Q: I thought I read that they found “paint flecks” at at least one of the rape or murder sites linked to the East Area Rapist. Were there enough paint flecks to identify the type of paint? Could such paint from the late 1970s be chemically identified to determine not only the type of paint, but brand, manufacturer, year, where such paint was sold and what companies may have used that paint?
Richard Hildebrand, Fair Oaks
A: Traces of blue paint were found in three back-to-back East Area Rapist cases in Sacramento County in 1977, said Ken Clark, a supervisor and detective with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau.
He described them as microscopic chips of paint that likely came from someone using a paint sprayer. In the late ’70s, he said, paint sprayers typically were used only by professional painters, leading investigators to focus on someone engaged in the building trades.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department in reviewing cold cases in 2013 discovered that traces of paint were found in two rapes and at a homicide scene in Irvine, in Orange County in the 1980s. Irvine police reported that paint was found on a tool left at one of the Original Night Stalker homicides. The East Area Rapist is believed to be the same man known as Southern California’s “Original Night Stalker.”
Clark said the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Crime Lab analyzed the blue paint chips found in the three Sacramento County rape cases and identified it as architectural paint, but it was not able to identify a brand. Such determinations might be possible with the technology and databases available today, he said, but the paint chips were either used up in the lab tests or discarded with other evidence when the statute of limitations in the rape cases expired.
Only the homicide cases could still be prosecuted if a suspect were arrested, Clark said.