A convicted rapist and registered sex offender who was living a married life in Georgia was arrested Tuesday night on charges in the brutal killing 40 years ago this month of a young woman in her Shrewsbury home.
Lonzo Guthrie Jr., a 69-year-old who was convicted of rape in California in 1974, is being charged in the stabbing death that occurred earlier that year of Eileen Ferro, a 21-year-old dental assistant who was found in the utility room of her home by her husband.
Guthrie was arrested by Massachusetts investigators and local authorities in Douglas County, Ga., where he has lived for at least the past 12 years. He is fighting his extradition to Massachusetts, and will face extradition hearings in Georgia.
Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said authorities identified Guthrie through the analysis of DNA evidence. Investigators believe Guthrie had delivered items to Ferro, possibly furniture, in the days before she was killed, and that he had returned to her home to carry out the crime.
Early said the investigation into the decades-old death was a priority of the Unresolved Case Squad he created soon after he was elected in 2006. The squad was designed to examine older cases with the eye of new technology and investigative tools, such as DNA testing.
“We’ve been working on this for years, and you can imagine the emotions that people have,” said Early. “We just wanted justice for Eileen Ferro and closure for her family.”
Early, noting courthouse offices were closed Wednesday, said he will release more details on Thursday.
Nancy M. Donnelly, the older sister of Ferro, said the “whole family is absolutely elated.”
“After 40 years, you can’t imagine what this does for us all,” Donnelly, of North Brookfield, said. “Having that closure, it is the best thing we could have. You just can’t imagine.”
Ferro was killed on Feb. 22, 1974. She was found by her husband, Anthony T. Ferro, then a car salesman, just after 9 p.m. Authorities determined she was stabbed and her throat slashed but no sexual assault had been committed.
Officials at the time were unclear on a motive. There was no sign of a forced entry, and the killing did not appear to be related to a robbery.
Bruce Ferguson, a captain with the Douglas County sheriff’s office in Georgia, said authorities there have not had any notable encounters with Guthrie, though he was required to register as a sex offender for his rape conviction.
At the time of the killing of Ferro, authorities reported several other murders in the Worcester and Shrewsbury area. Early could not say whether Guthrie is suspected in any other crimes, though he said investigators will examine all leads.
“There was a lot of good police work, a lot of good leg work behind the scenes that led us to this arrest,” he said.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.