Garrido in Reno when Tahoe woman vanished in 1970
By Frank X. Mullen Jr. • email@example.com • September 1, 2009
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Del.icio.usFacebookDiggRedditNewsvineBuzz up!TwitterThe sister of a 25-year-old woman who was abducted from South Lake Tahoe in 1970 said she wonders if the suspect in the 1991 kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard is connected to the 39-year-old mystery.
"As soon as I heard about the (Dugard) case last week, I thought that this could be something related to my sister's disappearance," said Mary Pilker of Sioux Falls, S.D., the sister of Donna Ann Lass. Lass was a nurse at the Sahara Hotel-Casino who vanished Sept. 6, 1970, after leaving work at the casino and never arrived home.
Phillip Craig Garrido, 58, is charged with the kidnapping and rape of Dugard, who was then 11 years old and waiting for a school bus near her South Lake Tahoe home when she was forced into a car. Garrido allegedly imprisoned Dugard in his backyard in Antioch, Calif., for 18 years.
In 1976, Garrido kidnapped a 25-year-old woman from a South Lake Tahoe parking lot and raped her in a Reno warehouse in a space he prepared for the crime. An hour before that woman was abducted, police said Garrido attempted to kidnap another woman from a South Lake Tahoe parking lot.
Garrido's relatives, contacted Monday, said Phillip Garrido moved to Reno from California when he was about 19 years old. That places him in the area when Lass disappeared in 1970.
Lt. Les Lovell of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office said late Monday that Lass' disappearance "has haunted the Tahoe Basin" for 39 years. He said the news that the suspect in the Dugard case was reportedly in Reno in 1970 may be a good lead.
Lovell said he will discuss the matter with FBI agents assigned to the Lass case.
"There are a lot of similarities among these cases," Pilker said Monday. "I've been trying to get through to the South Lake Tahoe police to look into this."
Previous reports on the Lass case have linked her disappearance to the Zodiac killer, but no connection has ever been proven. The Zodiac was a serial killer who terrorized the Northern California in the late 1960s.
The Reno police detective who worked on the 1976 kidnapping and rape case that put Garrido in federal prison in Kansas for 11 years said he recalled Garrido's name as soon as he heard it on the news last week.
"I looked him up and there he was in my 'attaboy' file" said former Reno police Detective Dan DeMaranville, now a federal security officer. "I remember (Garrido). He was a tall, nice-looking young man, but he was one sick puppy."
Garrido, who was 25 in 1976, had prepared a space in a Reno mini warehouse with rugs, a spotlight, a movie projector, pornographic magazines and sex toys. He kidnapped a 25-year-old casino worker, brought the victim to the warehouse and raped her.
He was arrested when Reno police officer Clifford Conrad, who saw a car parked next to the warehouse and a broken door lock, entered and interrupted the crime.
"(Conrad) was on the ball," DeMaranville said. "I was proud of him. I'm still proud of him today."
He said the Garrido didn't strike him as a killer, but it was uncertain what Garrido planned to do with his 1976 victim after he raped her.
Ron Garrido, the suspect's brother, told the San Francisco Chronicle this week that the brothers grew up in Brentwood, Calif., with their parents, Manuel and Pat Garrido. Their childhood was relatively unremarkable, he said, until Phillip Garrido began acting out, using LSD and dealing drugs.
Phillip Garrido graduated from Liberty High School in 1969 and moved to Reno shortly afterward, his brother said. He fled California after learning that fellow drug dealers "had a contract out on him," Ron Garrido said.
Phillip Garrido would have been 19 years old when Lass disappeared. By 1976, he was living on Market Street in Reno, court documents said.
Authorities in California are looking at Garrido in connection with the murders of prostitutes in the 1990s and also in connection with abductions of young girls that occurred after Garrido was paroled in Nevada in 1988. He served seven months in Nevada State Prison for the sexual assault connected with the 1976 kidnapping.
He came back to Nevada to serve a 5 years to life sentence after serving 11 years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. He was eligible for parole before he arrived in the state, officials said, and was released in 1988 as a federal parolee.
"I doubt if (the 1976 kidnapping) was his first sex crime," Pilker said. "If he was in Reno in 1970, you need to see if he was connected to my sister's disappearance."