OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A tree trimmer in rural Northern California has been charged in throat-slashing serial killings that left three people dead, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Ryan Scott Blinston, 37, of the small city of Oroville, was charged on Wednesday with murder, attempted murder and arson. The charges included special sentencing allegations that Blinston used a deadly weapon, attacked an elderly victim and committed multiple killings.
He was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Thursday and could face life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted.
Blinston had been in jail since he was arrested last year and charged in another neck-cutting, authorities said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Blinston was working for a tree-trimming service in Butte and Tehama counties, north of Sacramento, last May and June when he returned to the clients’ homes after the work was completed and slashed the throats of the residents, according to prosecutors.
Loreen Severs, 88, of Los Molinos died and her husband, Homer Severs, 91, survived but died that December of an unrelated illness, authorities said.
Blinston also is accused of killing Sandra George, 82, and an acquaintance, Vicky Cline, 57, both of Oroville. He also is charged with torching Cline’s car.
“Blood and DNA evidence on and in Blinston’s car was forensically matched back to Cline. Her body was later discovered by a fisherman in the Feather River near Belden,” said a joint statement from the Butte County and Tehama County district attorney’s offices, which filed the charges in Butte County Superior Court.
Blinston was arrested before dawn on June 14 — about a week after Cline vanished — by a Butte County sheriff’s SWAT team that had tracked him to a motorhome in heavily wooded and isolated Berry Creek, where authorities planned to arrest him on suspicion of burning Cline’s car, prosecutors said.
“As the team approached the motorhome, they heard the muffled screams of a man inside and loud banging on the outside of the motorhome. The banging turned out to be Blinston attempting to get into the motorhome with a hatchet,” the district attorneys’ statement said.
Blinston ran into the woods, refused to drop the hatchet and was captured after a short struggle and the use of a stun gun and pepper spray, authorities said.