Two suspects arrested in 1973 murders of California girls

September 13, 2016 7:43 PM EDT

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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two cousins linked through DNA testing to the 1973 murders of two girls in a small northern California town were arrested on Tuesday, more than four decades after the crime, authorities said.

William Lloyd Harbour, 65, was taken into custody on Tuesday morning at a traffic stop in Linda, California, 40 miles south of Sacramento, the Yuba County Sheriff's Department said in a written statement.

Larry Don Patterson, also 65, was arrested at a secluded compound near Oakhurst, Oklahoma, south of Tulsa. The men were 22 at the time of the murders.

According to the sheriff's department, 13-year-old Doris Karen Derryberry and Valerie Janice Lane, 12, were reported missing on Nov. 12, 1973, after failing to return from a shopping trip to Linda the day before.

The bodies of the two friends were found hours later alongside a dirt road in a wooded area of nearby Wheatland. Derryberry had been sexually assaulted and both girls killed by shotgun blasts at close range.

The case remained unsolved until March 2014, when investigators reviewing the case with improved forensic testing linked DNA evidence to Harbour and Patterson.

The DNA hit prompted a lengthy new investigation which culminated in the arrest of the two men, who were expected to face murder charges, the sheriff's department said.

Leslie Carbah, a spokeswoman for the Yuba County Sheriff's Department, said that investigators knew that Harbour was still living in the area but that it took them until Tuesday to find Patterson, with the help of U.S. Marshals.

Patterson, who was convicted of rape in 1976, was also wanted for failing to register as a sex offender and was hiding from law enforcement for that reason, she said.

"It took us basically until today to finally put eyes on Patterson," Carbah said. "A lot of this was hinging on bringing them both into custody at the same time. The challenge was to keep it as quiet as possible, not tip them off and drive them underground."

She said Harbour was expected to make an initial court appearance in Yuba County on Wednesday while Patterson faced extradition proceedings in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, more than 200 miles to the south in San Luis Obispo, police and FBI agents spent last week digging near a California university campus looking for remains of Kristin Smart, a freshman who disappeared 20 years ago.

There was no indication that the two cases were related.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, editing by G Crosse and Cynthia Osterman)

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