Santa Cruz homicide victim identified after 25 years

2 mins read

A homicide victim was found in the mountains of Santa Cruz along Bear Creek Road on December 27, 1998. The body was wrapped in a tarp and dumped at the bottom of a hill. 

A coroner’s autopsy reveals that the victim died from blunt force trauma. An investigation by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office resulted in the arrest and conviction of three people. 

However, the victim’s identity still remained unknown until this week. 

Due to the advances in genealogy technology, the victim from more than two decades ago has finally been identified. 

The Sheriff’s Office Forensics Services team utilized forensic genetic genealogy in partnership with the California Department of Justice Jan Bashinski DNA Lab, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, and the FBI’s Latent Print Unit.

And on Wednesday, investigators learned that the victim was 22-year-old Eric P. Cupo. 

“Eric Cupo’s adopted family and biological relatives have been notified of his identification and are grateful to the Sheriff’s Office for their dedicated and tireless investigation to identify Eric Cupo and bring resolution as to his whereabouts,” deputies wrote.

Cupo was born in California and was adopted by a family in Philadelphia before he moved to Florida to live with his adopted father. 

Cupo briefly retired to Philadelphia at the age of 18 to live with his adopted mother. From there, he moved around the country and his family lost regular contact with him. 

The Sheriff’s Office wrote, “We are happy that science has allowed us to give the family closure.”


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.