SANTA ANA, California — A California man has been charged with murder in the 1989 stabbing death of a 35-year-old woman in Orange County after a new cold case team re-examined the killing, officials said Thursday.
Douglas Gutridge, 63, of Lodi, was arrested last week. He was charged with one count of murder and was being held on $1 million bail, the Orange County district attorney's office said.
Prosecutors say Gutridge killed Carla Salazar inside her Santa Ana apartment in June 1989. The arrest came after a newly created cold case task force took over the investigation in July.
Assistant Public Defender Mick Hill declined to comment on the case.
The motive for the killing is not clear, but investigators believe the pair had a brief, consensual relationship, said Larry Yellin, senior deputy district attorney.
After Salazar was killed, Gutridge came forward and offered police an interview. While authorities had DNA evidence linking Gutridge to the scene nearly six years ago, they did not have enough to charge him with a crime until the cold case team stepped in, said Santa Ana police chief Carlos Rojas.
"A case isn't just made on just forensic evidence," Rojas told reporters.
Orange County prosecutors and five law enforcement agencies created the homicide task force earlier this year to place renewed emphasis on solving the county's more than 1,000 unsolved cases.
After so much time had passed, Salazar's friend Christine McFadden said she never thought they'd find a suspect, but learning an arrest had been made gave her hope.
"We gave up on the justice system but we never gave up on her," McFadden said.
Gutridge is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 2.