ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY NEWS RELEASE
Case # 17CF1275
June 8, 2017
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was extradited from Arizona and charged with the 1984 cold case murder of a transient man in Santa Ana.
Defendant: John William Zelinski, 61, Tucson, Arizona
- One felony count of murder
- Sentencing Enhancement: Personal use of a deadly weapon (knife)
Maximum Sentence: 26 years to life in state prison
Continued arraignment: June 23, 2017, 10:00 a.m. at Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana
Circumstances of the Case
- On May 18, 1984, at approximately 11:45 a.m., Zelinski is accused of escalating a verbal confrontation with Roy E., who he knew from a local homeless shelter.
- The defendant is accused of stabbing the victim once in his back while they were behind a County office building on the 2000 block of Walnut Street in Santa Ana.
- Zelinski is accused of fleeing the scene.
- Witnesses called 911 and the victim was transported to a nearby hospital where he died during emergency surgery as a result of the single stab wound.
- The Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) investigated this case and a suspect was not immediately identified.
- Years later, Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force (OCHTF) reexamined the case, and after months of investigation, determined Zelinski was a likely suspect.
- Multiple witnesses at the scene were located and interviewed, and on May 24, 2017, Zelinski was charged with murder.
- The defendant was extradited to Orange County from Tucson, Arizona by SAPD and OCDA.
OCHTF was created in July 2014 between the OCDA and SAPD, along with participating investigators from the Anaheim Police Department, Fullerton Police Department, Garden Grove Police Department, Huntington Beach Police Department, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The OCHTF aims to reduce over 1,000 unsolved homicides in Orange County, to bring justice and closure to victims.
The OCDA Special Prosecutions Unit and SAPD pursued the defendant’s extradition so he could be transported to Orange County to face charges. OCDA partners with local law enforcement, as well as Interpol, the FBI, US Marshals, State Department, Department of Justice, and Homeland Security, in a continuous effort to prosecute fugitives, protect the public, and seek justice for victims. We would like to thank our law enforcement partners in Arizona for their assistance in this case.
Prosecutor: Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, Homicide Unit
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff
Michelle Van Der Linden,Spokesperson