YUBA CITY — A man suspected of using a samurai sword to kill his girlfriend last year in Washington state was found dead in Yuba City.
Thirty-three-year-old Jacob Gonzales' body was pulled from the Feather River in Yuba City on April 7, 2018.
His body was classified as a “John Doe” until November when investigators shared photos of his tattoos in hopes of identifying him.
"You could make out faintly what the tattoo was," Sutter County Sheriff Brandon Barnes said. "The body was badly decomposed and so through our investigative resources, we exhausted all means. The body was determined to be a John Doe."
Months later, Sutter County investigators were contacted by the sister of Katherine Cunningham, who was killed in Washington state in February of 2018. She had been decapitated and left inside a sleeping bag in Camano Island, Washington.
"She said that she thought there might be some similarities between the suspect in her sister’s killing and the person we had listed as a John Doe," Sheriff Barnes said. "That was based on a sheep dog tattoo."
Investigators with the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office received tips and this month were able to use DNA to positively identify the man as Gonzales.
Authorities said a car belonging to Cunningham was found in Northern California, also in early March, but police were not able to find him.
Island County Prosecutor Gregory Banks said a samurai sword was found in the vehicle and sent for testing at a lab.
“Those lab results indicate that Ms. Cunningham’s blood was on the blade of the sword and Mr. Gonzales’ DNA was on the hilt,” he said.
Authorities had been seeking Gonzales since March on a warrant. He was previously charged with five counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of motor vehicle theft.
According to court documents, Cunningham likely died in mid-February. Authorities said she might have been staying in a trailer on the property. Her body was found by a couple looking to buy the property.
Now, Sheriff Barnes hopes this can bring closure to Cunningham's family.
"Sometimes they just need to know. They want to have that closure and bring everything full circle and close the grieving process," he said. "So, I have to imagine that Katherine's family is probably working through that right now."