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Cold Case: Was Prunedale diner owner George “Smitty” killed over buried treasure?

PRUNEDALE, Calif. (KION)-- Back in 1991 the Smith Restaurant was a family diner in Prunedale where you needed to have a reservation to sit down and eat.

People who remember eating at the establishment, located right off the highway, say it was a "wonderful" family business.

"I remember this restaurant because of the family that owned it. There would be steak and lobster dinners. If you made a reservation for that evening the table was yours all night," said Kathy Forgnone.

Owner George Smith and his mother-in-law were brutally murdered on Veteran's Day of 1991. That November day someone cut the screen of their home/restaurant door, according to George Smith's step-daughter JoAnn Holland.

"Smitty was sitting at his desk, the murderer approached him from behind and slashed his throat. My stepfather never had a chance to react. He was slain like an animal going to slaughter. He was 67-years-old, said Holland in a written testimony with Citizens Against Homicide.

In that same testimony published in June of 2020 Holland said she and her family wanted daily updates and news that justice would be served.

"We pray that the sheriff will once again submit evidence for DNA testing and use whatever resources it will take to solve this crime," pleaded Holland.

The Monterey County Sheriff's Office said no arrest were ever made and they are looking for leads.

The family believes that the killer knew the layout of the house.

For years, neighbors rumored that the killer was looking for gold coins and two-dollar bills.

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Veronica Macias

Veronica Macias is an evening anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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