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DNA Prompts Charge Against Man in 1987 Killing

July 07, 2006|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

Nearly two decades after the body of a Colorado woman was found on the shoulder of Interstate 15 near Barstow, San Bernardino County prosecutors have used DNA evidence to charge a 60-year-old sex offender with murder.

Paul Zamora of La Mirada was arraigned Thursday in the killing of 33-year-old Susan Marie White after detectives used a database to compare his DNA with evidence found on the victim's body and preserved.

White disappeared the evening of June 23, 1987. She was driving home to Grand Junction, Colo., with her boyfriend and a male friend after spending part of the spring near Bakersfield, Calif., repairing U.S. Forest Service helicopters, according to officials at the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Somewhere on California 58, the three friends got into an argument about how they were going to pay for gas. They stopped at the now-closed Brownie's Market along the highway in Barstow. White's two companions told investigators that she walked off after the argument.

The two men searched the area for more than two hours before deciding to rush home to Grand Junction, where White could reach them by telephone. When they arrived and didn't hear from her, they phoned in a missing-person's report to Barstow police.

Police found White's body, with stab wounds and evidence of sexual assault, along Interstate 15 near Nipton Road, not far from the Nevada border, two days after she vanished, said Sgt. Rick Ells, a sheriff's spokesman.

After interviews with detectives, White's boyfriend and other friend were eliminated as suspects, and the case went cold.

Det. Tom Shenton, who has been investigating the case, said homicide investigators submitted the preserved fluid samples from the crime scene for DNA analysis several years ago.

In 2005, a DNA database indicated a close correlation with a sample Zamora gave while serving time as a sex offender before being released in 1999.

Investigators arrested Zamora at his residence in La Mirada in March on suspicion of the rape and murder of White, but a doubt about the evidence being sufficient prompted his release.

A second review led to Zamora's re-arrest Wednesday.

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