Investigators Friday said they are searching for a possible witness in a series of unsolved murders in San Mateo Conty dating to the spring of 1976 that they believe were committed by the same person.
Investigators announced in March this year that the five killings, known as the “Gypsy Hill murders,” which occurred over a four-month period in 1976 in San Mateo County, have been connected through forensic evidence with the murder of a 19-year-old woman in Reno during the same time period.
Now, investigators have received information about a possible witness and are hoping to track him down.
The witness is described as a white male who was in his late 20s to early 30s and living in San Mateo County at the time of the murders. He drove an automobile with Nevada license plates.
A joint task force involving the FBI and local law enforcement agencies has been created to focus on the six murders.
Authorities are hoping someone in the Bay Area or Reno will remember a suspicious incident or detail that could shed light on any of the homicides.
The first Peninsula victim was 18-year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Cascio, who was last seen Jan. 7, 1976, walking from her home to a bus stop at Bradford Way and Fairway Drive in Pacifica.
Her body was found the next day at the Sharp Park Golf Course.
Fourteen-year-old Tanya Blackwell disappeared next, on Jan. 24. She had left her home on Heathcliff Drive in Pacifica, reportedly to walk to a 7-Eleven store at King Drive in South San Francisco.
Her body was located months later, on June 6, off Gypsy Hill Road in Pacifica.
Next to disappear was 17-year-old Paula Baxter, who was last seen leaving the parking lot of Capuchino High School in San Bruno on Feb. 4.
Early the next morning, her car, a bronze 1972 Chevy Vega station wagon, was found parked on a nearby residential street, and the day after that Baxter’s body was discovered hidden in brush behind the Latter Day Saints Church on Ludeman Lane.
The next Peninsula victim was Carol Lee Booth, also known as “Beedy,” a 26-year-old who was last seen walking from the bus stop on El Camino Real at Arroyo Street in South San Francisco toward her home.
Booth disappeared on March 15, but her body wasn’t recovered until May 4.
She was known to use a common shortcut across an open area between Kaiser Hospital and Mission Road near the former El Camino Real Driving Range, and her body was found hidden in some vegetation in that area.
The fifth Peninsula victim was 19-year-old Denise Lampe, who left Serramonte Mall in Daly City on April 1 and returned to her vehicle, never to be seen alive again.
Her body was found that evening inside her vehicle, a 1964-1/2 Mustang, which was parked in the same location at the mall, between Macy’s and the Denny’s restaurant.
Sandwiched between two of the San Mateo County murders was the killing of 19-year-old University of Nevada-Reno student Michelle Mitchell.
At about 8:10 p.m. on Feb. 24, 1976, Mitchell’s vehicle broke down at the intersection of Ninth Street and Evans Avenue in Reno.
Someone assisted her in pushing the vehicle, a yellow early 1970s Volkswagen Bug, into a parking lot across from the university’s agricultural building on Evans Street.
Her body was found later that night in the garage of a nearby home.
Based on forensic evidence in a number of the cases, the time frame of the murders and the methods used by the killer, investigators are “confident” that all six murders were committed by the same person.
In addition to the FBI, agencies involved in the task force include the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the Daly City Police Department, the Pacifica Police Department, the South San Francisco Police Department, the Reno Police Department and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the FBI’s tip line at (415) 553-7400, then press 0 and advise that the call is in regards to the Gypsy Hill cases. All calls are confidential.