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CBS News 8 investigates: The death of Ronald Tatro

Her murder remained a mystery for more than 30 years. But recent DNA evidence turned up two prime suspects in the Torrey Pines State Beach murder of 14-year old Claire Hough. Both men are now decea...
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- We are learning more about one of the men implicated in the murder of 14-year-old Claire Hough at Torrey Pines State Beach 30 years ago.

Last month, San Diego police officers initially reported that Ronald Tatro died in a Tennessee boating accident in 2011. But, newly obtained incident reports, autopsy records and evidence photos are leading to questions about whether Tatro may have committed suicide.

Ronald Clyde Tatro, 67, drowned in Tennessee's Holston River in 2011.

Two fishermen found his body floating face down in three feet of water. His boat was found six miles upstream, according to an incident report from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

“I know some of his personal effects were found in the boat,” said Eddie Williams, an employee with Hawkins County EMS.

Evidence photographs released to CBS News 8 by TWRA show the 12-foot boat Tatro had launched from the nearby Surgoinsville boat ramp.

On the floor of the boat officers found Tatro's hat and eyeglasses. On the fishing seat was Tatro's wallet, including his Tennessee driver's license showing what the sex offender looked like at the time of this death.

The TWRA incident report concluded Tatro's death may not have been accidental.

“It appears Mr. Tatro prepared to go into the water due to his wallet being placed in the seat on the fishing platform and the seat being folded down over the wallet. Mr. Tatro's hat and glasses were also found near the seat on the bow platform,” according to the TWRA report.

San Diego police released a mug shot of Tatro from 1984 when the ex-con was age 41. It's the same year Claire Hough was murdered on Torrey Pines State Beach.

The teenager was beaten, strangled, sexually assaulted and mutilated with a knife. Her left breast was completely amputated and never found.

It wasn't until 2012 – one year after Tatro's drowning death in Tennessee – that new DNA testing confirmed Tatro's blood was found on the teenager's torn blue jeans at Torrey Pines.

Claire Hough was found dead at Torrey Pines beach on August 24, 1984.

According to the TWRA incident report, August 24 was the same date that Ronald Tatro's boat was found abandoned and stuck in a clump of trees along the Holston River in 2011. His body was recovered the following day, but it seems clear from the reports that he actually drowned on August 24.

In addition, Tatro's autopsy report confirmed he had tried to commit suicide in the past by cutting his writs.  That suicide attempt happened in 1985 as officers were getting ready to arrest him for using a stun-gun on a 16-year-old La Mesa girl and attempting to rape her.

The autopsy also showed Tatro suffered from depression and postmortem toxicology tests revealed traces of sleeping pills in Tatro's blood at the time of his death.

Of course, at the time of the autopsy, nobody knew about Tatro's alleged involvement in Claire Hough's murder or the August 24 date connection.

In the end, the Tennessee medical examiner ruled Tatro's manner of death an accident.

DNA testing also has linked a second man to Hough's murder. Detectives say the testing in 2012 found DNA on vaginal swabs taken from Hough's body. The DNA belonged to a former employee of the San Diego Police crime lab, Kevin Brown.

As CBS News 8 first reported last month, Brown committed suicide by hanging in October as police were preparing to arrest him for Hough's murder.

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