LOS ANGELES -- In 2002, two detectives arrived in the musty basement of the Los Angeles County coroner's office looking for any scrap of evidence that would help them crack a string of killings from three decades ago.
The killer, they suspected, had raped and choked at least three women as they left bars in the San Pedro area. He would come to be known as the Santa Strangler because the first of his victims was found the day after Christmas in 1972.
The detectives had a suspect in mind, a former taxi driver in his 70s with a big, white beard, but they needed biological evidence to prove his guilt. A search of the Los Angeles Police Department's evidence lockers had proved futile -- the evidence was either not preserved well enough to test, or had been thrown out.
Detectives Richard Bengston and Vivian Flores went to the coroner's office on a whim, without too much hope. They chatted with the evidence clerk, who remembered a dusty, green filing cabinet that had sat untouched for some time.