A woman convicted of the 1976 murder of a University of Nevada-Reno college student may get a new chance at freedom thanks to a new test of DNA found at the crime scene.
Cathy Woods was convicted of murdering Michelle Mitchell, 19, three years after the victim’s body was found on the side of a road. She originally confessed to the crime, saying she had done it for Satan, but later recanted, according to KOLO-TV.
A recent DNA test on a cigarette found at the crime scene does not match Woods’ DNA.
The DNA belongs to a male and matches the DNA in a series of unsolved murders in the San Francisco Bay Area that are known as the Gypsy Hill Killings.
Those slayings, which took place around the same time, also involved young women, some of whom had car trouble at the time of their deaths.
The victims in those murders were Ronnie Cascio, Tanya Blackwell, Paula Baxter, Denise Lampe and Carol Lee Booth.
No suspect was ever found.
Authorities began re-examining the evidence in Mitchell’s murder last yearafter Woods requested a review.
With the new findings, a motion has been filed seeking a new trial for Woods, who is being held at The Florence McClure Correctional Center in Las Vegas.
Reno police Deputy Chief Mac Venzon tells the Reno Gazette-Journal, the new evidence does not directly connect Woods, but “it doesn’t necessarily exclude her, either.”
Nevertheless, the FBI is launching a task force to re-examine the Gypsy Hill Murders in San Mateo County and their connection to Mitchell’s murder near Reno.
Investigators believe the San Mateo County killer was an accomplice in Mitchell’s murder, SFGate.com reports.
Members of the task force plan to canvass neighborhoods where the victims were last seen and where their bodies were discovered, and pursue any leads that surface, according to FBI special agent Gerald Bessette.
Investigators are being careful not to call the killer a “serial murderer” because it might narrow the imaginations of potential witnesses as they recall clues to the crimes, CBS San Francisco reports.