SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two men charged with murder in the 1973 shotgun slayings of two young girls entered pleas to murder charges in Yuba County court on Tuesday, Deputy Yuba County District Attorney John Vacek said.
Larry Don Patterson pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder Tuesday, and his cousin, William Lloyd Harbour, pleaded no contest to the same charges.
The two were charged in September with six counts each in the killings of 12-year-old Valerie Janice Lane and 13-year-old Doris Karen Derryberry in a long-stalled cold case.
The girls' mothers first reported them missing on Nov. 12, 1973, after they failed to return home overnight from a shopping trip to the mall. The Yuba County Sheriff's Department was notified a few hours later that their bodies had been found along a dirt road in a wooded area near Marysville, north of Sacramento, where they had been shot at close range.
The case went cold decades ago, Yuba County authorities said, until a state forensics lab matched DNA from the two suspects to semen found on Derryberry.
The two men are 65-year-old cousins who both lived near the victims in Olivehurst when they were killed nearly 43 years ago.
Yuba County public defender Brian Davis, who represented Harbour, said his client was relieved to have the case end.
"It is a weight off his shoulders, and he is happy to have a resolution," Davis said. "He has been living with this for the last 43 years."
Michael Sullinger, an attorney representing Patterson, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday.
Both men previously pleaded not guilty. They did not face the death penalty because it wasn't an option when the girls were sexually assaulted and killed. Harbour had been living in Oklahoma and was extradited to face the charges in California.
Investigators in the 1970s carefully noted each of the more than 60 people they interviewed, but the suspects' names never came up.
They later considered Patterson after he was charged in 1976 with raping two women in nearby Chico, Vacek said, but they found no link to the killing of the two girls until the DNA match decades later.
Both men now face five years to life in prison, under sentencing laws at the time of the crime.