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Drifter held in Rape, Slaying of Fresno Girl, 6

July 16, 1987|United Press International

FRESNO — A drifter arrested in Medford, Ore. on suspicion of raping, murdering and burning the body of a 6-year-old Fresno girl waived extradition Wednesday and was returned to California.

Bobby Lee Cole, 43, was formally charged with murder, rape and sodomy in connection with the slaying of Teresa Cervantes, whose burned body was found on a school playground near her home in southeast Fresno on June 21.

Cole waived extradition and police escorted him on a commerical airliner shortly before noon for the return trip to Fresno, Sgt. Mike Sweeney of the Medford Police Department said.

Cole was arrested early Monday after a police officer found him rummaging through a Salvation Army drop bin.

When the officer found newspaper clippings about the Cervantes murder in his wallet, he became suspicious and Medford police notified authorities in Fresno.

Detective Lt. Richard Lindstrom of the Fresno Police Department said that during questioning it was discovered Cole knew things about the girl's murder that could only be known by someone who was at the scene when she was killed.

"We are convinced the right man is in custody and we are not actively looking for any other suspect," Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom said Cole apparently was a drifter and was in Fresno for only a short time before the killing.

"We know very little about the man and we're not even sure he gave us his right name," Lindstrom said. "We are circulating his fingerprints nationwide in an attempt to confirm his identity."

Medford police officer David Ryder was on routine patrol when he was sent to investigate a report of a transient taking clothes from the drop box, said Sweeny. Ryder became suspicious when the suspect gave several different names and decided to arrest him on an accusation of second-degree theft and bring him to the police station for questioning, Sweeny said.

In an effort to determine the man's identity, Ryder searched his belongings, the sergeant said. When the officer looked in the man's wallet he found several newspaper clippings from the Fresno Bee regarding the Cervantes case.

"Three weeks ago, Officer Ryder was looking at a brochure from a sex-crimes seminar that a sergeant had attended," Sweeny said. "The brochure said that in many cases they have found that sex offenders keep clippings of news articles detailing their crimes."

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