Phillip Garrido, the convicted sex offender accused of kidnapping a schoolgirl and holding her in his backyard for 18 years, has been named a "person of interest" by police investigating the murders of local prostitutes in the 1990s.
Detectives searching the bungalow in Antioch, California, from which Jaycee Lee Dugard was freed last week, were yesterday searching it for evidence linking him to a series of unsolved killings that took place while he was at large in the area. They say at least 10 sex workers were strangled, stabbed and dumped in ditches in industrial parks in 1998 and 1999. Police say Garrido "had access" to the areas where the bodies were found.
Victims identified by local newspapers include Valerie Schultz, 27, Rachael Cruise, 32, and Jessica Frederick, 24. Lisa Norrell, 15 – not a prostitute – was killed in similar circumstances.
"For whatever reason, they decided he was a person of interest," said a police spokesman. A team of sniffer dogs trained to detect corpses has been sent to the property at 1554 Walnut Avenue, where detectives were slowly combing through the array of tents, sheds and lean-tos where Ms Dugard was imprisoned.
Aged 11 when she was snatched from a bus-stop in South Lake Tahoe, Ms Dugard was meanwhile with her mother, sister and her two daughters, both fathered by Garrido, at a motel in the San Francisco Bay area. On Friday, Garrido and his wife Nancy pleaded not guilty to 29 charges relating to the kidnap, rape and serial abuse of the girls, and remain in police custody.