First Degree Murder Charges Filed In 1981 Deaths Of Two Ventura County Women

Thursday February 09, 2023

Zendejas Rachel4Gondek Lisa S

   (Rachel Zendejas)               (Lisa Gondek)      

     Updated--Ventura County prosecutors have filed First Degree Murder charges against the man accused of killing two women in 1981.

Garcia Tony oldGarcia Tony Young

(Tony Garcia now................and then)

     In addition to the two counts of murder, 68-year-old Tony Garcia of Oxnard is also facing several special allegations including multiple murders, and in the case of one of the victims, murder while engaged in rape and kidnapping.

     Those special allegations could mean a death sentence if Garcia is convicted and if the DA decides to pursue the death penalty instead of life without the possibility of parole, a decision that prosecutors will make at a later date.

     In the early morning hours of January 18, 1981, the body of 20-year-old Rachel Zendejas of Camarillo was found in the carport area of an apartment complex in the 700 block of Mobil Avenue in Camarillo, across the street from her apartment.

     She had been strangled.

     Prosecutors also allege she had been sexually assaulted and kidnapped.

     In early morning hours of December 12, 1981, the body of 21-year-old Lisa Gondek of Oxnard was found in her apartment in the 1200 block of West Gonzales Road by firefighters who responded to a fire.

     She was also strangled.

     During the past 41 years detectives from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and Oxnard Police Department have been working to solve those homicides.

     Like many successful "cold case" investigations, it took advances in science and technology over decades to find the answer to the question, "who did it."

     In this case, it wasn't until 2004 that DNA and other evidence determined the women were killed by the same person.

     However, they did not get a direct match to anyone in the DNA database known as CODIS.

     Investigators then used what's called "Genetic Genealogy" to provide investigators with leads to people who might be related to the killer and from there a path to the killer.

     All these advances in DNA technology and forensic techniques developed slowly over the 41 years since the killings.

     It wasn't until the end of 2019 that it all came together to led them to Garcia as a suspect

      It took until this past Tuesday that they had developed a case that was solid enough to make an arrest.

     Garcia's arraignment was continued until February 23rd and at the prosecutor's request Garcia was ordered held in the Ventura County Jail with no chance of bail.

     The authorities say Garcia served in the Navy and was stationed at Point Mugu until his discharge.

     He then decided to make Ventura County his home and for many years he was a marshal arts instructor.

      The authorities are now wondering, are there other victims?

       They are asking anyone who might be able to help with that to either call the Ventura County Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau at (805) 383-8704 or email coldcase@ventura.org