Cold case murder suspect pleads not guilty

Gabriel O’Neill

A Brisbane man was arrested Monday in connection with a 25-year-old murder, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies arrested Gabriel O’Neill, 45, on suspicion of murder in the 1989 death of 27-year-old Sheila Lorraine Hatcher, according to Deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt.

Hatcher’s body was found March 12, 1989, by two hikers in a ravine on San Bruno Mountain in unincorporated north San Mateo County.

Investigators said she had been sexually assaulted and suffered blunt force trauma to her body.

At the time, investigators were unable to find sufficient evidence to identify a suspect but, in 2013, Hatcher’s family requested the case be reopened by the Sheriff’s Office, Rosenblatt said.

Sheriff’s Office investigators worked with the San Mateo County Forensic Laboratory and the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office and re-examined reports, case files, photographs and physical evidence.

Investigators said one of the items resubmitted to the forensic lab yielded evidence that linked O’Neill to the homicide.

As the investigation is still ongoing, Rosenblatt said she could not release what kind of forensic evidence tied O’Neill to the case.

“The relationship between the victim and the suspect is still being determined. It seems that they were acquaintances. To what extent, that has yet to be determined,” Rosenblatt said.

O’Neill wasn’t originally looked at during the time of Hatcher’s murder, Rosenblatt said. However, due to the continued efforts to provide the family with closure, a suspect has now been identified, Rosenblatt said.

O’Neill was taken into custody Monday as he was driving in the 3000 block of Bayshore Boulevard in Brisbane.

Rosenblatt said she wasn’t sure of the last time the Sheriff’s Office had been able to solve a cold case, but added it’s always rewarding to provide a family with some answers.

“There’s no end date on solving something like this. The fact that we’re able to give the family that lost someone close to them some closure, is at least something that we can do in such a sad and horrific situation as this. It’s sad, we feel empathy for the family that it took so long to get an answer. But thankfully, through the use of modern technology and a diligent investigation, we were able to put a murder suspect in custody,” Rosenblatt said.

O’Neill was booked into county jail and is being held without bail.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Detective Andy Armando at (650) 363-4347 or Detective Jon Sebring at (650) 363-4057.

Anyone wising to remain anonymous can call (800) 547-2700.

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