• Two teens were found with multiple gunshot wounds in an execution-style killing in 1974
  • The suspect used the same .22 caliber gun to commit another murder two years later
  • 48 years later, cops reopened the cold case and matched the ballistics of the two shootings

Oregon law enforcement officers have cracked a murder case that went cold nearly 50 years ago. The incident occurred in 1974 and involved the killing of teenagers Donny Bartron and Pete Zito Jr. The police have arrested Steven Paul Criss, now 65, after the evidence in another murder case helped them track down the accused.

Bartron, 16, and Zito Jr., 18, were found dead at a rec center parking lot with gunshot wounds in an "execution-style slaying," according to the New York Post. The bodies were found by an individual delivering newspapers.

Cops determined that the boys "had been shot multiple times in the head with a .22 caliber gun," lead detective on the case, Mark Povolny said at a press conference Friday.

Criss, who was approximately 17 years old at the time, was a suspect in the twin murder investigation, but the police were unable to connect him to the case despite finding a .22 caliber gun inside his car. The weapon was returned to him and he was let go.

Meanwhile, another man identified as Joseph Amir Wilson was arrested and charged with double murder even though he desperately pleaded with the authorities that he was innocent.

Cops believed Wilson shot the boys in a case of "mistaken identity" because he assaulted another person at the rec center just a few hours before the boys were killed. However, Wilson was not convicted of the murders and was later released.

As the case went cold with no more evidence or witnesses, Criss went on to join the army. He carried the same .22 caliber handgun with him. He was sent to Fort Lewis in Washington, and nearly two years after the teens were murdered, Criss used his handgun to kill his commanding officer, according to NBC News.

A cadet at the time, Criss shot Sgt. Jacob Kim Brown five times in the head. He was given a 35-year military sentence for the killing, but was released roughly 12 years after the incident, the outlet reported. He then came back to Washington County.

How was the case solved?

Officers in the Major Crimes division took up the cold case recently and decided to review the evidence. "While reviewing the case file, we decided to take a second look at the ballistic testing, since it had been done nearly 50 years ago," Detective Mark Povolny, who works with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, told NBC News.

The ballistics of the twin murders were compared to the third murder which Criss was convicted for. It was a match. Oregon State Police concluded that the weapon used in all three murders was the same, and was owned by Criss.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the tests. "To date, this is the oldest known match nationwide that the ATF has ever confirmed for a prosecutable case," Povolny said.

Officials revealed that Criss was arrested from his Iowa home and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

"Mr. Criss was taken into custody using the same pair of handcuffs used when deputies arrested him in December 1974," Povolny added, according to the NYPost.

An arrest
Representation. A man being arrested by police. 4711018/Pixabay