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DNA Ties Suspect to Women's Grisly Murders, Police Say

Suspect faces capital murder charges in deaths of transient women whose bodies were discovered in an abandoned house in 2001 and Palisades Park in 2002.

DNA evidence has linked a 46-year-old man to the 2001 and 2002 slayings of two transient women whose bodies were found after they were sexually assaulted and strangled, police said Thursday, bringing the number of .

Santa Monica transient Edric Dashell Gross was taken into custody Wednesday at Pan Pacific Park in the West Hollywood area on suspicion of murdering Jacqueline Ovsak in 2001 and Dana Caper in 2002.

Capital murder charges have been filed against Gross, along with special allegations of rape and residential burglary. The Los Angeles District Attorney will not decide whether to seek the death penalty until the case moves closer to trial, a spokeswoman said.

The Santa Monica Police Department said it was able to link Gross to the crimes after running DNA tests on rape kits. The motive in both cases, however, is still unclear, said detective Larry Nicols.

"I wish we knew what the motive was," Nicols said. "It's safe to say that this was pretty much a DNA case."

At 42, Ovsak was strangled, sexually assaulted, and left for dead in an abandoned house slated for demolition in the 1500 block of Seventh Street. Her body was found April 3, 2001 by construction workers, but there were no witnesses to the crime.

A year later on Oct. 29, 2002, passersby in Palisades Park discovered the 41-year-old body of Dana Caper on the bluffs below. She, too, had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. There were no witnesses to the crime.

Both women were transients who frequented the areas where their bodies were found. Their homicides were investigated until leads ran out and the cases went cold. Then, five years ago, investigators assigned to the department's cold case unit, re-opened both investigations

"We've been working on these cases since 2007, so it's a relief that they were filed," Nicols said.

Gross is being held without bail and is due to be arraigned Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, according to the D.A.

It is the second cold case suspect to be arrested this year. In July, Patrick David Salmon, 53, of a 16-year-old boy on Marine Street. Authorities allege Salmon was the gunman.

Though not a cold case, the District Attorney's office is also pursuing 31 charges against a Huntington Beach-based financial advisor of Alexander Merman, whose body was found stabbed to death in his Montana Avenue apartment.

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Marie Cunningham August 16, 2012 at 09:59 PM
WHOA!!! That's a pretty gnarly case there. Great reporting!
Eddie Greenberg August 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Thank you SMPD cold case unit! This great job gives confidence and a feeling of increased safety to our residents who sometimes wonder, " just who walks among us"? After 11 painstaking years of police work we have another dangerous individual off of our streets. A profound THANK YOU!!!!
Dan Charney August 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Yes Eddie G- but just think how much easier it would be to get the mentally ill and addicted off the streets if the really dangerous people in Congress voted to have a civilized society - we have never had the problem we have now before the great Reagan made it a good thing not to care about the downtrodden
shane August 17, 2012 at 03:30 AM
@ Dan, Shut the front door!
j. shane August 17, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Dan......you're a clueless idiot. If you've ever worked with the mentally ill you would realize that most of them resist treatment, medication, and forced habitation.
Dan Charney August 17, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Shane- you need impulse control- I have worked with them and do know how tough it is- you don't know history or what has been cut causing these problems- try to learn what you the facts before you go around insulting others- this problem never existed until after RR- and it's been growing since- you are fool to talk without any knowledge
Dan Charney August 17, 2012 at 08:11 PM
and furthermore, if someone like you - who flies off the handle this way over facts being stated of which you are ignorant? then you shouldn't be anywhere near working with troubled people - ever- go to work for the GOP or WS where you belong
DDuenas August 23, 2012 at 07:35 PM
I wonder what is the purpose of stating that the woman were transient? Does this somehow lesson the severity or tragedy of these brutal murders? Are their lives worth less? It seems that the status of the victim should not be included in the reporting of the crime itself. Two woman sexually assaulted and strangled. Not two transient woman...two daughters, possibly mothers, sisters, friends... two humans murdered... Period
Dan Charney August 23, 2012 at 08:35 PM
DDuenas- While I applaud your words- saying they are transients brings more light on to the danger of life on the street- for that reason only i think it's a good thing to do - it doesn't make me think they might not have been sisters, mothers, etc- it just makes me want to see more services for the homeless and addicted- shame on us for this situation in our rich and unfair country
Terri Ovsak Sjostrom August 25, 2012 at 08:13 AM
Dan, Jackie was my sister. She was also a loving mother of three, the oldest daughter of a honored Green Beret who died for our country in Viet Nam in 1967, a very talented Architect, a talented athlete who never took a drink or a drug in her lffe, and an absolutely wonderful person. She had married a man who turned out to be a real problem, then turned to our parents and got the usual, no help, and thus ended up in Santa Monica trying to pull herself together. All she needed was a little help at a bad time, as she was unbelieveably smart and strong and would have continued to accomplish great things if he had not so violently ended her life. You are correct, we in this country should be ashamed.
Evelyna Champagne October 04, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Terri, Edric is my brother in law, and I do not believe he murdered your sister. He may have had sexual intercourse with her but what other evidence are the district attorney fabricating in this case to solve a cold case and lower thier stats. If your sister was in need of help why didn't you get her off the street. Unfortunately, for Edric his entire family is 5 states and 1897.40 miles away and didn't know where he was living. But we do know he is not a murder and they have arrested the wrong person.
Dan Charney October 04, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Terri, I am so sorry for your loss- I have seen the way the mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted and some who have merely lacked a decent divorce attorney can end up. There is little real help for them - where women are concerned, I am always appalled to see how even their old friends and family- often those who have been privileged . well off and protected their entire lives, view those is trouble as "victims" and treat them without empathy- it's a serious problem. I feel for your loss. It's often the more vulnerable and creative that fall through the cracks. The definition of 'strong' in our society has become synonymous with egotistical, selfish and uncaring. My heart is out to you.

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