Cindy Pinto was found dead in the Salinas Riverbed in Paso Robles on September 8, 1994. Pinto, 31, was bludgeoned to death by Terry Crothers, 23, of Paso Robles.
Pinto was walking from her home on Crazy Horse Drive near the river around 12:45 in the afternoon on her way to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, where her husband worked, to pick up the family car.
As she was walking along South River Road, Crothers was walking not far behind, stalking Pinto every step of the way, waiting for the right time to attack. He shoved Pinto down a steep embankment into the riverbed, where he attempted to rape her.
When Pinto attempted to fight back, Crothers began hitting her, both with his fists and with a glass bottle found close by. He then dragged her, facedown, over 30 feet to a spot he thought would be more secluded from the road. It was at that point he grabbed a large rock and slammed it with both hands into the back of her head. The official cause of death was asphyxiation.
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Prosecutors believe Crothers’ only intention was to rape Pinto, but things got out of hand when she fought back for her safety. Crothers was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted rape and kidnapping and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
“He said he didn’t know her,” his mother, Jonni Crothers, told reporters. “He walked over there two or three times a week to the video store.”
Crothers’ was described by his mother as a quiet kid who never had any trouble or run-ins with police. He never showed a violent streak or posed as a threat to women as a predator. “Terry led a simple life,” she said. He worked as a dishwasher at the 13th Street restaurant where his mother worked as a waitress, and his free time was spent watching movies at his house or at the theater in Atascadero.
Pinto, although unemployed, was very active in the community, volunteering her time with numerous organizations, including the Paso Robles Convalescent High School, the Hospice of San Luis Obispo County and multiple local elementary schools.
She was also involved at Old Mission San Miguel, singing in the choir, assisted in religious education, and coordinated altar services. She was a team mom for the Paso Robles Youth Soccer League.
“It doesn’t seem very logical that someone would want to kill her,” said Maria Jongling, then director of religious education at the Mission Church and a good friend of the Pinto family. “She was such a spiritual person.”