A recently retired truck driver who traveled across the country for decades has been charged in a California woman’s death, just weeks after he was arrested in Texas for another woman’s killing, prosecutors said.
Douglas Thomas, 67, was charged Friday in the death of Sherri Herrera, a 30-year-old mother of four who was found on a highway on-ramp in March 1993, the Riverside County, California, district attorney’s office said in a news release.
Herrera was last seen alive a few days before her body was found, the release said.
The office also filed a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape, according to the news release.
It is unclear if Thomas has legal representation. Throughout more than 40 years working as a truck driver, Thomas traveled extensively, the release added.
Just weeks before the district attorney’s announcement, authorities in Texas arrested Thomas on the suspicion of murder for the April 1992 killing of a woman found in Titus County.
“Thomas was connected by authorities to that murder by a DNA match to evidence from that crime scene,” the district attorney’s office said.
Thomas was taken into custody in Texas in late May under a $2 million bond on a murder warrant for the April 1992 killing, according to CNN affiliate KWTX, which cited a search warrant affidavit filed by a Texas Ranger.
The woman’s body was found near a rest area along a highway and an investigation showed she was strangled “with a device made of wire and cord,” according to the affiliate. There was also evidence of sexual assault, the affiliate reported.
Investigators from the two different states were able to make the connection with the help of forensic genealogy: An investigator with the district attorney’s office in California uploaded DNA profile from the scene of Herrera’s killing in 2002 and roughly five years later, there was a match connecting the killings in the two states, KWTX reported.
After forensic genealogy investigations from both cases, the Riverside investigator contacted the Texas Ranger on the case, informing him of several people in Texas who were “in the right genetic range for comparison,” the station said.
Authorities took a DNA sample from Thomas in late April and the results matched the suspect profile, according to KWTX.
While he was in custody in Texas, investigators from California traveled to Texas and interviewed Thomas about Herrera’s killing, the news release said.
Thomas remains in custody in Texas, where he will be prosecuted for the 1992 murder, the release said. The Riverside County district attorney’s office will then request he be extradited to California to be prosecuted for Herrera’s death.