The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help to solve a half-dozen cold-case murders, some going back more than three decades.
The little pieces of information witnesses share can open a door to solve a case, said sheriff’s Detective Dwayne Johnson.
The cold cases are:
▪ The 1979 slaying of Terri Beene, 16, whose unclothed body was found in an old miner’s cabin in Kennedy Meadows in the eastern Sierra on Christmas Eve. It is unknown how she ended up there, but it was not far from Ridgecrest, where she was last seen.
▪ Two 1980 slayings of Native American or Hispanic women in which DNA evidence points to a suspect, Wilson Chouest, who’s already in prison for a 1980 rape and kidnapping in Visalia. The Sheriff’s Department is still trying to identify the two women who were killed.
One woman was a Native American or Hispanic woman, 30 to 35, whose body was found in an orchard near Zeker Road and Merced Avenue in Delano on July 15, 1980. She weighed 115 pounds, was 5 feet 4 inches tall and had a tattoo of a heart with “Shirley” written inside of it and Seattle below and another of a rose with “mother” above and “I love you” below it.
The other woman was found three days later at the Westlake High School parking lot in Thousand Oaks. She was a pregnant Hispanic woman in her 20s or 30s who weighed 110 to 120 pounds and stood 5 feet 2 inches tall. She had brown eyes, black hair with bleached ends and was four to five month’s pregnant. Both victims are believed to be from the Central Valley.
▪ A woman and a girl found dead near the Highway 99 corridor whose deaths were similar. Nicole Phillips, 23, of Tulare was found near the embankment of the Highway 99 overpass in Tipton on Dec. 30, 2007. On Sept. 17, 2008, Molly Ervin, 16, of Visalia was found southwest of Avenue 264 and Drive 94, near the Tagus Ranch Highway 99 exit in Tulare. Both victims were killed by asphyxiation and the FBI is looking at the deaths as possible human-trafficking cases.
▪ The 2003 shooting death of Phillip Savala, 51, at Barlett Park in Porterville. The slaying occurred sometime the night of June 18 or early the next day. The Porterville man planned to stay overnight and fish at the park. Police found his dark blue 1989 Chevy S-10 pickup parked outside, across from the park entrance.
Anyone with information is asked to contact cold-case detectives at 559-735-1900 Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 24 hours a day at 559-733-6218. Anonymous tips can be shared with TipNow Program at 559-725-4194 or firstname.lastname@example.org