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Man arrested in San Diego for 1984 murder of Florida woman

Donald Michael Santini, 66, has been on the run for nearly 40 years.

SAN DIEGO — A man is under arrest in San Diego for the murder of a Florida woman that happened nearly 40 years ago.

Donald Michael Santini was taken into custody in Campo on June 8 by the San Diego Fugitive Task Force after receiving a tip from the Florida and Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force.

On June 9, he appeared in a downtown courtroom for an extradition hearing.

He waived extradition, meaning he'll be brought back to Florida, though he shared his concerns about being extradited, telling the judge, “I just don't feel safe because of the families,” Santini said.

Public Defender Douglas Miller explained what happens next, saying Miller is being held without bail, adding, “Florida has 30 days to get him before the 30 day review date.”

Beyond that, no specific details were shared about Santini, including whether or not he lived in Campo, had an alias, or how he was tracked down after all these years.

Santini is accused of killing 33-year-old Cynthia Wood back in 1984.

Her body was found floating in a roadside ditch outside Tampa. She had been strangled to death. Detectives combed the area for evidence.

Soon after, Santini, who was 26 years old at the time, was named a suspect. Investigators initially believed he may have fled to Texas, where he was wanted for aggravated robbery.

They identified him after speaking with Wood’s family who said she was last seen with him before she went missing.

He's eluded officials ever since.

Regarding his arrest, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Florida told CBS8:

"We are aware of this arrest and have sent detectives to interview Santini, while we await extradition. This arrest allows us to reexamine evidence collected in 1984 using the technology of today, as the case is now considered open once again."

San Diego Deputy District Attorney Michael Running Junior, who represented the county in court, says while the case will not be tried here, he hopes justice will finally be served.

“Regardless of whether the case should happen yesterday, or in this case 40 years ago, we wanna make sure justice is achieved and the victims get resolution for their loved ones,” said Running.

Coincidentally, Santini turned 65 on the day of his court appearance. It's also the anniversary of the day the victim's body was found.

WATCH RELATED: DNA match leads to identification of 1986 murder victim (May 2023).


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