DNA links another slaying to the infamous I-5 killer

DNA links another slaying to the infamous I-5 killer
- By TIM FOUGHT

PORTLAND, Ore. - Authorities say yet another murder, perhaps his first, can be blamed on Randall Woodfield, known in the early 1980s as the "I-5 Killer."

Portland police said Wednesday that DNA evidence links Woodfield to the 1980 killing of Cherie Ayers, 29, in southeast Portland. Her fiance found her beaten, stabbed and sexually assaulted, police said.

Woodfield was a suspect at the time, police said, but they couldn't pin the crime on him.

Twenty-six years later, a sample of vaginal fluid and semen that police kept frozen has allowed the Oregon State Police Forensics Laboratory in Portland to make a positive link between Woodfield and the Ayers killing.

"We're actually pretty thrilled to be able to resolve this case," said Beth Carpenter, director of the lab.

Police said they, prosecutors and the Ayers family agreed that Woodfield won't be prosecuted - unless he ever becomes eligible for parole. Corrections officials said Wednesday that won't happen.

Woodfield, now 55, is serving a life sentence in the Oregon State Penitentiary. He was convicted in 1981 of a series of attacks on women along Interstate 5 in 1980 and 1981.

Sgt. Brian Schmautz, Portland Police Bureau spokesman, said the Ayers murder differed from others that Woodfield is linked to, or has been convicted of - in all the others, the weapon was a handgun.

But the bloodiness of the Ayers crime scene suggests to investigators that Woodfield had trouble and changed his modus operandi.

In the Ayers murder, Schmautz said, Woodfield was a suspect from the beginning. He'd written to Ayers from prison while serving a term for a robbery conviction, Schmautz said, and the two had apparently bumped into each other during the planning for a 10-year high school reunion.

But, Schmautz said, the only witness evidence was that a car similar to Woodfield's was seen near the crime. And a test of the sample of vaginal fluid and semen did not link Woodfield by blood type.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Perrin Damon said Woodfield's sentences consist of a life term for murder and 165 years on seven other counts, most of them sodomy.

In 1983, Damon said, the state Parole Board decided that Woodfield would not get parole. "He doesn't get any parole hearings any more," she said.

In 2001, an examination of DNA evidence led authorities to link Woodfield to an unsolved rape and murder in Washington County, authorities said at the time.

Schmautz said Wednesday that investigators believe other cold cases are Woodfield's doing: "The exact number we'll never know for sure."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)