Florida murder suspect arrested after 40 years

A Florida murder suspect who featured thrice on America’s Most Wanted was arrested after nearly four decades on the run.

Donald Santini, 65, allegedly used 13 aliases to evade arrest for the 1984 murder of a 33-year-old Florida woman, authorities said.

He was serving as the president of a local water board in California at the time of his arrest.

Santini was extradited to Florida where he faces a charge of murder.

He was wanted for the murder of Cynthia Wood, a then 33-year-old going through a divorce with her husband. He was the last person seen with her on 6 June, 1984 before detectives discovered her body, strangled and left in a canal.

“The arrest of Donald Santini brings closure to a long-standing cold case and provides justice for the victim and her family after nearly four decades of waiting,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister of Hillsborough County, Florida in a statement.

Authorities said he was identified as a suspect shortly after the murder and he fled Hillsborough County immediately.

Santini has appeared several times on the television show America’s Most Wanted – in 1990, 2005, and 2013.

Many agencies, including the FBI, worked extensively on this cold case for years. The search took investigators to Texas, California and even as far as Thailand with no luck until this year.

It was a tip from the Florida/Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force that led US Marshals to San Diego County.

Santini was arrested and charged on first degree murder in San Diego before being extradited to Hillsborough County Jail in Tampa, Florida earlier this week.

He had been living in a small suburb of San Diego called Campo under the alias, Wellman Simmonds.

He even appeared regularly at public board meetings as a president of the local water board, according to officials.

In a 16-page handwritten letter he sent to a local San Diego news station, Santini said “the reason I have been able to run so long is to live a loving respectful life”.

He said he volunteered with the Rotary Club, owned a Thai restaurant and ran an apartment block during his years on the run.

He has previously served time in prison for raping a woman while stationed in Germany.

And in 1983, he was charged with aggravated robbery in connection with a convenience store robbery in Texas, his home state.