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Homeless Man Sentenced in Cold Case Killings of Two Women in Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

October 16, 2019 -- A homeless man who won a reprieve last year on charges he murdered two homeless women in Santa Monica nearly two decades ago will serve 22 years in state prison for voluntary manslaughter.

Edric Dashell Gross, 54, pleaded no contest Tuesday to the lesser charge and had the murder charges dismissed as his third trial was set to begin.

Edric Dashell Gross

Gross was convicted in June 2016 on two counts of first-degree murder in the strangulation deaths of Jacqueline Ovsak Langford, 41, in 2001 and Dana Caper, 42, in 2002 with the special circumstance of multiple murders.

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole ("Transient Found Guilty of Two Santa Monica Murders," June 10, 2016).

Edric Dashell Gross (Courtesy Santa Monice Police Department)

The conviction came after the first trial in 2015 ended in a mistrial when the jury, which was leaning in favor of acquittal, was unable to reach a verdict.

During the second trial, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowed some circumstantial evidence that Caper's former boyfriend might be the culprit but excluded testimony from a witness.

In June of last year, a California appellate court reversed the conviction, setting the stage for a third trial. ("Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Two Santa Monica Murders to Get New Trial," June 20, 2018).

"If it is reasonably probable at least one juror would have questioned whether Gross killed Caper, it is also reasonably probable the same juror would have had a reasonable doubt whether Gross murdered Ovsak," the appeals panel wrote in its decision.

Langford was found on April 5, 2001 strangled to death in an abandoned house in Downtown Santa Monica, where she had allegedly squatted for several months ("April Death was a Homicide," July 6, 2001).

A construction worker found the victim's body naked from the waist down inside the decrepit house at 1537 7th Street that was slated for demolition, police said.

A thick brown cord was wound tightly around her neck and tied to the clothes bar in the closet above her, police said. An autopsy found Ovask died of asphyxia.

On October 29, 2002, Caper was found strangled to death below the bluffs in Palisades Park ("Body Found in Bluff Encampment," October 30, 2002).

Her body was found in what appeared to be an encampment near the intersection of Montana Avenue where police found shoes, toiletries and miscellaneous clothing.

Both cases were turned over to the Santa Monica Police Department’s cold case unit, which found new leads using DNA processing, prosecutors said.

Gross' DNA was found on Ovask's body and on a T-shirt found in the abandoned house, according to City News Service.

Gross' DNA was also found on Caper's body and under her fingernails, the News Service reported.

Santa Monica police identified Gross in September 2007 as the suspect in both slayings. He was arrested in August 2012.

Prosecutors argued that there were numerous similarities between the killings of the two homeless women.

"This was a signature crime," Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder said. "This was a person who killed in the same way, the same type of women."

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