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Ohio man arrested in 1978 cold-case slaying

A former carnival worker is being held in connection with the death of James Gentry, a Paper Mate executive who was found stabbed to death in his Palms home in 1978.

August 09, 2011|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Walter Randolph Peartree, seen at left in 2010 and at right in the 1970s, was traced to a 1978 cold-case slaying through forensic tests.
Walter Randolph Peartree, seen at left in 2010 and at right in the 1970s,… (LAPD )

A former carnival worker has been arrested in connection with the 1978 cold case murder of an executive found stabbed to death in his Palms home, Los Angeles police said Monday.

Walter Randolph Peartree, 62, was arrested on the L.A. County murder warrant at 10:30 a.m. at his residence in Delaware, Ohio, according to a statement from the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division's cold case unit.

Peartree was taken into custody without incident and could be in an Ohio courtroom as early as Tuesday for an extradition hearing.

Peartree, who is unemployed, is suspected in the April 10, 1978, slaying of 52-year-old James Gentry, who worked as the controller for Paper Mate in Santa Monica, detectives said.

A friend discovered Gentry stabbed to death at his home in the 3100 block of Kelton Avenue. Despite a $5,000 reward, the case quickly went cold.

Peartree, originally from the Newport News, Va., area, has been living in Ohio since the mid-1990s, police said. He had worked for carnivals in several states, but police did not have further details of his employment history.

Cold-case detectives Rick Jackson and Elizabeth Estupinian reviewed the case in 2010 for potential forensic leads such as DNA or fingerprints. In April, scientific testing

showed Peartree was in the victim's home at the time of the slaying.

The detectives interviewed Peartree and served a search warrant in the weeks leading up to the arrest.

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