News Story


Countywide - Cold Case Murder Arrest
7/27/2012 5:00:00 PM


Nature of Incident:

Cold Case Murder Arrest

Report Number:

79 - 04263


Bakersfield, California

Date & Time:

July 26, 2012

Unit Responsible:

Sheriff's Special Services Major Crimes / Cold Case Task Force

(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (D)ecedent

City of Residence


D ' Alma Zuniga

S - John Clark Russell










Thirty three years after Alma Zuniga was found buried in a shallow grave in the unincorporated area outside Oxnard her killer was arrested by the Ventura County Cold Case Task Force and booked into the Ventura County Jail. 

On July 26, 2012, members of the Ventura County Cold Case Task Force, which consist of investigators from the Ventura County Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau and the District Attorney's Office, along with assistance from the Bakersfield Police Department, arrested John Clark Russell, age 63, of Bakersfield, California, for the 33 year old murder of Alma Zuniga.

On March 11, 1979, Alma Zuniga, a 23 year old resident of Oxnard, California, was found dead and buried in a shallow grave in the agricultural field located in the 3400 block of North Rose Avenue, El Rio.  An autopsy at that time determined that Zuniga died of gunshot and stab wounds. 

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office conducted an extensive investigation by collecting evidence and interviewing numerous subjects.  Unfortunately no suspect information was developed at that time and the case went cold.   

The Zuniga case was one of 35 Cold Cases assigned to the Cold Case Homicide Task Force which consists of Sheriff and D.A. Investigators.  The Task Force re-examined the evidence collected by the original investigators which had been stored since 1979.  The re-examination included further DNA testing of the evidence, as well as locating witnesses for more in depth interviews and Zuniga's family who had over the years relocated.      

With the advancements in DNA science a DNA match was made identifying Russell as a suspect through the Combined DNA Index System which is also referred to as CODIS.  

CODIS is the national data bank that contains the DNA profiles of arrested and convicted criminal offenders in the United States. Once an unknown offender's DNA profile is entered into CODIS, it is compared to the other profiles in the system to see if a match can be made. If there is a match between the newly entered DNA profile and a DNA profile already in the CODIS system, The Department of Justice notifies the local crime lab, who in turn, notifies the investigating law enforcement agency of the match.

Russell was arrested without incident and booked into the Ventura County Jail for 187(a) PC ' Murder.

Anyone having information about the case should call Detective Sergeant Rhods at 805-384-4724 or Ventura County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)



Deputy Preparing Media Release:

Sergeant Steve Rhods

Media Release Date:

July 26, 2012

Follow-Up Contact:

Sergeant Steve Rhods 

Approved by:

Captain Dunn