The John Doe in a 24-year-old Santa Cruz murder case is no longer a John Doe, as he has been identified as Eric Cupo, though the suspects pleaded guilty back in 2000 and have been locked up since.
SFGate has the lengthy backstory of a 1998 Santa Cruz murder case, where twentysomething suspects James Erwin Dotson and Kimberly Lee Labore would eventually plead guilty to killing a young man known only as “Huck,” as he was trying to trade a .380-caliber handgun “for $25 or a packet of heroin.” He got neither, and instead was murdered by the pair, who bludgeoned him, stabbed him, and dumped his body down a ravine where it badly decomposed.
Dotson and Labore also pleaded guilty to the murder of Watsonville businessman Gaylord “Kelly” Chilcote, and they’ve been in prison since 2000, but the body of “Huck,” of "John Doe," was never identified.
“During the following 20+ years, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office has continued to follow leads regarding the [identity] of this 'John Doe' decedent,” the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post last week. “In 2021, the Santa Cruz Sheriff-Coroner’s Office, including the Sheriff’s Office Forensics Services team, began utilizing forensic genetic genealogy techniques to finally identify the decedent and make notification to next of kin.”
Pleased to share Othram assisted Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner's Office in identifying 22-year-old Eric Cupo, murdered in 1998. The murders are known, but Eric's identity remained a mystery until now. #dnasolves #runtheDNAhttps://t.co/82gs8pIux3— Othram Inc. (@OthramTech) April 12, 2023
And KPIX reports they have now identified the victim as Eric P. Cupo. According to KPIX, the discovery was made “With the partnership of the California Department of Justice Jan Bashinski DNA Lab, Othram Inc, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Latent Print Unit.”
KTVU has some details on Cupo’s life story. “Cupo was born in California and was adopted as a young child,” that station reports. “He lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and Ohio before returning to California, although it is unclear as to exactly when Cupo returned to California.”
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office adds in their statement that “Eric Cupo’s adopted family and biological relatives have been notified of his identification and are grateful to the Sheriff’s Office for their dedicated and tireless investigation to identify Eric Cupo and bring resolution as to his whereabouts. The family respectfully asks not to be contacted as they mourn their loss.”
Image: Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office via Facebook