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Santa Rosa killer eludes police search

Ten weeks after a homeless woman was found fatally stabbed near downtown Santa Rosa on a busy stretch of Fourth Street, police have tracked her movements to just hours before her Nov. 1 death.

But it remains unknown who killed Michela Wooldridge, 24, a one-time Cloverdale High School student who lost her way in life and wound up on the streets, where she lost her life.

"We're still following up on leads, and we're still getting a few coming in here and there," said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Dave Linscomb, who oversees violent crime investigations. "There's still evidence out that's being looked at -- crime scene evidence and whatnot. But at this point, we don't have a suspect in the case."

Fourth Street Homicide Investigation

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A $2,500 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction, and police have questioned scores of people -- perhaps more than 100 -- with whom Wooldridge interacted during her six weeks or so in town, Linscomb said.

They also tracked down a boyfriend she met in Santa Rosa, but he was checked in at the Sam Jones Hall homeless shelter on the night and early morning of Wooldridge's death, and investigators "have pretty well ruled him out," Linscomb said.

The unsolved slaying has left Wooldridge's mother, Beth Vawter, in a state of perpetual grief.

"I pretend it's not true," Vawter said through sobs from her Humboldt County home. "I miss her so much."

Vawter had not seen her daughter for several months before she learned Wooldridge had left a Humboldt County treatment center and headed for Santa Rosa, hoping to find some more help for drug abuse and emotional problems.

Wooldridge had recently lost custody of her then-2-year-old son to the boy's father in Lake County and apparently resumed using drugs after what her mother and stepfather said had been several drug-free years.

They said Wooldridge was distraught over losing the child and over decades of family dysfunction and what they said were emerging memories of sexual abuse that contributed to her emotional distress and drug use.


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