The suspect who had avoided arrest for a grisly 1995 murder of a woman in Santa Cruz County was tracked down and apprehended Thursday in Turlock.
The suspect was identified as John Laroche, 63, of Turlock. Laroche was arrested near his home in the 1400 block of N. Tully Road Thursday morning.
Laroche has been identified as the suspect in the 1995 murder of 41-year-old Gloria Hassemer in Watsonville.
The Santa Cruz Sheriff's Department had been investigating Hassemer's death and said Laroche was linked to her murder through forensic evidence. The arrest comes just weeks after the sheriff’s department made a public plea for information on the murder in The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville.
On June 10, 1995 Hassemer’s body was found along the Pajaro River levee near the Highway 1 overpass. The night prior to her murder, Hassemer had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and had her vehicle impounded, according to the story in The Pajaronian newspaper.
The sheriff's department said Hassemer may have hitchhiked from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. She was last seen wearing a denim jacket, a blue and black shirt, jeans and white tennis shoes.
The petite woman was found bludgeoned to death. She was a widow and a mother of two teenage children, according to The Pajaronian.
“This murder shook our community back in 1995, and our detectives have been committed to making an arrest since. We’ve seen the heartbreak it’s brought to Gloria’s loved ones and we are proud to be taking this step towards justice,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart.
"On behalf of the family, we are incredibly thankful for the Santa Cruz Co. Sheriff’s Department," Hassermer's family said in a statement released by the sheriff's department. "We greatly appreciate their hard work, dedication, and compassion they've shown to our family over the years. There have been many detectives and others who've worked tirelessly and fought hard to help our family receive justice. Over the past 25 years they've never given up; some have even volunteered their time. We are thankful for their commitment to see that our mother's case was reopened and able to bring us closer to justice after the arrest made yesterday. We hope this horrible person will spend the rest of his life in prison so that he will never be able to hurt another beautiful soul. Our family has never given up hope for justice. We've allowed our faith to be stronger than our pain. We thank God that this arrest was made and for all the officers involved yesterday. Again, we thank the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and everyone who played a part in this investigation."
In announcing the arrest, the sheriff's department said given Laroche's previous criminal history and connections to the Central Valley and Santa Clara County, it is possible there are additional victims.
Laroche does have previous convictions for sex offenses. He was convicted for lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age by force or fear and oral copulation with a minor under 14 years of age by force or fear. A search of Stanislaus County Superior Court online cases did not return any results for Laroche.
The Turlock Police Department has one contact with Laroche on record and that was for sex offender registration.
The sheriff's department thanked the Turlock Police Department for the department's assistance in the arrest.
If anyone has information about this case or Laroche, the sheriff's department asked them to contact detectives at 831-454-7635.