After Marina Ruggiero walked away from a wedding reception in San Luis Obispo in 1991 to return to her motel room, she was found stabbed to death.
"I think we ended the case fairly frustrated," said San Luis Obispo Police Department Sgt. Tom DePriest. "We pursued all the avenues. ... It's tough."
The 20-year-old from Torrance was staying in Room 327 at Cuesta Canyon Lodge on Monterey Street for an Aug. 25 wedding. The Holiday Inn Express is now on that site.
"She was a good person who was unfortunately at the wrong place at the wrong time," DePriest said.
Sometime during the reception, across the street from the motel, Ruggiero told family members she wanted to change clothes and join them for a more intimate gathering.
Her family went to the motel room about 11 p.m. and found her stabbed numerous times in the upper body. Nothing had been taken, and Ruggiero had not been sexually assaulted, an autopsy showed. She had died about 10 p.m.
"It seemed like a senseless crime. We just couldn't put together an exact motive," DePriest said.
No murder weapon was ever found, and no suspects were publicly identified. Police reports showed Ruggiero was grabbed from behind and then stabbed. Pry marks were found on the door. A cloth rag was found near her body, apparently used to gag her.
An attorney for Ruggiero's family believes the killer did not know the dark-haired woman and was waiting inside the room when she arrived.
The last lead in the case was received several years ago, DePriest said. The investigation is reviewed annually.