DNA helps Ventura County detectives solve cold case murders

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DNA has helped Ventura County sheriff's detectives solve two decades-old murders. But mystery still surrounds the case as the victims have never been identified. (KABC)

DNA has helped Ventura County sheriff's detectives solve two decades-old murders. But mystery still surrounds the case as the victims have never been identified.

Ventura County cold case detectives released a sketch of a woman who was murdered more than three decades ago in the parking lot of Westlake High School.

The murder was at the foot of a dirt hillside in the rear parking lot of the school. Without an ID on the victim and no witnesses, the case went cold. That is until DNA evidence recently linked the murder to 63-year-old Wilson Chouest.

"DNA was gathered from her clothing and under her fingernails that centered on Mr. Chouest," Ventura County Undersheriff Gary Pentis said.

Detectives say the murder happened around the same time Chouest had just gotten out of prison for other crimes. They say the victim was five months pregnant when she was sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled to death.

"This case frames an ultimate importance of working cold cases," Pentis said.

"Just getting the DNA is not enough. You got to prove that he was the killer as well, and all of that takes time," Ventura County Sheriff's Det. Joe Evans said.

Investigators say DNA evidence also points to Chouest in the murder of a woman in Kern County. Detectives there released a computerized composite sketch of the victim who was killed in an almond orchard near Delano some three days before the other victim's death.

Authorities say even though Chouest has been charged with the murders, they are continuing their investigation making sure not to leave any loss end.

The victims have remained unidentified for 35 years. Detectives are hoping that will change with the public's help.

"The mainstay is to try to identify who these women are because they are someone's sister, possibly someone's wife, possibly someone's daughter," Pentis said.

Investigators believe Chouest killed the women during a four-month stint out of prison for other crimes. They say while out, he traveled throughout several counties, including Los Angeles, Ventura, Kern and more. They say he ended up back behind bars after being arrested and convicted for kidnapping, robbing and raping two other women.

"I'm telling you right now he's eligible for parole in 2017. Detectives have reason to believe there could be additional victims of Chouest's crimes," Pentis said.

Detectives say they are doing all they can to make sure Chouest never sees freedom.

Related Topics:
cold casemurderDNAinvestigationWestlake VillageVentura CountyKern CountyCalifornia
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