DNA evidence and tips from two informants finally provided enough evidence for authorities to arrest and charge two suspects for the murder of 43-year-old Stephen Rudiger in Castro Valley 23 years ago, investigators said today. “Sometimes time works against us but this time it worked for us,” Alameda County sheriff’s Detective Greg Landeros said today in announcing the arrest of Cheryl Ann Drace, 58, Rudiger’s former wife, and career criminal William DeVincenzi, 50, whom she married shortly after Rudiger was stabbed to death on Dec. 27, 1990. Landeros said Rudiger, who was a foreman at an auto body shop in Oakland, and Drace, also known as Cheryl Ann Ervin, had a “tumultuous relationship” and had gotten divorced after five years of marriage several months before Rudiger was killed.
However, Rudiger and Drace still lived together while they were in the process of selling their house and there was litigation over the sale, Landeros said at a news conference in Dublin. To complicate matters further, DeVincenzi moved into the house shortly before Rudiger was killed, he said. Landeros said that in addition to murder, Drace and DeVincenzi are charged with the special circumstance of murder for financial gain because they believe Rudiger was killed for financial reasons, although he didn’t elaborate. He said authorities always suspected Drace and DeVincenzi but didn’t have enough evidence to arrest and charge them until last Friday. Drace and DeVincenzi, who are now divorced, were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday and are being held in custody without bail. Landeros said Rudiger had three daughters from his first wife, Marie, and has eight grandchildren who “he never got to know.”
Tami Borja, 44, of Spokane, Wash., Rudiger’s oldest child, said “it wasn’t a great surprise” to her and other family members that Drace and DeVincenzi were arrested and charged because they knew that Drace and DeVincenzi had been interviewed and investigated many years ago. But Borja said she was still excited when she heard the news, saying, “I live in Washington state and I think I could have walked here because this was so long in coming.” She said, “We can finally begin to close this chapter now, hopefully.” Asked to comment on her thoughts about Drace, Borja said, “She was part of our lives for a brief moment and I have nothing to say to her at this time.”
Borja, who was one of many family members who attended the news conference, described her father as “a hard-working man who always paid his bills on time and never committed a crime.” She said, “He was a neat freak and never wanted us to go barefoot.” Landeros said investigators began to crack the case after they received an anonymous phone call from a man who provided information about Rudiger’s murder. Landeros said authorities eventually obtained a recorded statement from the tipster as well as a second witness who both said DeVincenzi “told them directly about his involvement in the homicide.”
The witnesses also provided Drace’s name, Landeros said Investigators then contacted DeVincenzi, who was in custody at the federal prison in Victorville in San Bernardino County on a robbery charge and also has a prior conviction in Boston. DeVincenzi “never denied involvement when confronted about the homicide” and “made several incriminating statements regarding his involvement,” Landeros said. Landeros said investigators also contacted Drace and she told them “DeVincenzi was at the (murder) scene and admitted to have killed the victim.”
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