Woman behind bars for 1976 murder may not have acted alone

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Updated: 3/07/2014 6:12 pm
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- New evidence in a 1976 Reno murder may link the case to five others in the bay area, but that doesn't necessarily mean the woman who has been behind bars for the crime isn't guilty.

Cathy Woods admitted to murdering 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell in 1976, but she recently asked for DNA analysis of evidence from the case and it's not a match.

FBI spokesman Peter Lee said they can't rule out that Woods was involed and just didn't act alone.

Cal Dunlap was the Washoe County District Attorney at the time, and he says that's what he's thought all along.

"The jury had no doubt in convicting her unanimously in the case I prosecuted," Dunlap. 

Dunlap said the evidence against Woods includes intimate knowledge of the crime, an eye witness putting Woods and Mitchell together near the crime scene and motive. 

"Cathy Woods said that she had asked Michelle for a date or propositioned her or something like that and she laughed at her," Dunlap said.

Woods was found guilty of the crime twice, in the initial trial and a retrial.

"Of course this piece of evidence was not available, but that one piece of evidence linking somebody to other homicides doesn't exhonerate her necessarily," Dunlap said.

He said the new information doesn't surprise him. 

"We always, at least I did, thought there was a second person involved," Dunlap said.

That doesn't mean Woods is off the hook. 

"The fact that there may have been somebody else may or may not have an impact on any future trial if there is one," Dunlap said.

Current Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick agrees.

"We're way premature for tha," Gammick said. "This is not the first person that's said I didn't do it. We run into that quite often after they get a chance to sit in prison and think about it for a little while."
Gammick worked on the case with the Reno Police Department.

"This is another case that we're going to have to reopen, take a look at, see where we're at, see what we've got to do with it," Gammick said. "I'm quite certain we'll wind up in court."

While Dunlap said he doesn't see a strong connection between Mitchell's murder and the ones in California, he hopes they find the suspect.

"Everybody hopes that this fella who did these horrible things to these ladies in California, and presumably here, gets caught if that person is still out there."

Dunlap said that because the crimes seem to have stopped in 1976, he thinks the suspect is either in jail, in a mental institution or dead.

Lee said the FBI is considering that possibility, but they won't know for sure until someone is in custody.
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