Orange County

Man Charged in 1989 Murder of Santa Ana Transgender Woman

Police originally interviewed suspect in 1989, but did not have enough evidence to arrest him.

A Central California man has been charged with murdering a transgender Orange County woman in her apartment a quarter-century ago after DNA evidence linked him to the scene of the crime, prosecutors said Thursday.

Carla Salazar, 35, was found stabbed to death in June 1989 inside her Santa Ana apartment.

Douglas Gregory Gutridge, now 63, was questioned at the time of the killing, but investigators did not have enough evidence to charge him in connection with the murder, according to a written statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Gutridge reached out to detectives in the days following the murder, offering his assistance. He was believed to be the last person to see Salazar alive, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said Thursday.

In 2008, cold case detectives submitted evidence found at the scene and DNA was found. Gutridge provided a sample to investigators in 2008.

Earlier this year, a new cold case task force took over the investigation and re-interviewed witnesses and re-examined the physical evidence.

Gutridge was arrested Dec. 9 at his Lodi home.

Those who knew Salazar said they are grateful an arrest has been made.

"She deserved justice. She didn't deserve to die," Christine McFadden, Salazar's sister, said after Gutridge's arres. "She was the total essence of love and compassion and friendship. She didn't have a mean bone in her body."

Salazar's ex-husband echoed her sentiments.

"She was like a mother to everyone," Robert Dougherty said.

Detectives have not commented on a possible motive for the killing.

Gutridge is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.

He scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 2.

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