April 1.

A month before, Denise’s murder, on March 17, 21-year-old Idell Friedman was found stabbed to death in her San Francisco apartment. Her murder has yet to be officially linked to the others.

Halbower was previously identified as a person of interest after San Mateo investigators made a DNA link between a cigarette butt and semen found at the crime scenes. The FBI has since confirmed a DNA match to Michelle’s murder to samples found by San Mateo.

He has yet to be charged in Michelle’s death. Halbower was in custody in Oregon, serving time for an attempted murder charge.

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