An Army veteran who did time for killing a commanding officer has been arrested for the 1974 slaying of two teenage boys.
On Friday, officials with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced that Steven Paul Criss, 65, had been arrested after more than 48 years.
Donny Bartron, 18, and Pete Zito, 16, were shot and killed execution style outside of a Beaverton, Oregon, recreation center on October 3, 1974.
‘Both teens had been shot multiple times in the head with a .22 caliber gun,’ said detective Mark Povolny.
Steven Paul Criss, 65, has been arrested and charged in the murders of two teens in 1974
Peter Zito Jr. was allegedly shot by Criss on October 3, 1974
Donny Bartron worked with Criss at the Black Angus restaurant in Hillsboro, Oregon at the time of his murder
The Oregon law enforcement agency had shared Thursday that they would be holding the live-streamed press conference.
Officials did not share many details, other than that they would ‘provide an update’ on the case.
At the time of the shooting, Bartron worked with Criss at the Black Angus in Hillsboro, Oregon.
It was known that the two did not get along and even that Criss ‘had reason to be upset with Donny’ before the teenager was shot and killed.
The bodies of Bartron and Zito were discovered on October 4, 1974 by a newspaper delivery driver.
Bartron was working on a 1956 Oldsmobile when he was shot and killed.
His body was found over the hood and Zito was found on the ground next to the driver-side.
This was the car that Bartron and Zito were working on when they were shot and killed by Criss
According to Povolny, it was known that Criss and Bartron did not get along.
Two months after the men were killed, Criss was arrested for theft. While being arrested, officers located a .22 caliber handgun belonging to the man.
Tests were run on the ‘illegally concealed’ weapon and later revealed that it did not match the gun used in the murder of the teenagers.
Criss’ weapon was returned to him once the testing was complete.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Friday to announce the arrest of Criss in connection to the case from 1974
Law enforcement instead arrested Joseph Amir Wilson. The man, who repeatedly denied he was involved in the shootings, had allegedly assaulted another individual at the rec center just hours before Bartron and Zito were shot.
Officers believed he may have killed the teens in a case of ‘mistaken identity.’
The charges were later dropped.
‘Detective Welch never believed Joe Wilson was the killer and he correctly identified Steve Criss as a suspect within weeks of the murders,’ a sheriff’s office spokesperson said Friday.
‘His investigation in 1974 documented and preserved vital evidence,’ the official said.
After being cleared, then 17-year-old Criss went on to join the United States Army and brought his .22 caliber handgun with him.
While serving at the Fort Lewis Army base, he shot and killed his commanding officer, Sgt. Jacob Brown, five times in the head.
Criss shot Brown after damaging the sergeant’s car and refusing to pay for the damages.
The shooting took place almost two years to the date that Bartron and Zito were killed.
Criss was originally sentenced to 35 years for Criss’ murder, but only served 12.
Ballistics were re-run on the weapon Criss used in the 1976 murder of Sgt. Brown and it yielded a positive match with the gun used in Bartron and Ziti’s deaths
Ballistics were re-run on the gun Criss had used in 1976 to kill Sgt. Brown and it later yielded a positive match.
At that point, Criss was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
‘Mr. Criss was taken into custody using the same pair of handcuffs used when deputies arrested him in December 1974,’ Povolny said Friday.
The Washington County law enforcement officials said they believe this is the ‘oldest known match’ that the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has ever confirmed.