A Northern California tree trimmer was charged with slashing the throat of three people in a series of serial killings that resulted in the deaths of the victims, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Authorities charged the suspect, 37-year-old Ryan Scott Blinston from Oroville, with murder, attempted murder, and arson, on Wednesday. The charges against the suspect include special sentencing allegations that he used a deadly weapon, attacked an elderly victim, and murdered several people.
Officials scheduled Blinston for an arraignment on Thursday and could face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole if found convicted of the crimes. Since he was arrested last year and charged with another neck-cutting incident, the suspect has been kept in jail.
Authorities said the suspect used to work for a tree-trimming service in Butte and Tehama counties north of Sacramento. Last May and June, he went back to the homes of his clients after finishing his work and slashed their throats, prosecutors said.
Officials said the victims included 88-year-old Loreen Severs of Los Molinos, who died, and her husband, 91-year-old Homer Severs, who survived but later died of an unrelated illness. Authorities also accused Blinston of killing 82-year-old Sandra George and 57-year-old Vicky Cline.
“Blood and DNA evidence on and in Blinston’s car was forensically matched back to Cline. Her body was later discovered by a fisherman in the Feather River near Belden,” the Butte County and Tehama County district attorney’s offices said in a joint statement.
Police arrested Blinston on June 14, a week after the disappearance of Cline, by a Butte County sheriff’s SWAT team. Officials tracked the suspect to a motorhome in Berry Creek where police arrested him.
“As the team approached the motorhome, they heard the muffled screams of a man inside and loud banging on the outside of the motorhome. The banging turned out to be Blinston attempting to get into the motorhome with a hatchet,” the district attorney’s office said.
When Blinston saw the police, he quickly ran into the woods, the hatchet still in his hand, but was later captured when one officer used a stun gun and pepper spray. Authorities said the suspect met the owner of the motorhome, a 50-year-old man, shortly before.
The victim said he was sleeping in his motorhome when Blinston started going at him with a knife in his hand. The suspect was able to slash the victim’s neck but was forced out of the motorhome, NBC News reported.
Ramsey said the SWAT team saved the victim’s life because they were in an isolated area with no cellphone signal. It would have been unlikely for anyone to hear his scream if Blinston continued his attack.