The news that two men had been arrested Tuesday on suspicion of killing two Yuba County girls 43 years ago came as both a surprise and relief to Leonard Granger.
The 84-year-old Solano County rancher said he may have been one of the last people to see 12-year-old Valerie Janice Lane and 13-year-old Doris Derryberry on Nov. 11, 1973.
He said he doesn’t know that his account of the encounter at a gas station would assist in the prosecution of suspects William Lloyd Harbour and Larry Don Patterson. Granger said he didn’t recognize two men, now both 65, from the photos sheriff’s officials released Tuesday. Harbour pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges in the case.
Patterson, who also was arrested Tuesday in Oklahoma, faces extradition. He is to appear in Yuba Superior Court on Oct. 19.
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Granger owned a gas station, Randy’s Texaco and Sports Center, on Highway 20 in Marysville. A car occupied by two men and two young girls pulled into the station in the afternoon, Granger recalled in a telephone conversation Wednesday.
“In those days, we checked the oil and washed the windows,” Granger said.
While he was tending to the vehicle, the two girls said they wanted to go to the restroom, and the two men escorted them, Granger said. He thought it strange and noted that when the girls returned to the car they were crying.
Granger said he asked the girls what was the matter and if he could do anything to help. He said the men brushed him off, saying they would handle it.
When they left, Granger said he called the Marysville Police Department and reported the incident.
“I called the Police Department and they weren’t too much concerned,” Granger said.
The following day, he learned that the bodies of two girls had been found alongside a dirt road near Camp Far West Lake southeast of town.
“I’ve always worried that I could have done something,” Granger said Wednesday.
He regretted that he didn’t write down the license plate number of the vehicle and said he never contacted the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the murders.
But, he said, “It’s a relief to me to know that they were caught.”