Open main menu

The Gypsy Hill killings were a group of five homicides of young women and girls in San Mateo County, California during early 1976. The killer became known in the media as "the San Mateo slasher." It was later proven that there were at least two different perpetrators.[1]

San Mateo slasher
Other namesThe San Mateo Slasher
Wanted by
FBI, local police
Wanted sinceJanuary 8, 1976; 43 years ago (January 8, 1976)
Span of crimes
CountryUnited States
Location(s)San Mateo County
Target(s)Young females
Date apprehended
January 22, 2015


On January 8, 1976 the body of 18-year-old Veronica Cascio was discovered in a creek on the grounds of the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica. She had been stabbed 30 times.[2] A transient was arrested but was released for lack of evidence.[3]

A few weeks later, 14-year-old Tatiana Blackwell was reported missing after leaving her home in Pacifica to run an errand. A body, later identified as hers, was discovered off Sharp Park Road in the Gypsy Hills section of the city on June 6.[4] She had also been stabbed multiple times.

Paula Baxter, 17 years old, went missing on February 2, leaving her mired car behind. Her nude body was found on February 4 in Millbrae behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Ludeman Lane. She had been stabbed 4 times, sexually assaulted, and hit on the head with a piece of concrete. Her killing was forensically linked to Cascio's.[5]

On April 1, 19-year-old Denise Lampe of Broadmoor was found dead after a search in the parking lot of the Serramonte Center. She had been stabbed 20 times.[6]

Carol Booth, 26 was reported missing by her husband on March 15, and was discovered in a shallow grave near Colma Creek on Grand Avenue in South San Francisco on May 6.[7]


The five victims were:[8]

  • Veronica "Ronnie" Cascio
  • Tatiana Marie "Tanya" Blackwell
  • Paula Louise Baxter
  • Carol Lee Booth
  • Denise Lampe

Possible victimsEdit

Michelle Mitchell[9]

Mitchell, 19 was last seen alive in Reno, Nevada on February 24, 1976 when her Volkswagen Beetle broke down at the intersection of 9th Street and Evans Avenue. Witnesses reported seeing someone help push her vehicle into the parking lot across from the UNR agricultural building on Evans Street.[10]

Her body was discovered that evening in a garage on East 9th Street with her hands bound and her throat slashed. Three years later, Cathy Woods, a mental patient at the Louisiana State University Medical Center, confessed to having murdered a woman named Michelle. Woods was charged and convicted of murdering Michelle Mitchell.[11] 35 years later she was released from prison in 2015 after DNA evidence cleared her.[12]

Idell M. Friedman[13]

Friedman, 21, an employee of an import firm, was found assaulted and stabbed to death with an 8-inch-knife in her apartment at 116 Fairmount Street in San Francisco. She was murdered on March 17, 1976, only two days after Gypsy Hill victim Carol Lee Booth was reported missing.

Friedman's nude body was lying on the kitchen floor of her ransacked apartment. She was found by a co-worker who became concerned when Friedman did not show up for work.[13][14]

Investigation and arrestsEdit

Investigators have connected some of the homicides to each other. All of the slain women were young brunettes and most had experienced car trouble prior to being murdered. All of the bodies were found in wooded areas.

A lack of witnesses and forensic evidence stalled the investigations.

In March 2014, the FBI established a task force to re-examine the murders, after new DNA evidence cast doubt on the conviction of Cathy Woods, now 64,[11] for Mitchell's murder.[15] The DNA taken from a cigarette butt found at the Mitchell crime scene matched DNA taken from semen found at related crime scenes in San Mateo, California. This DNA was that of a man and therefore might exonerate Woods.[16][17]

On September 8, 2014, the FBI named Rodney Halbower as a person of interest in the Gypsy Hill murders.[18] Woods was released from prison on September 11 pending a new trial to take place on July 13, 2015.[19] In March 2015, prosecutors dismissed the charges against Woods.[20]

On January 22, 2015, Halbower was charged with two of the murders (Paula Baxter and Veronica Cascio). DNA evidence linked him to both.[21] On November 8, 2017, Leon Melvin Seymour was charged with the murder of Denise Lampe, based on DNA evidence.[22] On September 18, 2018, Halbower was convicted of the murders of Cascio and Baxter.[23] Finally, on October 10, 2018, Halbower was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders of Cascio and Baxter.

Cathy Woods, 68, is the longest-ever wrongfully imprisoned woman in US history, records show. She was released from prison in 2015 when fresh evidence linked the 1976 murder of Reno college student Michelle Mitchell to suspected serial killer Rodney Halbower.

Halbower will most likely face a trial in Nevada for the murder of Michelle Mitchell in the near future.

The murders of Tanya Blackwell and Carol Lee Booth are both believed to have been committed by Rodney Halbower, but there was not enough evidence to charge him for their deaths.


  1. ^ "1976 Nevada murder linked to California serial killer". WireUpdate. 8 March 2014. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ "2 Slain in Pacifica, San Mateo". San Mateo Times. January 9, 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via
  3. ^ "Man Freed In Slaying". San Mateo Times. January 16, 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via
  4. ^ "Youths Find Body In Pacifica Hills". San Mateo Times. June 7, 1976. p. 1.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Rick (19 March 1976). "Two Stabbing Slayings Still Remain Unsolved". San Mateo Times. pp. 1, 8. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via
  6. ^ "Brutal DC Slaying; Police Seek Clues". San Mateo Times. April 2, 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via
  7. ^ LaPierre, Frank (May 6, 1976). "Killer Loose: 4 Murders In 4 Months". San Mateo Times. pp. 1, 18. Retrieved 9 March 2014 – via
  8. ^ Ho, Vivian (7 March 2014). "San Mateo County 1976 slayings linked to old Reno murder". Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Feds link Reno murder to unsolved 1976 'Gypsy Hill Killings'". KUTV. 6 March 2014. Archived from the original on 15 May 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ Ivie, Erin (6 March 2014). "Gypsy Hill victims exhibited 'startling' similarities". Mercury News. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  11. ^ a b Marcus, Emerson (6 March 2014). "Authorities reopen '76 case of UNR student slaying (with video)". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  12. ^ Riotta, Chris (29 August 2019). "Longest-ever wrongfully imprisoned woman in US history wins $3m settlement". The Independent.
  13. ^ a b "Help Asked In Probe Of Slaying". SF Chronicle. March 19, 1976.
  14. ^ Murphy, Dave (May 8, 1986). "Murders still haunt him because he has no proof". San Mateo Times. p. A6.
  15. ^ "FBI launches task force for "Gypsy Hill Murders"". Washington Times. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  16. ^ Ashley Collman (9 September 2014). "Cathy Woods, found guilty of 1976 murder, gets new trial with new DNA links". Mail Online. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  17. ^ Moye, David (7 March 2014). "Crime Scene DNA No Match For Woman Convicted Of 1976 Murder". Huffington Post. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  18. ^ Erin Ivie (8 September 2014). "Gypsy Hill murders: Person of interest named in killings of Peninsula women". Mercury News.
  19. ^ "Woman released in 1976 Reno murder case". Yahoo News. 11 September 2014. Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  20. ^ "Woman cleared of murder after 30 years in prison". USA TODAY. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  21. ^ "New Suspect Arrested, Charged in 1976 'Gypsy Hill' Murders". KTVN Channel 2 News. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  22. ^ "DNA leads to cold case arrest in deadly stabbing of 19-year-old woman in 1976". foxnews. November 12, 2017. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  23. ^ "Jury finds alleged 'Gypsy Hill Killer' guilty of killing two teens in 1976". abc7news. September 18, 2018. Retrieved September 19, 2018.


External linksEdit