A death row inmate from Fresno County who was awaiting resentencing for fatally shooting two 15-year-old cousins from Fowler in 1980 has died, state prison officials announced Monday.
Prison officials said 67-year-old Fernando Eros Caro died of unknown causes late Saturday at San Quentin State Prison.
Caro was sentenced to death by a Santa Clara County jury for the Aug. 20, 1980, murders of cousins Mark Hatcher and Mary Helen Booher, and the attempted murder of Jack Lucchesi, then 25, and Rick Donner, then 23, who confronted Caro shortly after the teens were killed.
Caro encountered Hatcher and Booher, who were bicycling in a tangerine orchard, in Fowler. He shot and killed Hatcher, drove Booher a short distance and shot and killed her in a nearby orange orchard.
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Caro subsequently collided with Donner’s car, shot Lucchesi and Donner and dumped the first two victims and their bicycles in an irrigation canal.
Evidence presented in the 1981 trial also linked Caro to an April 1980 double murder of two girls in Kern County. He never was tried for the crimes.
A federal appeals court overturned his death sentence in 2002. It ruled that jurors should have been told about his brain damage from working with farming chemicals and problems he had as a child.
Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said legal wrangling and attorney retirements delayed Caro’s resentencing for years.
In 2009, Caro was arrested in the cold-case murder of Victoria Ann DeSantiago, an 8-year-old Fresno girl who was kidnapped, raped and slain in 1979.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said improved DNA technology allowed detectives to link Caro to the case. The status of that case was unclear Monday.