Oregon man charged with shooting and killing 2 teenagers in 1974 cold case

A 65-year-old Oregon man and convicted murderer have been arrested in connection with the 1974 double murder of two teenagers, a case that cooled after not being linked to any suspects at the time, officials said Friday. An army veteran, the suspect had previously served 12 years in prison for the shooting murder of his commanding officer in 1976.

Steven Paul Criss was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of shooting and killing 16-year-old Donald Bartron and 18-year-old Peter Zito Jr. at an entertainment center on October 3, 1974. parking lot in the Oak Hills community west of Portland, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office made the announcement Friday at a news conference. Chris was arrested near his Portland home on Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office said both Bartron and Zito Jr. were shot multiple times in the head with a 0.22 caliber gun while working on a 1956 Oldsmobile. The bodies of the two teenagers were found next to the vehicle, with its hood and trunk exposed.

Oregon man charged with shooting and killing 2 teenagers in 1974 cold case
Undated photos of 18-year-old Peter Zito Jr. (left) and 16-year-old Donald Bartron, who were shot and killed on October 3, 1974, in a recreation center parking lot in the Oak Hills community west of Portland, Oregon. Steven Paul Criss has been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of second-degree murder in his death. He was arrested in Portland on November 2, 2022.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office

During the investigation, a detective discovered that Bartron worked with Chris at a Black Angus restaurant, and that Chris had a reason to be upset with both victims, the sheriff’s office said.

Chris was arrested on burglary charges in December 1974, and became a preliminary suspect in the case after officers found a 0.22 caliber handgun illegally concealed in his possession, Sheriff’s Det. Mark Povolny said on Friday. The sheriff’s office said the gun had been tested by a crime lab, but did not turn out to be a match for the gun used in the killings.

However, Chris’ gun became the focus of another shooting death investigation, which occurred nearly two years later. In 1976, Chris joined the US Army and was assigned to Fort Lewis in Washington state, the sheriff’s office said. In October of 1976, his commanding officer, Sgt. Jacob “Kim” Brown was shot and killed. Investigators determined that Chris used the same gun to shoot and kill Brown, Powney said Friday.

At the time, investigators learned that Chris had borrowed Brown’s car and damaged it, Povoni explained, but instead of paying a few hundred dollars for repairs, Chris shot Brown five times in the head. Gave.

Chris pleaded guilty to murder in the shooting of Brown and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. However, after serving only 12 years, he was released in 1988, Povolny said.

Recently, Washington County detectives decided to take another look at a ballistic test conducted on the same gun 50 years earlier in the unsolved murders of Zito and Bartron. After submitting evidence to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, investigators received notices that Chris’s gun was a presumed match.

After further tests at the Oregon State Police Forensic Lab, officers determined that the gun used to kill Chris Brown was the same weapon used in the murders of Bartron and Zito Jr.

“To date, this is the oldest known match nationwide that the ATF has ever confirmed for a prosecutable case,” Powoni said Friday.

Jito Jr.’s sister Barbara was present at Friday’s press conference. Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett thanked him and the families of the victims for their patience in the pursuit of justice.

“I want to acknowledge the loss of your loved ones many years ago and what you have had to endure as you wait for today,” Garrett said.

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