One of America's 'Most Wanted Men' arrested in murder case after 40 years on the run
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Featured Image Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
One of America’s ‘most wanted men’ has been arrested after nearly 40 years on the run on a murder charge.
Donald Santini was arrested in California on 7 June and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing of 33-year-old Cynthia Wood in the 1980s.
Authorities said when he was arrested, he was living under the assumed name of Wellman Simmons, with online records seen by Law & Crime showing he is now held without bond at the Falkenburg Road Jail for a single count of murder in the first degree.
The outlet said Santini had initially been wanted in Galveston County, Texas, for robbing a convenience store clerk at knifepoint of $270 in May 1983, having been known by authorities after the victim managed to get his license plate number.
While he gave officials the knife, handed back some of the cash and showed them the getaway vehicle, Santini ended up fleeing the state while out on bond.
Cynthia Wood was found dead in a water-filled drainage ditch on 9 June 1984 in Florida’s Hillsborough County.
It is believed her body was dragged to the ditch after she was strangled.
A motion for Santini’s pretrial detention said: “The defendant has previously violated conditions of release and no further conditions of release are reasonably likely to assure the defendant’s appearance at subsequent proceedings.”
“The defendant has committed two violent dangerous crimes, and has demonstrated the skill and wherewithal to deviously and adeptly evade justice by hiding his true identity and living under multiple fake names and identities for over 39 years.
“There are no further conditions of release reasonably likely to assure the defendant’s appearance at subsequent proceedings. In addition, the defendant also meets the criteria for pretrial detention because he was on pretrial release for a dangerous crime when he committed this current offense. Pursuant to either subsection of the pretrial detention statute, the defendant should be denied bond and detained for the duration of the proceedings.”
In an email to the Tampa Bay Times last month, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said it had sent detectives to California to interview Santini while he is awaiting extradition.
Amanda Granit, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office, said: “This arrest allows us to re-examine evidence collected in 1984 using the technology of today, as the case is now considered open once again."