Reno family wants justice for Michelle Mitchell

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) For Michelle Mitchell's family it's been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Photo of Michelle Mitchell

The news of Michelle’s death in February 1976. Her hands tied, her throat slit, and left to die in a residential garage just outside the UNR campus.

They thought the case was closed when a woman named Cathy Woods confessed to the crime. She was tried and convicted twice.

But DNA left at the murder scene exonerated Woods in 2014, and instead implicated Rodney Halbower.

Michelle's mother and father, long deceased, went to their graves never knowing the real truth behind their daughter's murder.

That's why her sisters and best friend are watching proceedings in a San Mateo Superior Courtroom.

“It was our sister’s life that was taken. We feel strongly that he should be held accountable for it,” says Michelle’s sister Martha.

Halbower is being tried for the murders of Paula Baxter and Veronica Cascio. The two girls were part of a string of killings in the early months of 1976 in the Bay Area eventually called the “Gypsy Hill Murders.”

Prosecutors say DNA connects Halbower to the Cascio and Baxter cases.

Martha says whatever happens there, she and her family and Michelle's friends want Halbower returned to Washoe County to stand trial for her sister's murder. That may be easier said than done.

We do know investigators in Reno have been talking to prosecutors in San Mateo County. But Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks has yet to announce whether he will pursue this case.

For Michelle's family, her murder won't go down as unsolved or ignored.

“Yes. We would like him to stand trial and be held accountable for that murder,” says Martha.

While the group from Reno won’t be there for the entire trial, they do say for now they are there for Michelle, as well as Paula and Veronica, and that support will continue well beyond the San Mateo Superior Court room.