Possible New Lead in Reno-Bay Area Serial Murder Case

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In three months of early 1976, a serial killer was preying on young women in Reno and the Bay Area.

Investigators working these cases have recently received a nearly four decades old eyewitness account that could aid in their serch.

At a press conference March 6th announcing a joint task force, FBI Special Agent in Charge Gerald Bessette asked people to search their memories of early 1976 for any thing that might help investigators.

That plea apparently prompted someone in the Bay Area to call and relate the sighting of a white man in his late 20s to early 30s driving a car with Nevada license plates in the area where one of the victims, Paula Baxter's, body was found.

Baxter was the third of six victims attributed to the unknown serial killer.

The 17 year old was seen leaving the parking lot at her high school in Millbrae, February 4, 1976. Her car was found nearby the next morning. Her body in brush behind a local church.

Two weeks later the body of UNR coed Michelle Mitchell was found in a garage near the Reno campus.

The link between her murder, Baxter's and four others in the Bay Area only emerged this past year when the Reno Police Department's reexamination of the case against the woman twice convicted of Mitchell's death, a former Reno topless bar manager, Cathy Woods..

Physical evidence in the Mitchell case was tested for DNA which was unavailable in 1976.

It did not match Woods, but instead matched that of the unknown man sought in the Bay Area cases.

Sources close to the investigation say while the witness account is too vague to lead them to a suspect, if true it does strengthen the link between the murders indicating the man they are looking for was more than a visitor to Reno, but may have also lived in the Bay Area.

Woods has been behind bars for more than three decades. A hearing on a motion for a new trial which could free her was continued until next month to give the task force more time to investigate.