Police are trying to determine whether William Huff may be linked to more crimes. Photo: EBRPD/Contra Costa County DA's office
Police say they are trying to determine whether William Huff may be linked to more crimes. Huff’s booking photos, clockwise from upper left: April 2014, March 2009, December 2007 and April 2008. Photo: EBRPD/Contra Costa County DA’s office

After more than two decades, police say they have charged the man they believe strangled and sexually assaulted two women: a young mother whose body was found in Tilden Park in 1987, and a Laotian immigrant in her 50s whose body was discovered in her boyfriend’s backyard in 1993.

The man responsible for those crimes, police announced Tuesday, was William Huff, also known as “Wild Bill,” a 51-year-old San Pablo man who now faces two murder charges in Contra Costa County. The charges against Huff also include two special circumstance allegations of murder during the course of a sexual assault.

Deanna Butterfield. Photo: Contra Costa County DA’s office

Authorities said they used DNA evidence to tie Huff to the crimes. According to a statement released Tuesday, the cases were reopened as part of a collaborative effort involving investigators from the East Bay Regional Park District and San Pablo police departments and a newly formed Cold Case Unit in the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office.

Deanna Butterfield was 21, with a 4-year-old daughter, when her body was found in Tilden Regional Park, below Grizzly Peak and above Wildcat Canyon Road, on Dec. 5, 1987. She was “half-naked, had been sexually assaulted, and died as a result of asphyxia.”

On June 11, 1993, the body of Meuylin Saechao was found, also half-naked, in the backyard of her boyfriend in the city of San Pablo. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death with a sock.

Authorities said DNA tests linked Huff to biological evidence collected from the bodies of both women.

According to the Contra Costa Times, Huff’s DNA had been stored in a San Pablo law enforcement “databank” since 2006, but that information only recently became searchable, which led to the discovery of the connection between the two cases.

According to Tuesday’s statement, the new team worked together to complete the investigation that resulted in charges being filed against Huff.

Police are also trying to find out if Huff — described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “vagabond Northern California man with a penchant for following women” — might be tied to other cases. Authorities said Tuesday that, in addition to the Bay Area, Huff has been linked to the cities of Colusa, Chico, Redding, Oroville and Santa Cruz.

Until earlier this week, Huff had been incarcerated at a Vacaville prison for auto theft, according to news reports.

According to ABC 7, Huff had been scheduled for release Tuesday, but has instead been held on the new charges after being transferred to jail in Martinez.

“We are very pleased with the success of our recently formed ‘Cold Case Unit,'” said Contra Costa County district attorney Mark Peterson in a prepared statement. “Solving cold case murders and rapes is a priority for our office in order to bring those responsible to justice, and provide closure for victims and their families.”

Police ask anyone with information about William Huff, or with knowledge of other unsolved rape-asphyxiation assaults or murder cases, to call Chief of Forensics Paul Holes, of the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office, at 925-957-8751, or their local law enforcement agency.

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Emilie Raguso (senior editor, news) joined the Berkeleyside team in 2012. She covers politics, public safety and development. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...