Prosecutors announced Thursday that a tree trimmer in rural Northern California has been charged in three throat-slashing serial killings.
Ryan Scott Blinston, 37, of Oroville, was charged with murder, attempted murder, and arson on Wednesday. The charges included special sentencing allegations that Blinston used a lethal weapon, assaulted an elderly victim, and killed multiple people. He was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Thursday, and if convicted, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Blinston had been in jail since last year, when he was arrested and charged with another neck-cutting, according to authorities. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak for him.
According to prosecutors, Blinston was working for a tree-trimming service in Butte and Tehama counties, north of Sacramento, last May and June when he returned to the clients’ homes after the work was completed and slashed the throats of the residents.
Loreen Severs, 88, of Los Molinos died, and her husband, Homer Severs, 91, survived but died the following December of an unrelated illness, according to authorities. Blinston is also accused of killing Sandra George, 82, and Vicky Cline, 57, both of Oroville. He is also accused of torching Cline’s car.
“Blood and DNA evidence found on and in Blinston’s car were forensically linked to Cline. “Her body was later discovered by a fisherman in the Feather River near Belden,” said a joint statement from the district attorneys’ offices of Butte and Tehama counties, which filed the charges in Butte County Superior Court.
Blinston was apprehended before dawn on June 14 — about a week after Cline went missing — by a Butte County sheriff’s SWAT team, which had tracked him to a motorhome in heavily wooded and isolated Berry Creek, where authorities planned to arrest him on suspicion of burning Cline’s car, according to prosecutors.
“As the team approached the motorhome, they heard muffled screams from inside and loud banging on the motorhome’s exterior. The banging was caused by Blinston attempting to enter the motorhome with a hatchet, according to the district attorneys’ statement.
Blinston fled into the woods, refused to drop the hatchet, and was apprehended after a brief struggle and the use of a stun gun and pepper spray, according to authorities. Blinston met the 50-year-old owner of the motorhome earlier and stayed because he told the man he was afraid to leave after dark due to bears, according to the resident. Butte County District Attorney Michael L. Ramsey said the man was sleeping when he awoke to find Blinston attacking him with a knife.
Blinston slashed his neck, but the man claimed to have been able to kick him out of the motorhome and lock the door, according to Ramsey. The seriously injured man was treated by a medic and airlifted to a hospital. Ramsey believes the SWAT team saved the man’s life because the isolated area had no cell phone service and no one would have heard the man’s cries for help. In that case, Blinston pleaded not guilty to attempted murder last year.
There was no word on a motive right away. Blinston has a history of arrests, including one in 2013 for allegedly driving a stolen Lexus and possessing three guns stolen in burglaries. Ramsey claims that none of his previous arrests involved the level of violence seen in the attacks.