A 47-year-old transient living in downtown Los Angeles has been charged in connection with the murders of two women in Santa Monica in the early part of this century.

Edric Dashell Gross was charged by the county District Attorney’s Office Aug. 16 with two counts of murder in the rape and strangulation of Jacqueline Lee Ovsak, 42, in 2001 and Dana Caper, 41, in 2002, district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said. The District Attorney’s Office will not decide whether to seek the death penalty until the case moves closer to trial, Gibbons said. The arraignment hearing for Gross has been postponed.

Gross was arrested by Santa Monica police at Pan Pacific Park in downtown Los Angeles Aug. 15 after the police department’s Cold Case Homicide Unit allegedly linked him to the murders through DNA evidence, said Det. Larry Nicols of the cold case unit.

The body of Ovsak, a transient, was discovered in an abandoned building in the 1500 block of Seventh Street on April 5, 2001. Caper, also a transient, was found dead on the side of the bluffs in Palisades Park on Oct. 29, 2002. Investigations of the killings were conducted but after leads ran out the cases went cold, Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis said.

Nicols noted that the cases were reopened beginning in September 2007 after DNA evidence from one of the incidents stored in a sex kit was allegedly matched with the suspect. The evidence was sent to a lab and a hit came back that led to a match with DNA evidence from a sex kit in the second case, Nicols said.

The apprehension of Gross marked the second arrest by the cold case unit this year. In May, detectives arrested Patrick David Salmon, 53, in a Pittsburgh suburb in connection with the 1980 fatal shooting of 16-year-old Joaquin Mansion. But Nicols explained that the Salmon arrest was made without the use of DNA evidence but rather through improved technology, pursuing leads in other states and reinterviewing witnesses.

“It’s really good news and a long-time coming,” Nicols said of the Gross arrest. “I’ve been working on these two cases for about 5 years now and there was a lot more extensive work on evidence and DNA.”

At the time the two crimes occurred Gross was a transient living in Santa Monica but he was not on the radar of law enforcement, Nicols said. It appears Gross may have known Ovsak but the potential motives for the attacks remains unclear, the detective said.

Gross has prior arrests related to narcotics and minor assault, Nicols said. Detectives arrested the suspect at Pan Pacific Park days after he received a ticket for a municipal code violation from the Los Angeles Police Department, Nicols said.

Nicols, who has been in contact with the families of the two female victims, said they both expressed relief and were very thankful that police have made an arrest a decade after the death of their loved ones.

Nicols also expressed relief, saying that he is the only cold case detective who has been dedicated to solving the two crimes over the past five years.

“This particular case is really special to me because for five years I’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping these cases and so it’s quite a relief to have them filed,” he said.

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