Ventura County – In a case that might have come right off the pages of a “Forensic Files” television series script, the September 30th arrest of Wilson Chouest, a 63-year-old with a frightening history of violent crime convictions, was announced the same day by Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean.
It all began on July 18, 1980, when the body of a pregnant woman who had, according to VCSD spokesperson Sgt. Denise Sliva, been “sexually assaulted, stabbed, and strangled to death” was found dumped in the parking lot of Westlake High School. The woman, who was found to have been pregnant at the time of her murder, was never identified; nor was her killer.
Since 1980, however, advances in forensic DNA science have become working tools of law enforcement, and samples taken from the female victim were preserved and ultimately submitted to analysis through the Combined DNA Index System which searches for matches to possible suspects. When, in 2012, the victim’s DNA was matched with that of Chouest—who was at the time serving “a life sentence in state prison for the kidnap, robbery, and rape” of another victim as well as for the kidnap and robbery of a third victim—he became a prime suspect in the July 18th 1980 murder.
Pursuant to accelerated interest in Chouest, further DNA links to other victims were researched, and he was soon connected to another 1980 murder of a woman—also unidentified all these years—whose body was found in an almond orchard in Kern County. Given those findings, detectives from the Ventura County Cold Case Unit obtained an arrest warrant for Chouest, and he was remanded back to Ventura County where he was arrested on a charge of murder.
Because Chouest is known to have traveled throughout a number of California counties in 1980, VCSD detectives continue to seek any information about the identity of the murder victims and about Chouest’s activities between June and September 1980. Anyone having such information is urged to contact authorities via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Courtesy Ventura County Jail Booking