An Arizona man linked to the murders of at least three young women in Nevada more than 40 years ago who were found gagged, bound, and blindfolded was found to have pornographic material showing victims assaulted in a similar manner, according to investigators.
Charles Gary Sullivan, a 73-year-old retired plumber and locksmith, pleaded not guilty in a Reno, Nevada, courtroom to the 1979 murder of 21-year-old Julia Woodward. The trial is scheduled for January.
Sullivan, who was convicted in 2008 of false imprisonment in an unrelated case, was extradited last year to Nevada after investigators cited DNA evidence allegedly linking him to the killing of Woodward, who was last seen in San Carlos, California, on February 1, 1979.
Woodward boarded a plane at San Francisco Airport that day to fly to South Lake Tahoe to start a new life.
Her decomposed body was found in a remote area about 15 miles north of Reno on March 25, 1979.
Charles Gary Sullivan, 73, (left) pleaded not guilty to the 1979 murder of 21-year-old Julia Woodward (right)
Detectives said her legs were bound with plastic zip ties and that she was bludgeoned to death with a rock.
Woodward’s eyes had also been sealed shut with Band-Aids and a cloth had been used to gag her, according to KNXV-TV.
Investigators said they also noticed that Woodward’s underwear was missing and semen was detected on her pants.
Authorities said DNA evidence linking Sullivan to Woodward confirms his guilt.
Investigators revealed that images seized from Sullivan’s computer show pornographic material in which women are sexually assaulted while being bound, gagged, and tied up.
Authorities claim this proves Sullivan’s guilt as it points to intent and motive.
‘Numerous searches for, and images of, pornographic bondage images, in which women are bound, gagged, and or blindfolded while engaged in sexual activity,’ according to prosecutors.
‘In other words, the evidence relating to Defendant’s computer usage is exactly the type of evidence one would expect to find on the computer of a man who abducts, binds, blindfolds, gags, rapes, and kills women.’
Julia (above) disappeared soon after moving to Reno in February 1979, and a month later her body was found in a shallow grave in the desert near Lemmon Valley
Sullivan’s DNA was obtained after he was arrested in Nevada County in 2007 for kidnapping a 25-year-old Eureka, California, woman and holding her at gunpoint.
According to the victim, she met Sullivan after he picked her up as she was hitchhiking on Highway 20 in Nevada County, California.
Sullivan offered to drive her all the way to Nevada City, according to The Union.
She testified that she agreed to go with Sullivan to see a turquoise mine near Bowman Lake.
As they were walking down a path, she stopped to tie her shoe. She testified that Sullivan then came up from behind, grabbed her shoulder, and pointed a handgun at her head.
Sullivan then forced her to lie down on the ground and handcuffed her using zip ties to bound her wrists and ankles.
She testified that Sullivan told her not to look at him and that ‘the only thing that’s going to be involved is sex.’
‘We’re just going to be out here for a few days having fun,’ Sullivan told the victim.
He then went to his van to retrieve a blanket. The woman then managed to cut through the zip ties on her ankles and fled.
She hailed a ride with two men who were driving by on an all-terrain vehicle.
The two men testified that the victim appeared ‘very frantic, very scared’ and that she had zip ties and handcuffs on her wrists. She was also without any shoes.
The victim told the two men that a man with a gun was trying to kill her.
Sullivan claimed at trial that the handcuffs belonged to the woman and that she initiated the encounter.
Sullivan was acquitted of kidnapping but convicted of false imprisonment and making criminal threats.
He was sentenced to three years and eight months in state prison.
The victim’s description of Sullivan’s efforts to tie her up and the manner in which Woodward’s body was found have led investigators to believe that he may be behind other murders in which women were similarly tied up and gagged.
Investigators believe Sullivan may also be responsible for the killing of two other young women in the Reno-Tahoe area in the late 1970s – 17-year-old Jeannie Smith and 23-year-old Linda Taylor.
Investigators are searching for any connection to the murder of 17-year-old Jeannie Smith, whose skeletal remains were found in November 1979 near where Julia was buried
Public records show that Sullivan operated plumbing and locksmith businesses in the 1990s, but they appear to be defunct and he lived in a remote Arizona cabin with his wife
The body of Smith, who was last seen on October 27, 1978, in Reno, was found less than a mile away in the same remote part of northern Nevada.
Smith was found face down with elastic bandages over her eyes, tape on her legs, and a scar around her neck that was used to gag her, according to Reno Gazette- Journal.
Medical examiners said there were indications that Smith, a waitress at a Reno casino, had been sexually assaulted. It is believed she was dead a week before her body was found.
‘The zipper to her jeans had been forcibly opened,’ investigators said of Smith.
‘Jeannie’s clothes – as well as other cloth, tape and rope – were discovered within 30 feet of her skeletal remains…As was the case with Julie, Jeannie was missing her underwear and ID.’
Investigators also believe Sullivan may have played a role in the March 1979 disappearance of Linda Taylor, a 23-year-old bartender at a Reno casino. Her body has never been found.