Police believe they have solved a cold homicide case from 1981 with the

arrest of a Palo Alto writer, whom they say beat and strangled his lover to

death in a Rohnert Park mobile home.

Joseph Thomas Jackson, 59, was arrested as he left his mail drop late

Saturday night in Palo Alto, police Sgt. Don Wagner said Monday. He will be

arraigned this morning in Sonoma County Court.

Detectives believe Jackson killed Bill Forrest, 57, in Forrest's mobile

home the night of July 28, 1981. The body was found the next morning by a

co-worker who had arrived to pick him up for work.

The arrest is the second time in six weeks that Rohnert Park detectives

have arrested a suspect in a long-cold homicide case.

In March, detectives arrested Leticia Robles on suspicion of smothering her

romantic rival in 1991 and throwing her body off a cliff in Jenner. A judge

ruled Monday that there is enough evidence to hold Robles over for trial.

Since shortly after Forrest's killing, the file had been set aside as a

cold case, one in which the leads had dried up.

Wagner picked up the file last month ''to see if anything more could be

done'' in the investigation. What he found, he said, was a strong

circumstantial case against Jackson.

Jackson was the last person Forrest was seen alive with, his fingerprints

were found at the scene and his alibi didn't check out, Wagner said.

He and Detective Bill Lawrence tracked Jackson to Palo Alto and worked with

police there in detaining him Saturday night.

In 1981, detectives considered Jackson a possible suspect, but he was never

arrested, nor was he ever cleared as the possible killer. Over the years, he

lived at several locations in Sonoma County, but moved to Palo Alto a few

years ago, Wagner said.

Forrest, an accountant with Fireman's Fund in Novato, was an openly gay man

who was known to pick up boyfriends at Reinhart's Truck Stop in Petaluma,

Wagner said.

Two waitresses at the truck stop told detectives they saw Jackson leave at

the same time as Forrest the night of July 28, 1981.

Forrest was killed hours later, struck on the head with a crystal vase

found at the scene and strangled. He was found naked on his bedroom floor.

Wagner said the evidence indicates Jackson went to Forrest's home, killed

him and tried to scrub the place clean of fingerprints.

''There was an attempt at cleaning and wiping down the scene, which is when

he left his prints,'' Wagner said.

The motive for the killing may have been embarrassment, Wagner said. He

said Jackson, who was married at the time, may not have wanted anyone to know

of his homosexual relationship.

Jackson, who is now divorced, is a writer who has just published a novel

called ''The Fifth Horseman'' about the killing of the pope, Wagner said.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 521-5205 or

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