Douglas Thomas, 67, was arrested on May 25, 2022 for the April 1992 murder of Shenda Denise Hayes in Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Hayes’ body was found near a rest area on the Interstate-30 outside of Mount Pleasant. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a device made of wire and cord.
A DNA sample from a SAK taken at Hayes’ autopsy was uploaded to CODIS in 2004. It was match to a similar homicide that took place on March 30, 1993 in Desert Center, California. The body of Sherri Herrera was found along the Interstate-10 Highway in the desert between Palm Springs and Arizona. She, too, was sexually assaulted and had been strangled to death with a belt. Both women were engaged in sex work at the time they were murdered.
DNA taken at the scene of Herrera’s murder had been uploaded to CODIS in 2002, and a SNP profile suitable for FGG was developed in September of 2020. There is no information on who performed the FGG investigation. The final confirmation was made after a warrant was issued to take a DNA sample from Thomas for comparison.
Thomas is a retired long-haul truck driver from Waco, Texas. He is currently being held on $2 million bail in Titus County, Texas.
On June 13, 2022, Thomas was also charged in the murder of Herrera, with a special circumstance of committing a murder during a rape. He will first be prosecuted in Texas, and will then be extradited to California.
McMillan, Rob. “How Riverside County Investigators Played a Role in Possibly Solving Decades-Old Murder Case.” ABC News 7, June 1, 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://abc7.com/sherri-herrera-murder-case-california-desert-woman-killed-i-10/11916441/.
Riverside District Attorney. “In Last Two Months, Man Charged with Cold Case Murders in Texas and California.” Forensic Magazine, June 13, 2022. Accessed June 17, 2022. https://www.forensicmag.com/587178-In-Last-Two-Months-Man-Charged-with-Cold-Case-Murders-in-Texas-and-California/.
Witherspoon, Tommy. “DNA Database Links Retired Waco Man to Murders of Sex Workers in Texas and California Dating Back 30 Years.” ABC News 7, May 26, 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022. https://www.kltv.com/2022/05/26/dna-database-links-retired-waco-man-murders-sex-workers-texas-california-dating-back-30-years/.