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New article on the Bates murder

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New article on the Bates murder Empty New article on the Bates murder

Post by ophion1031 June 12th 2016, 8:47 pm

This was posted by Seagull on Morf's site.....


On Oct. 30, 1966, an 18-year-old college student was brutally killed on the grounds of Riverside City College. Fifty years later, can new technology unlock the secrets of Riverside’s oldest unsolved murder?


Few things have as many twists, turns and theories as an unsolved murder. So it is with the case of Cheri Josephine Bates, an 18-year-old student who was brutally killed on the grounds of Riverside City College on Oct. 30, 1966. The case, which some believe is linked to the infamous Zodiac killer, holds as much intrigue today as it did at the time, making it one of the notable stories we’ll be sharing this year as part of Inland Empire Magazine’s 40th anniversary.

What follows is an update to our April 2008 story.

Unlocking a Cold Case
Liane Velin never knew Cheri Bates, but the Riverside Police Department (RPD) senior forensic technician has become one of her biggest advocates. For more than a year, Velin has studied the physical evidence in the 50-year-old murder—Riverside’s oldest cold case—working it in around her current assignments to see if today’s forensic advancements can unlock the secrets of a young girl’s killing.

Velin, who has a degree in criminology from UC Irvine, joined RPD in 2012 after working with the Newport Beach Police Department as a crime scene investigator. About a year ago, she approached RPD homicide detective Jim Simons, who also serves on the cold case team and who inherited the Bates case, about wanting to help solve it.

Simons couldn’t have been happier. “Sometimes a fresh set of eyes taking a look at a case and running with it,” he says, can lead to new discoveries. Having Velin’s forensics training and experience made it even better.

“She analyzed each piece of evidence and pointed out some interesting things that I had not recognized before,” says Simons.

The department plans to submit the evidence to a private DNA lab. Velin has conferred with the lab’s supervisor to determine what items should be included for testing, says Simon. “The private lab is expensive, so we want to get the most bang for our buck,” he adds.

Some cold cases are solved by someone coming forward, often decades later, who needs to unload a guilty conscience, says Simon, but others seem to be locked up tight. To solve the Bates case, “Our best chance would be to start with a successful DNA hit,” he says.

If it seems like a long shot, consider this: In 2013, police in Boston confirmed that Albert DeSalvo was indeed the man who murdered 19-year-old Mary Sullivan in 1964. She was believed to be the last victim of the serial killer known as the Boston Strangler, who murdered 11 women in the early ’60s.DeSalvo had long been considered the best suspect in those murders, and even confessed to three of them, but later recanted.

(DeSalvo was killed in prison in 1973 where he was sentenced to life for unrelated sexual assault and robbery charges.) In the Boston case, early attempts to match DNA from Mary Sullivan’s body and a blanket on which she was found were inconclusive. Crime lab technicians stored everything and waited for technology to catch up.

“The evidence in this case never changed, but the scientific ability to use that evidence has surpassed every hope and expectation of investigators who were first assigned to the case,” Daniel F. Conley, district attorney of Suffolk County, told the New York Times.

What, if anything, new technology can yield in the Bates case isn’t certain. Simons and Velin are being tight-lipped about what they plan to submit and whether or not they’ve keyed in on particular suspects. But knowing that the case hasn’t been forgotten brings comfort to those who knew Cheri Bates.

Riverside, 1966
Cheri’s murder “was a loss of innocence,” says Judith Whitfield, a Riverside real estate agent and substitute teacher at Notre Dame High School. A year ahead of Cheri at Riverside’s Ramona High School, they had shared the same group of friends, says Whitfield, who was also enrolled at RCC in the fall of 1966. Even though they’d had many friends killed in the war in Vietnam, it was rare for teenagers in Riverside to know someone who had been murdered, she says.

She recalls going to Cheri’s funeral, then standing at the burial site at Crestlawn Cemetery and being overcome with emotion. “I kept thinking, ‘This can’t be real,’” she says. What kind of person would do this?

That’s the same question Robert “Bob” Michalka still asks. Like Whitfield, Michalka is a 1965 graduate of Ramona High. He was friends with Cheri and with her boyfriend, who had graduated in 1964 and went on to play football at San Francisco State. At Ramona, Cheri was a junior when Michalka was a senior, but they shared a German class. “We studied together over pronunciations in the language lab, and I also tutored her in math,” recalls Michalka, who was a student at RCC in 1966. He recalls arriving at the school the morning after Cheri was killed.

“I was parking on campus with a friend when we heard that a female had been killed the night before (Sunday) near the library. Once I got to the quadrangle, someone told me it was Cheri Bates. I was in shock,” he says. “We couldn’t imagine who would do this or why,” he adds.

Who Killed Cheri Jo Bates?
Born in Nebraska on Feb. 4, 1948 to Joseph and Irene Bates, Cheri moved to Riverside with her family, which included her brother Michael, who was one year older, in 1959. They settled into a comfortable neighborhood in the center of town. By the time Cheri got to Ramona High, she had established herself as outgoing and popular. A cheerleader, she also enjoyed sports, playing the piano, and like most girls her age, spending time with friends.

By 1966, her parents had separated, her brother was serving in the Navy, and Cheri lived with her dad in the family’s home on Via San Jose street.

Her dream was to be an airline “stewardess,” her father told newspaper reporter Jack Mathews in a 1967 interview. But she couldn’t apply until she turned 20 and she needed two years of college, so she was focusing on her studies at RCC until then.

That was what she was doing on Oct. 30, 1966. It was a Sunday, warm with Santa Ana winds whipping up. Reportedly, Cheri had gone to mass with her father at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Riverside that morning, then stopped for a bite to eat at Sandy’s Restaurant in the Hardman Center afterward.

According to Joseph Bates’ 1967 interview with Mathews, he then headed to the beach and invited Cheri to come along. She declined, saying she needed to study and might go to the library later for some books.

Cheri’s exact movements aren’t known, but sometime after 5 p.m. she left a note: “Dad—went to RCC Library.”

When Joseph got home later that evening, she wasn’t there. When he awoke early the next morning, she still wasn’t home. He called a couple of her friends who said they hadn’t seen her. He then reported her missing.

At 6:30 a.m. Monday, a groundskeeper found Cheri’s 5'3", 110-pound body in a dirt alleyway between some vacant houses on the RCC campus near the library. She was fully clothed and face down. She had been punched in the face, kicked in the head, and stabbed several times. Her throat was slashed so deeply she was nearly decapitated.

Her Volkswagen bug was parked on Terracina Drive about 100 feet away with the keys still in the ignition and library books on the passenger seat. The car had been tampered with so it wouldn’t start, and greasy finger and palm prints were found on the car.

Footprints led from where her car was parked to about the area where the murder took place. The footprints indicated she had walked at a normal pace side by side with someone before the attack occurred.

But near the site of where her body was discovered, one detective at the time told reporters the ground looked like “a freshly plowed field” where Cheri had apparently put up a desperate struggle.

A man’s Timex watch with a broken band was found a few feet away and “skin and hair debris” were under her nails. Some hair, presumably from her attacker, was found in a clot of blood near the base of her right thumb. Footprints indicated that the killer may have worn a military style shoe, size 8 to 10.

A woman who lived in the apartments near the campus said she heard screams about 10:30 p.m., but did not call police. Other neighbors reported hearing similar screams, but they didn’t call the police, either. One woman said she also thought she heard the sound of an old car starting up shortly after the screams.

An RCC student told police she was walking down the dirt alleyway near the library annex around 9 p.m. when she saw a young man standing in the shadows looking in the direction of Cheri’s car. She said they exchanged “hi’s” and she kept walking.

Physical evidence (Cheri’s clothes, the watch, fingerprints from the car and scrapings from under her nails) were sent that week to the California Criminal Identification and Investigation Bureau in Sacramento. The knife used in the attack was determined to be about three-and-a-half inches long and one-half inch wide, and was never found. Based on scrapings under her nails, the killer appeared to be a white male.

Police at the time eliminated the usual suspects—those closest to the victim. Her father and boyfriend had alibis that checked out; her brother was in the Navy and was stationed out of state.

By Nov. 3, 125 people had been interviewed and many had been fingerprinted. About two weeks later, still searching for useful leads, detectives conducted a re-enactment of sorts at the library.

They asked everyone who had been there the night of Cheri’s murder to return to see if it jogged any memories. Some recalled a heavy-set man with a beard who did not come back for the re-enactment. Others remembered seeing a 1947-52 Studebaker with light colored oxidized paint parked on Riverside Avenue south of Terracina at about 7 p.m. the night Cheri was murdered.

A month later, Riverside police, the local newspaper, and Joseph Bates (whose address had been published in the newspaper as was customary at the time) received a typewritten letter from someone claiming to be the killer. Entitled “The Confession,” it included a few details about the crime that had not been made public and forewarned of more murders. As creepy as it was, police say it didn’t yield any new evidence.

A few weeks later, someone discovered an eerie poem carved in the underside of a desk on the RCC campus, but its link, if any, to Cheri’s murder was never established.

Six months after the murder, the case had grown cold. According to a news article, Cheri’s father was hoping to refinance his house so he could offer a reward for information about her murder.

“Every once in a while, Joe Bates would call and demand to know what we were doing to solve the case,” recalled retired RPD Captain Irv Cross in a 2010 interview with Inland Empire Magazine. Though Cross believes investigators used every tool available to them at the time, he does have one regret. “I wish we could have done more to follow up on the military angle,” he says, which would have been a monumental task.

Besides the fact that the technology of the day wasn’t automated, the Inland Empire was a military hub. Two active major air bases—March and Norton—were both in the region, along with related industries and support services.

Even Joseph Bates worked in the defense industry as a machinist/engineer at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center). His work no doubt provided some relief as it eventually took him out of Riverside and away from the empty house he once shared with his family.

When Cheri’s mother committed suicide in July 1969, Joseph’s mailing address on the death certificate was the Fleet Post Office in San Francisco, where he had no doubt been dispatched to assist with the weapons systems on U.S. ships. His mail was being routed to VF-142, a U.S. Navy fighter squadron known as the Ghostriders.

Zodiac Link
By 1969, the Bay Area was experiencing its own rash of senseless killings by someone who referred to himself as “Zodiac” in a letter he sent to Bay Area news outlets in August 1969. Becoming known as the Zodiac killer, he sent several taunting letters to members of the press. Four included cryptograms (ciphers).

In October 1970, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery, who had been covering the Zodiac killings, received a letter telling him about the unsolved 1966 murder of Cheri Bates in Riverside. Avery was encouraged to check it out to see if he could find any links.

Avery came to Riverside and was reportedly given access to the police files. On Nov. 16, 1970, Avery reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that he believed Cheri Bates to be the first victim of the Zodiac killer.

Police weren’t buying it. And neither was Michael Bates, Cheri’s brother.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said in a 2008 phone interview with Inland Empire Magazine. “I never believed that. I’ve always felt that Cheri was killed by someone she knew. She would not have walked into a dark alley with a stranger,” he said. In addition, police say the brutality of the attack suggests personal anger.

Local Ties
To that end, detectives had their sights on a former classmate of Cheri’s, who may have been a rejected suitor. But they couldn’t physically place him at the murder scene. In the 1990s, police got a court order to test his DNA. He provided a sample, but it wasn’t a match.

In 2008, a woman, who asked that her name not be published, contacted Inland Empire Magazine with the name of a different suspect. He had been a classmate of Cheri’s, an athlete whose career was cut short by an injury that reportedly led to an addiction to prescription pain medication and alcohol.

According to the woman, her friend had been raped by him at a party some time after Cheri’s murder. He allegedly told her that if she reported it, he would do to her what he had done to Cheri. His name and the woman’s contact information were given to Riverside police detectives.

Is he on the radar? With the Bates case still open and active, “it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the outcome of certain suspect leads,” says RPD Detective Jim Simons.

But maybe technology will talk. 

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