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MOORPARK SLAYINGS MYSTIFY DEPUTIES: KILLINGS OF MORA, WOOD HAVE GONE COLD.

Byline: Angie Valencia-Martinez Staff Writer

MOORPARK - The slayings of a teenager last month and a 71-year-old phone-card salesman in 2004 are baffling authorities in Moorpark, who said the homicides are extremely unusual for Ventura County's safest city.

Daniel Mora, 16, was found stabbed to death April 2 in the garage of a home in the 400 block of Harry Street.

It has been a year since Dennis Wood was found shot in the head and chest in his three-bedroom home in the 12500 block of Mountain Trail Street. The man had been dead for several weeks when his decomposed body was discovered on April 16 by sheriff's deputies.

No one has been arrested in either slaying, and each day that passes lowers the odds of catching the killer, officials said.

``Both are active cases,'' said Cmdr. David Tennessen with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. ``Sometimes we get a break. Sometimes we have to work longer to find the clues we need to get the suspect.''

In the areas patrolled by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, 147 homicides have gone unsolved, according to Capt. Larry Kelley with the department's major crimes unit.

The oldest unsolved crime dates back to 1958, when a 17-year-old boy from the Newhall area was gunned down south of Fillmore.

The department's homicide clearance rate hovers around 55 percent, he said.

For the victims' families, not knowing what happened is agony.

``I'm frustrated, but not at the police,'' said Bruce Simmons, Wood's 48-year-old son, who described his father as kind, soft-spoken, smart and a true gentleman.

``I'm frustrated that somebody out there knows about this. This person's partner, friend, girlfriend, mother. Somebody knows who this person is. All it takes is that one person.

``The person needs to be punished and the public protected.''

In January, he offered a $25,000 reward, in addition to the $10,000 offered by the Sheriff's Department and the city of Moorpark.

Simmons hopes the $35,000 reward will yield information leading to the arrest and conviction of his father's killer.

That case has gone cold, and authorities are hoping the reward can serve as an incentive for the public to call in clues.

Because Wood's body was discovered long after his death, the investigation has been challenging. The first 24 to 48 hours after a homicide are critical in terms of gathering evidence.

``We're doing everything humanly possibly to track down the suspects,'' Tennessen said. ``The message to the public is, somebody knows what happened. I urge that somebody in these two violent crimes to come forward.''

Though officials would not elaborate on the investigations, they did say the two cases are not connected.

The District Attorney's Office and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department were recently awarded nearly $190,000 in federal grants to help solve old cases with the help of DNA evidence.

The grant will help form a multijurisdictional DNA/Cold Cases Task Force - a team staffed by four part-time homicide investigators, which will review as many as 70 unsolved homicide cases from between 1970 and 1995.

``This award will enhance the already very good relationship we have with all of our local law enforcement agencies, the medical examiner and forensic scientists to help solve these most important cases,'' District Attorney Greg Totten said in a statement.

``If we can even resolve even one unsolved homicide, our work together will be a great success and will bring justice to at least one victim and peace of mind to their families.''

The number of homicides in the county dropped from 13 in 2003 to five in 2004. Overall, violent crimes - including murders, rapes and aggravated assaults - plunged from 622 incidents in the same time period to 531.

The Sheriff's Department provides service to the cities of Moorpark, Camarillo, Fillmore, Ojai and Thousand Oaks and patrols the unincorporated areas of the county.

Thousand Oaks is one of the safest cities in the nation with a population more than 100,000. But Moorpark's per-capita crime rate is even lower.

Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604

angie.valencia(at)dailynews.com

HOW TO HELP

Anyone with information about the deaths of Daniel Mora or Dennis Wood is asked to call the Ventura County Sheriff's Department at (805) 654-2311.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:713
Previous Article:EDUCATION CHANGES HAVE FAILED MADDENINGLY.
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