Fugitive Suspected Of Killing Florida Woman In 1984 Used 13 Aliases While On Run, Police Say

Donald Santini was captured in California and arrested in connection with the strangulation death of Cynthia Ruth Wood.

Cynthia Ruth Wood, pictured here, was found murdered and dumped in a drainage ditch in Florida in June 1984. 39 years later, an arrest was made.

Donald Santini was captured in California and arrested in connection with the strangulation death of Cynthia Ruth Wood.

Photo by: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

By: Aaron Rasmussen

In June 1984, the body of Cynthia Ruth Wood was found dumped in a drainage ditch in Florida. She had been strangled to death.

Almost 40 years later, on June 7, 2023, authorities in San Diego County, California, arrested fugitive Donald Michael Santini, 65, on a warrant that’s been outstanding since the 33-year-old victim’s murder.

Santini was extradited to Florida to face first-degree murder charges in the cold case.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Wood was spotted with Santini leaving on a date from her home in Bradenton, a town south of Tampa, around five days before her remains were found in the water-filled ditch in nearby Riverview.

An arrest warrant alleges Santini told multiple people that he committed the murder, WFLA reported.

“He pointed out where he had done it, exactly how he had done it,” Santini's landlord in 1984, Heide Pareigis, told the station. She added: “He was just glowing about it.”

Detectives were unable to locate Santini at the time, but they suspected he possibly had gone to Texas and was living under an assumed name.

WFTS-TV reported that according to the warrant, Santini most recently had been living in California and using over a dozen aliases, including Charles Michael Stevens, Donald Chapman, and John Trimble.

“This arrest allows us to reexamine evidence collected in 1984 using the technology of today, as the case is now considered open once again,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office officials said after Santini’s arrest. “While that process is underway, we want to protect the integrity of the investigation and cannot release any further details.”

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