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DNA Leads To Arrest Of Elderly Man In Two California Cold Cases Murders 16 Years Apart

James Ray Gary is accused of killing two women — one in 1980 and one in 1996 — after his DNA was allegedly found at the scene of a sex crime in 2021 and matched to the murders. 

By Jax Miller
James Ray Gary

Authorities say that DNA had identified a suspect wanted for multiple cold cases around the San Francisco Bay Area, including the murders of two women.

James Ray Gary, 76, was arrested on Tuesday after physical evidence from a 2021 sex crime matched DNA found with two homicide victims, according to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office. Gary was booked for the 1980 murder of Latrelle Lindsay, 46, with officials stating they expect to charge him soon with the 1996 murder of Winifred Douglas, 46, as well.

The investigation began in July 1980, when authorities responded to a Union City home in Alameda County. Inside, they found Lindsay, who had been sexual assaulted and sustained blunt force trauma to the head and neck. Her official cause of death, however, was asphyxiation by strangulation, according to the release.

Evidence, including some containing DNA, was collected from the scene, but eventual entries into law enforcement databases yielded no results and the case grew cold.

Winifred Douglas died under similar circumstances 16 years later. In March 1996, workers with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) came upon Douglas’s body, which had been discarded in the bushes of a Vallejo highway in Solano County. Like Lindsay, the victim also sustained blunt force trauma to the head and neck, and her cause of death was also asphyxiation.

It was unclear whether or not Douglas was the victim of sexual assault.

No suspects were identified in her case, which also went cold.

In 2003, Solano County investigators sent evidence from Douglas’s crime scene for examination with the California Department of Justice, where a DNA profile of the killer was created. But again, no matches were made when authorities submitted it through the FBI’s DNA database.

In 2012, however, Solano County officials received word that the DNA from their 1996 case matched evidence found in the 1980 case. Though a suspect had yet to be identified, authorities worked under the theory that they might be looking for a single killer.

“Earlier this month, Union City PD and the Solano County Sheriff’s Office were notified that the DNA profile identified from their two cases also matched a sex crime investigated by a North Bay Police Department in 2021,” wrote Solano County officials.

It was through the evidence collected from the 2021 sexual assault that investigators found James Ray Gary of Fairfield, California. However, officials did not disclose how they were able to obtain Gary's DNA to develop the match.

“On July 18, 2022, our office was notified that the submitted DNA sample from Gary matched all thee crimes mentioned above,” said Solano County officials. “A warrant was obtained for his arrest and to search his home.”

As of Friday afternoon, jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com show Gary is only charged with one murder so far. Officials stated the single charge is for the Douglas murder.

“We are grateful for the cooperation between the Union City Police Department, the CA Department of Justice, and the Solano County Sheriff’s Office,” the sheriff’s office stated. “We are hopeful that this arrest can help bring some closure to the families and friends that have been seeking justice for as much as 40 years.”

Gary is being held on $1 million bail at the Solano County jail and is scheduled to appear in court on July 28.

Officials say the case “remains under active investigation” and ask anyone with information to come forward. For information pertaining to Lindsay’s murder, contact the Union City Police Department at 1-510-675-5227. Anyone with information about the Douglas murder should contact the Solano County Sheriff’s Office at 1-707-784-7050.

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