Crime - Sacto 911

Suspect pleads not guilty in death of Yuba County girls

One of two men accused of murdering two Yuba County girls in a case that has gone unsolved for 43 years ago pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Yuba Superior Court in Marysville.

William Lloyd Harbour was arraigned Wednesday in the 1973 shotgun murders of Valerie Janice Lane, 12, and her friend Doris Karen Derryberry, 13. The girls were from Olivehurst.

A DNA analysis of semen found at the crime scene led authorities to Harbour and Larry Don Patterson, officials said. Harbour, 65, was arrested Tuesday in Linda.

Patterson, 65, was apprehended Tuesday in Oakhurst, Okla., and remains in the state pending an extradition hearing. He is expected to appear in Yuba Superior Court along with Harbour on Oct. 19.

His head nearly shaved, Harbour entered the almost standing-room-only courtroom in shackles and wearing an orange T-shirt. He said little and was represented by a court-appointed attorney.

The men and their alleged victims lived in the largely rural community of Olivehurst when the girls were reported missing Nov. 12, 1973. Their bodies were found that afternoon along a dirt road near Camp Far West Lake outside Wheatland. Both had been shot by a shotgun from close range. Evidence suggest Derryberry had been sexually assaulted.

“These people have walked around for the last 43 years and they’ve been living their lives to where my aunt never had a chance at hers,” said Stan VanTassel, Derryberry’s nephew, at the hearing.

More than a dozen family members attended that hearing, including Margaret Hasting, mother of Valerie Janice Lane. VanTassel was the only one who spoke to the media after the short hearing.

VanTassel said it was difficult to see Harbour in court.

“It was extremely difficult, just knowing that as children running around and growing up in the neighborhood, that we were running around with some of their children,” he said. “It’s a slap in our face.”

Leslie Carbah, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department, said she hopes the arrests start the victims’ families on the road to closure. Carbah said several of the original witnesses, pathologists and investigators involved in the case have since died.

“We are glad to be able to start the healing process, even if it is 43 years later,” she said outside of the courtroom.

The girls were seen the day before at the shopping center in Linda and later that night on Olivehurst Avenue near Seventh Avenue, officials said.

Sheriff’s officials said the homicide was actively investigated from 1973 through 1976. Despite significant investigative efforts, including more than 60 interviews, they produced no successful leads and the case remained unsolved.

In early 2014, officials looked for evidence using techniques and processes that were not available in 1973. Items of evidence – including semen – collected during the original investigation were reviewed and submitted to the California Department of Justice Forensic Labs for analysis.

In December 2014, testing by the Justice Department revealed DNA evidence that matched and identified Patterson and Harbour as suspects.

Harbour and Patterson have a history of felony convictions that resulted in prison sentences, and as a result their DNA is in a national database. Harbour had a 1997 felony drug conviction in San Joaquin County and a 2003 conviction for drug offenses in Sutter County. Patterson was convicted and sentenced to prison in 1980 for raping two women in Chico in 1976. After release from prison, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender.

Carbah said the murders had a big impact on the small community.

“We seem to see these types of crimes a little more often in today’s world,” Carbah said. “Back 43 years ago it was extremely uncommon and it rocked the whole community.”

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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