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Ben Lomond restaurant owner murder solved 39 years later, suspect kills himself

BEN LOMOND, Calif. (KION-TV)- The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said using DNA evidence, they solved the murder of a woman found in the San Lorenzo River in 1983.

Joette Marie Smith, 33, of Ben Lomond, was found murdered on March 29, 1983, according to deputies. She had last been seen leaving Henflings Bar on March 27. Marie Smith was the owner of the Buffalo Galls restaurant in Ben Lomond.

According to deputies, Eric David Drummond, a suspect in the case since 1988, was never charged criminally for her murder since there was no physical evidence against him. However, there was circumstantial information tying Drummond to Marie Smith's murder.

"Drummond had an extensive history of violent crimes that included sexual assault convictions in California and Nevada," said deputies in a press release. "Detectives learned Drummond had asked Smith for a date while at her restaurant, and she declined. Drummond left California abruptly after her murder."

DNA samples from Smith's clothing were reexamined in 2022 and linked Drummond as her murder suspect. DNA was taken from the now 64-year-old in August and matched DNA found on Smith's clothing.

Before a warrant could be obtained, Smith killed himself in the hills of Sierra County, said deputies.

The Sheriff’s Office extends our condolences to the family and friends of Joette SmithWe wish to remind the community of Santa Cruz County that the Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate each of our homicides."

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office
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Ricardo Tovar

Assignment/ Web Manager for KION News Channel 5/46 and Telemundo 23

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