WARNING: this post has crime scene and autopsy photography from both Keith Combs and Eugene Ellis.
On the morning of Sept. 25, 1993, people riding off-the-road motorcycles found the bodies of Keith Edmond Combs (Aug 20, 1970 – Sept 25, 1993) and Eugene Clifford “Cliff” Ellis (June 21, 1973 – Sept 25, 1993).
They were lying in an undeveloped area east of Palm Avenue and Interstate 805, San Diego, California. They both had been shot. Ellis’ new truck was stolen as well as the men’s wallets and IDs.
The night before, these young San Diego-stationed men serving in the Navy, had gone out with others to hang out and have a beer around a bonfire.
There are photographs of the gathering, the bonfire, and the two victims laughing with friends in the police files, see link below.
Although the detectives who first documented the murder scene recovered fingerprints and genetic evidence apparently belonging to the killer(s), the original investigation yielded no arrests.
“Navy personnel, co-workers, citizens and family members were initially interviewed extensively in an attempt to determine the motivation for the attack and to hopefully identify potential suspects.
Regardless, all leads were exhausted, and the investigation was (suspended).”
However, thanks to good thinking about future technical possibilities for biological pieces of evidence everything was preserved and indeed, forensic technology advanced.
According to the prosecution, Keith and Eugene were shot at close range.
Keith had two bullet wounds to left side of his head and one bullet in his back near the left shoulder-blade.
Eugene had a bullet wound on the left side of his torso, the left side of his head, and he had a contact bullet wound on his left temple. There was evidence he had put up a fight with their attackers.
In 2009, San Diego police laboratory staff notified the department’s cold-case investigators of a potential match between the previously unidentified biological evidence recovered from the crime scene and a profile in a national DNA database.
Upon further investigation, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office got a warrant for Leopoldo Castro Chavez’s arrest.
In 2010, Chavez’s DNA was found on the inside of Combs’ pockets, a cigarette butt, and in Ellis’ truck.
Authorities also got a DNA sample from Edward Jesus Elias. His DNA was found in Ellis’ truck, on a cigarette found near the victims’ bodies, and on a cup found in Ellis’ truck.
The trial started in March of 2012. On March 26, the jury found both defendants guilty on all charges: first-degree murder and special-circumstances including murder during a robbery.
On May 11, 2012, both defendants were sentenced to serve life without the possibility of parole. They both received consecutive life terms, one term for each victim.
As both defendants were 17 years old at the time of the crime, they were are not eligible for the death penalty.
Rest in peace, Keith Edmond Combs and Eugene Clifford “Cliff” Ellis.
10News May 2012
Note: this post summarizes several short ones I have on my blog. As I am in the process of cleaning up posts and updating the database I thought it best to summarize all information in one post that includes all the links. Note that 1oNews has taken down much of their reporting in this case from their website.