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Arrest Made in ’57 Calif. Slayings

January 30, 2003

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) _ Helped by a new FBI fingerprint database, authorities arrested a man Wednesday in the 1957 slayings of two police officers who were gunned down after pulling over a car for running a red light.

Gerald Mason, 68, was arrested without resistance at his home in Columbia, S.C., Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Merriman said. He said Mason had apparently led a ``very well-adjusted, normal life″ in the 45 years since the attack.

Fingerprints taken from a stolen car on the night of the killings in El Segundo were traced to Mason through a new FBI database, authorities said. They were linked to Mason through a 1956 burglary in South Carolina.

Mason was charged with two counts of murder along with rape, kidnapping and robbery for alleged attacks on couples at a lovers’ lane. He was being held without bail and could face life in prison without parole if convicted.

``The message is that we in law enforcement never give up,″ said Sheriff Lee Baca, whose cold-case unit helped investigate. The officers ``can now rest in peace with the knowledge that the killer has been caught.″

Milton Curtis, 25, and Richard Phillips, 28, were shot on July 22, 1957, after pulling over a motorist.

``I prayed for this day. I never thought I’d make it,″ said John Booterbaugh, a retired El Segundo police detective who worked with both victims. ``We never forgot.″

Mason’s wife of 40 years apparently didn’t know about his alleged crimes, authorities said. A woman who answered the phone at Mason’s South Carolina home refused to comment.

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