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Santa Barbara sheriff’s office reopening 45-year-old homicide case


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says it is reopening a 45-year-old homicide cold case.

On Tuesday the sheriff's office announced detectives were investigating the death of 16-year-old Paul Ornelas who was found dead in the Goleta area nearly 45 years ago.

Ornelas' body was found near the railroad track at the Turnpike Road overpass on June 21, 1975. His death was quickly ruled a homicide, but after several years of investigation, the case went cold with no suspects ever being brought into custody.

The sheriff's office said Ornelas was a Santa Barbara resident with a "loving family and deep local ties." His death left his family with lingering grief, the sheriff's office said.

Detectives are now hoping that the advancement in DNA technology and forensic processing methods could bring in new leads and shed light on what happened to Paul Ornelas decades ago.

The sheriff's office said it will use the ANDE Rapid DNA instrument as part of the investigation. The investigative tool has been used effectively in recent years after being deployed to identify all 34 victims of the Conception dive boat fire.

The technology can be used to process "minute levels of biological evidence left behind by suspects at crime scenes," the sheriff's office said. The International Symposium on Human Identification recently profiled the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and its success with using the groundbreaking technology.

Thanks to well-kept and preserved evidence, investigators will have a new tool when they revisit the case.

The death of Paul Ornelas is being investigated by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit within the Criminal Investigations Bureau.

"This highly trained and specialized unit is responsible for conducting complex and often lengthy investigations into unsolved homicides similar to the Ornelas case," the sheriff's office said in a news release.

Investigators hope that the continued advancement in DNA technology will lead to a resolution of this case and "bring closure to the families affected by these tragic and senseless crimes."

Santa Barbara - South County
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Travis Schlepp

Travis Schlepp is the Digital Content Director for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Travis, click here.


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