PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An Aloha man was arrested on Wednesday for the murder of two teenage boys more than four decades ago, investigators announced Friday during a media briefing.
Steven Criss, 65, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder for a double homicide that happened in 1974.
In October 1974, 16-year-old Donald Bartron and 18-year-old Peter Zito Jr. were shot and killed while working on a car outside the Oak Hills Recreation Center. The boys were both shot multiple times in the head with a .22 caliber handgun, according to WCSO. KOIN 6 covered the story of their deaths in 2017.
Joseph Amir Wilson was initially arrested in connection to the shooting just hours after Barton and Zito were found deceased. His charges, however, were dropped a few months later after officials determined he wasn’t tied to the shootings.
Nearly two months later, Criss was investigated for his possible involvement in the shootings after a .22 caliber handgun was found inside the then 17-year-old’s vehicle. Criss had initially been arrested for theft but was held while a ballistic test was run on the firearm, which officials said did not return a match. He was then released.
Criss later joined the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington where in 1976 he used the same handgun to shoot and kill his commanding officer, Sgt. Jacob “Kim” Brown. At that time, Criss admitted to Sgt. Brown’s murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison but was paroled and released after serving 12 years.
While reviewing this cold case, WCSO detectives sent ballistic evidence to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That test reportedly returned a presumptive match, which was then confirmed by the Oregon State Police Crime Lab.
Criss was arrested near his home on Wednesday and was also indicted by a Washington County Grand Jury. He is now being held at the Washington County Jail.
According to detectives, Criss worked with Barton at a diner at the time of the murders and had “reason to be upset with Donny and Pete.”
The families of Bartron and Zito have both reportedly been notified of the arrest.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office said its detectives haven’t been able to find any of Wilson’s family. Wilson reportedly died in 2000.
Authorities are continuing to investigate and ask anyone with information on Criss’ alleged involvement to call 503.846.2700 or make an anonymous tip at Crime Stoppers of Oregon’s website.