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California and the West

2 Students Died From Asphyxia

Crime: San Luis Obispo police release the cause of death for women found near parolee's home. He remains in custody but has not been charged.

April 27, 1999|JOHN M. GLIONNA and SALLY ANN CONNELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Asphyxiation was the cause of death of two college students whose bodies were unearthed near the remote canyon home of a convicted sex offender identified as the sole suspect in the case, police said Monday.

Rex Allan Krebs, on parole for the 1987 rape of a San Luis Obispo County woman, has not been charged in the deaths of students Rachel Newhouse and Aundria Crawford. But he remains in custody on an unrelated parole violation as police continue to gather evidence in the slayings.

Newhouse, 20, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, disappeared Nov. 12, 1998, after leaving a fraternity party at a downtown bar. Crawford, also 20, a student at nearby Cuesta College, was abducted from her home in the downtown area last month.

Authorities stress that Krebs is not a suspect in the disappearance of another missing Cal Poly student. Kristin Smart, 19, vanished May 25, 1996, and was last seen walking on campus with a male student.

However, sheriff's investigators Sunday used search dogs to comb the campus near where Smart was last seen, Cal Poly officials confirmed. But authorities would not confirm whether they had found any new evidence in the 3-year-old case.

In an interview with the Fresno Bee over the weekend concerning the discovery of the bodies of Newhouse and Crawford, Krebs said he is a monster and deserves to die. The 33-year-old also asked for the death penalty in the case, the newspaper reported.

Krebs became a suspect March 19 after a state parole officer searched his residence and found evidence linking him to one of the slayings. "A piece of property was found which was suspected to belong to one of the victims," said San Luis Obispo Police Chief Jim Gardiner on Monday.

Parole officials said Krebs had been closely monitored during the 19 months since he was paroled from state prison after serving half of a 20-year sentence for rape and other crimes. He consistently passed drug and alcohol tests given in some of his 53 visits with parole officers, they said.

"Bad people do bad things," said Steve Schroeder, regional state parole administrator. "In this case it was a tragedy, but to expect California's worst to come out of prison and not commit any crime is not realistic."

The officials spoke at a Monday morning news conference attended by state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, high-ranking FBI officials and representatives of local law enforcement agencies.

Police said the case was broken in part because they were able to collect blood and other evidence from the duplex of Crawford, the latest victim. Previously, detectives had been stymied by the fact that they had no specific crime scene for the Newhouse disappearance.

"The investigation was anything but routine, considering that Rachel Newhouse disappeared late at night from an establishment here in town," Gardiner said. "And nobody could even remember when she left."

Krebs had three different addresses since his parole in late 1997, the last a rented home in an isolated canyon south of town reachable only by a dirt road.

Authorities said the families of the two young women, summoned to the area by police last week, are holding up despite the gruesome discoveries.

"But it's very tough," said Cindy Marie Absey of the San Luis Obispo County district attorney's office. "They're remarkable people."

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