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1983 Santa Cruz murder solved thanks to new DNA technology

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On March 29, 1983, the body of 33-year-old chef and restaurant owner Jotte Marie Smith was found floating in the San Lorenzo River in Ben Lomond, Santa Cruz County.

Smith, the owner of Buffalo Gulls, a small restaurant in Ben Lomond, says his sister was ahead of the curve by providing organic food to locals. She was last seen alive leaving a local bar, Henfling’s Tavern, on March 27 at 11:50 pm. Her clothes were found about 400 meters upstream on the riverbank.

One of the strangest things about Smith was that he had a hunch that his life was going to be cut short, and he told his friends about it a few weeks before he died. She would hand out her mementos or randomly call friends of hers whom she hadn’t spoken to in years, saying “hi” and telling them that she cares.

No one has ever been arrested in Smith’s murder, although investigators at one point identified a suspect. After the case was reopened 39 years later and DNA on Smith’s clothing matched the very suspect, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office says the case was closed.

Smith’s killer was Eric David Drummond, as the Sheriff’s Office states on Facebook.

“Drummond had an extensive history of violent crime, including sexual assault convictions in California and Nevada,” the sheriff’s office wrote. [that] Drummond asked Smith out on a date at a restaurant, but she declined.”

Smith’s family had never heard of the turned down date or this man. All I knew was that I was well loved.

After reopening the case and utilizing new techniques to establish a suspicious DNA profile, investigators finally realized they had a chance at prosecuting Drummond. It wasn’t until late August 2022 that sheriff’s agents went looking for Drummond at his residence in Sierra County to obtain his DNA sample. The fact that they did it apparently let the 64-year-old Drummond know that his days of freedom were probably numbered.

“Unfortunately, while final investigative steps were taken to obtain an arrest warrant, Drummond chose to take his own life in the Sierra County hills,” the sheriff’s office said. say.

Drummond served some time in prison in his life: 16 months for attempted murder and assault in Reading in late 1983, and four years in 1988 for assaulting family and stealing a car in Nevada. However, he never faced a jury or jail time in the 1983 Smith murder case.

“[Drummond’s death] A little disappointed, but I don’t think justice was not done. The DNA matches and that’s it,” Smith’s sister, Evette Smith-Nickcich, told Chronicle by phone.

Smith’s other sister, Annette Anderson, told The Chronicle that she only wishes she lived long enough to join the Food Network, or just wish more people knew about her. “Joette was fun,” says Anderson.