California tree-trimmer accused of serial killing, slashing throats of several victims

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California authorities have charged a man in a violent spree that left three people dead and two more injured after he allegedly slashed their throats. 

Ryan Scott Blinston, 37, faces charges of murder, attempted murder and arson. His alleged crimes carry special sentencing due to the alleged use of a weapon and the attack on an elderly victim, officials said.

Blinston worked for a tree-trimming business, including on the homes of some of his victims, according to the Butte County District Attorney.

He returned to the home of elderly couple Loreen and Homer Severs – 88 and 91, respectively – and allegedly slashed their throats on May 18, 2020. Loreen died immediately, but Homer survived the attack, later dying due to an unrelated illness in December of that year, authorities said.

Nearly a month later, Blinston worked on the home of Sandra George, 82, before allegedly returning to slit her throat, as well. 

The last victim was an “acquaintance,” officials said. Vicky Cline, 57, was last seen alive with Blinston on June 6, 2020. A fire destroyed her later that night, and she was discovered more than two weeks later when a fisherman retrieved her body from the Feather River, officials said, adding that her throat had also been slashed. 

A SWAT team deployed on June 14, 2020, to apprehend Blinston when it discovered him attempting to break into a motorhome with a hatchet. He had attempted to slit the throat of an elderly man with whom he had been staying, but the man had been able to lock Blinston out after the attack, officials said.

SWAT team members chased Blinston into the nearby woods, where they captured him. 

The man survived, and Blinston was charged with his attempted murder. He remained in jail without bail while awaiting further charges. Blood and DNA evidence found on and in Blinston’s car forensically matched with Cline, according to authorities.

With his alleged crimes committed in two counties, the case faced complications in trial, but Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey and Tehama County District Attorney Matt Rogers agreed to combine and try the cases in Butte County Superior Court. 

“Through the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies in both Tehama and Butte Counties, we will be able to seek justice for the victims and ensure no one else will be harmed,” Ramsey and Rogers said. 

Blinston was charged Thursday. If found guilty, he faces life without parole. 

His trial will take place in June. 

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