Matching details in surveillance videos from homes and businesses tied Alan Dupras to the slayings last year of his estranged wife and mother-in-law and related arson investigations, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said Tuesday at a news conference.
“My hope is that it gives a sense of relief to community members who live in the area and were concerned where this investigation was going,” Mims said.
Dupras, 58, was arrested earlier the same day outside his Kingsburg home following a 10-month investigation into the shooting deaths of 55-year-old Jennifer Dupras and 88-year-old Cynthia Houk. Their bodies were found in December 2017 inside their home on North Colonial Avenue in northwest Fresno. Both women were shot in the head.
Dupras told investigators Tuesday morning he wasn’t surprised to see them again and cooperated, Mims said. He declined to be interviewed, invoking his rights to an attorney.
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New technology provided key evidence necessary to arrest Dupras, she said, although she declined to elaborate.
Dupras was booked into Fresno County Jail just after noon Tuesday on suspicion of two counts of murder, two counts of arson, vandalism and possession of an assault weapon. His bail was set at $3.142 million.
Fresno District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said Dupras is eligible for the death penalty, and special circumstances apply to the case since there were multiple victims. If prosecutors don’t seek the death penalty, Dupras still could face a lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole, she said.
Authorities said the slayings were premeditated.
In the weeks leading up to the slayings, investigators said, Dupras also torched Houk’s car and set fire to the Alliance de Française social club where Jennifer Dupras served as president. Her new boyfriend also had ties to the club.
In a telephone interview Tuesday morning, the Dupras’ daughter, Alison Dupras, told The Bee her father’s arrest was “long overdue.”
“It’s a sigh of relief,” she said. “It’s a step in the right direction for a safer Fresno County.”
Mims said investigators are looking at the couple’s divorce and Jennifer’s new relationship as a possible motive.
Jennifer Dupras filed for divorce in October 2017.
Alison Dupras said her father was living alone after the slayings in the Kingsburg home he once shared with his wife. Neighbors called Alison on Tuesday morning to tell her sheriff’s investigators had taken her father into custody.
Alan Dupras, a former furniture salesman who wasn’t employed at the time of his arrest, was long considered a “person of interest” in the case.
Sheriff’s detectives spent months collecting surveillance footage from homes and businesses in the areas around the sites of the double homicide and both arson fires. In a prepared statement, investigators said a white crew cab Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck was captured in footage in “every video near the crime scenes.”
“Alan Dupras owned this same type of pickup truck, which was later recovered and processed for evidence,” deputies said in the statement.
Deputies, during the course of the probe, seized multiple firearms belonging to Alan Dupras at his parents’ Clovis home but said the murder weapon has not been found.
Fresno fire investigators said Tuesday fire “accelerant” was used in both the vehicle fire and fire at the French social club, confirmed by a K-9 used in the investigation.
Alison Dupras has suspected her father was responsible for both deaths from the beginning. In July, she organized a “silent sit-in” at the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, urging prosecutors to file charges in the case.
Alison told detectives her father verbally abused her mother and, prior to the slayings, she believed her father might commit suicide, according to information in an affidavit in the case. She said her parents’ marriage was colored by domestic violence that never was reported to law enforcement. It was her mother’s decision to leave her father, she said.
Smittcamp called the investigation “long and difficult.” Mims noted the length of the investigation was necessary.
“In this world of television forensic police shows, we’re really living what I call a CSI world,” Mims said. “The expectation from the public may be different than what reality is. Reality is that it takes time to gather all of the evidence that we need.… especially with technology.”
Investigators tracked Alan Dupras’ movements through GPS devices in the months after the deaths, search warrants revealed. An affidavit by sheriff’s Detective Bernardo Verbera said it was “reasonable and likely” that Alan Dupras was involved in the killings.
Detectives returned to the crime scene in March and found the rear door to the home was broken open. The house was ransacked. “One particular room, the bedroom Jennifer had been using prior to her death, was more heavily searched and dismantled than any other room in the home,” the affidavit said. But several items of value in the home were left alone.
Mims said Tuesday investigators suspect Alan Dupras broke into the home but declined to say what they believe he was seeking.
Jennifer Dupras retired from her job as a longtime principal at Washington Elementary in Kingsburg shortly before her death.
The case was among hundreds of violent crimes that were “uncleared” by sheriff’s investigators during the past decade. Violent crimes include homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies. A case is considered cleared when at least one suspect has been arrested, charged and sent to court for prosecution.