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Alleged California Serial Killer's Girlfriend's Tipped Off Authorities

Buford King is accused of killing Aleksey Shelest, Donnie Lee and Alberto Contreras. He was reportedly charged because his frightened girlfriend tipped off the police after they arrested him for a different crime.

By Gina Tron
A police handout of Buford King

A woman in fear for her life allegedly tipped off authorities to her suspected serial killer boyfriend's alleged crimes.

Buford King, 36, is currently awaiting trial for the murders of three men, killed in Squaw Valley — which is just west of Lake Tahoe — and Visalia, California between 2011 and 2016.

He was arrested and charged with three counts of murder in 2019 for the deaths of Aleksey Shelest, 35, Donnie Lee, 62, and Alberto Contreras, 51, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office stated in a previous press release as they called him an alleged “serial killer.” 

King was an acquaintance of all of three victims, who had been missing for years before their bodies were found. Shelest and Lee were both residents of Squaw Valley who were reported missing in 2016, while Contreras hailed from Visalia, which is about 300 miles south, and was reported missing in 2011.

While King was under investigation in the disappearances for three years, it was allegedly a tip from his girlfriend that led to the grim discovery of the remains.

King’s girlfriend visited Lee's girlfriend in 2019 — after King had been locked up on unrelated charges — and “told her she's sorry for her loss — referring to Donnie Lee — and that information was going to be coming out to basically give the families some closure," Jose Diaz, a homicide detective with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office told KFSN.

Just days after that conversation, detectives dug up King's backyard and the backyard of one of his neighbors; Shelest and later Lee's bodies were found during the digging. King’s girlfriend assisted in the search, Diaz told KFSN.

Diaz stated that King’s girlfriend helped the investigation out of fear.

"She had said that she was scared of Mr. King," he told KFSN. "She was afraid Mr. King was going to kill her."

She told investigators that she had witnessed King commit domestic violence and child abuse, and she claimed she said she “saw Donnie Lee laying on the ground and she stated there was something covering Donnie Lee's head," after hearing a gunshot on the property in 2016.

Police handouts of Alberto Contreras, Aleksey Shelest and Donnie Lee

The girlfriend came forward with the information while King was in jail for allegedly shooting someone else in the foot in 2017 as well as the possession of explosive materials, KFSN reports.

Investigators had surveyed the property in 2016 without any luck. King was arrested in August 2017 for the shooting and for unrelated explosives charges, but was bailed out in January 2018. He was remanded into custody when he returned to court on February 20, 2019.

Investigators began digging on his property on March 20, 2019 and found Shelest's remains on March 26. They stopped digging on April 4 but, according to police, they "developed more new information" and resumed digging there — and starting digging on a property in Visalia — on April 26.

The two teams found Contreras' and Lee's remains on April 27, 2019, according to a 2019 press release from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. All three men had been shot in the head. King was officially charged with the murders in July 2019.

King, a war veteran, has allegedly confessed to all three murders. However, his attorney has questioned whether or not that alleged confession was obtained legally. A judge will decide on Tuesday whether or not there is enough evidence to send King to trial.