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May 27, 2023

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Oregon inmate arrested, charged in Bellingham woman’s 1987 death


BELLINGHAM — A suspected serial killer who was once among the FBI’s most wanted has been arrested in connection with the 1987 disappearance and alleged murder of a Bellingham woman.

Darren Dee O’Neall, 62, was charged Oct. 11, 2022, in Whatcom County Superior Court with one count of second-degree murder for the 1987 death of 29-year-old Wendy Aughe.

O’Neall was extradited Wednesday, March 1, to Whatcom County from the Two Rivers Correctional Institute in Umatilla, Oregon, where he is currently incarcerated, according to court and jail records.

He will make his first appearance in court Thursday afternoon, March 2.

Aughe was last seen on April 25, 1987, after she had gone on a date with a man, later identified as O’Neall, whom she had met earlier that day.

Aughe is presumed dead. Her body has never been found.

O’Neall has been wanted for questioning in Aughe’s disappearance since at least 1988.

Aughe disappears

On April 28, 1987, a woman reported to Bellingham police that Aughe was missing. The woman had been babysitting Aughe’s 8-year-old daughter since April 24.

Aughe was supposed to pick her daughter up April 26, but never showed up. When the woman went to Aughe’s home in the 2200 block of H Street in Bellingham, Aughe wasn’t there, the woman told police.

It was unlike Aughe to abandon her daughter and not tell anyone where she was, according to court records.

When the woman went with police to Aughe’s home on April 29 to pick up clothes for Aughe’s daughter, blood was found under a pillow in Aughe’s bedroom.

A search of the home revealed two pools of drying blood at the head of the bed, blood spatter on the bed’s headboard and semen stains on a bedsheet on Aughe’s bed, the court records state.

The police later learned that Aughe had been in school April 24, and had gone across the street to the La Paloma restaurant for lunch that day. When Aughe came back to class, she told classmates she met a man in a three-piece suit and the pair were going out on a date that night, the records state.

Aughe was seen walking around 4:30 p.m. to La Paloma to meet her date, whom Aughe knew as Mike Johnson. Johnson had just started working at La Paloma that same day, the records state.

While at the restaurant, Aughe saw another friend and introduced him to Johnson. Aughe and Johnson gave the friend a ride home to Burlington and then went to meet up with Aughe’s other friend in Bellingham.

Aughe and Johnson stayed at the Bellingham friend’s house until around 1 a.m. on April 25, which was the last time Aughe was seen alive, according to court records.

At the time of her disappearance, Aughe was wearing gray corduroy pants, brown boots and a Levi’s jean jacket. The same clothes were found inside-out between the wall and bed at Aughe’s house, the records state.

Johnson was seen roughly six hours later, around 7:30 a.m., at the Lighthouse Mission homeless shelter in Bellingham, where he had been staying. Johnson, who had previously borrowed several pieces of a three-piece suit from a shelter employee, told the employee he had spent the night with a woman and was moving in with her.

Johnson was then seen driving away, alone, in Aughe’s 1972 Ford Torino, according to court records.

Roughly fifteen minutes later, Johnson arrived for his second day of work at La Paloma. He was there for around a half hour before he grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and money from the till and left.

Aughe’s car was flagged as entering the United States from Canada at the Oroville, Wash., border crossing minutes before 10 p.m. on April 26.

Aughe’s vehicle was then found abandoned roughly eight hours later in Eugene, Oregon.

A latent fingerprint found on a Burger King hamburger box inside the vehicle was identified as belonging to O’Neall.

O’Neall’s physical description matched that of Johnson — the man Aughe went on a date and was last seen with. O’Neall’s fingerprints were also found on the job application filled out by Johnson at La Paloma restaurant, the court records show.

A suit jacket, tie and pair of men’s Levi’s slacks were also found in the trunk of Aughe’s car. The Lighthouse Mission shelter worker told police the clothing items matched the ones from the three-piece suit he previously loaned to Johnson, records state.

Police also found a small red dot, which appeared to be blood, on the front left pocket of the slacks found in the trunk of Aughe’s stolen car, court records show.

O’Neall was later convicted in Whatcom County Superior Court in 1989 of stealing Aughe’s car.

DNA evidence

Nearly 29 years after Aughe’s disappearance, in August 2015, the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory sent Bellingham police a report confirming a DNA match between O’Neall and the semen stain from Aughe’s bedsheet, according to court records.

The state crime lab also found blood stains on the top left corner of Aughe’s bedsheet. A partial DNA profile created from the blood stain was determined to have come from a single female and matched that of the presumed DNA profile of Aughe, the records state.

The state crime lab report also indicated that the probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random from the U.S. population with a matching profile is 1 in 2.0 quintillion, court records state.

Five years later, in November 2020, Bellingham police received another report from the state crime lab regarding a blood stain found in the front left pocket of the pair of men’s slacks found in the trunk of Aughe’s stolen car.

A mixed DNA profile was created from the pants showing three possible contributors. It is 230,000 times more likely that two of the contributors to the DNA profile are Aughe and O’Neall, rather than O’Neall and two unrelated individuals selected at random from the U.S. population, according to court records.

In July 2021, cheek swabs were taken from O’Neall and sent to the Washington state crime lab. In late August 2021, the crime lab indicated the cheek swabs from O’Neall matched the DNA profiles created for O’Neall from Aughe’s bedsheets and the pants, court records state.

Aughe’s body has never been found and no evidence exists that she’s alive. No one has seen or heard from Aughe since 1987, the records show.

Oregon incarceration

O’Neall has been incarcerated in an Oregon penitentiary since November 2008 for kidnapping and repeatedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Portland girl in 1987.

O’Neall was sentenced to 135 years in prison in August 1990 for the attack on the teenager. He was convicted of first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sodomy, first-degree sex abuse, third-degree rape and third-degree sodomy in the case.

At the time of his sentencing, O’Neall was already serving a nearly 28-year-long sentence in a Washington state prison for the 1987 killing of a 21-year-old Pierce County woman, according to Tacoma News Tribune archives.

O’Neall was ordered to begin serving his Oregon sentence upon completion of his Washington sentence, the archives state.

O’Neall’s earliest release date from the Oregon prison is May 2033, according to court records.

In mid-December 2022, the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office sent a request to the Oregon Department of Corrections to take temporary custody of O’Neall.

The request was sent to Oregon’s then-Gov. Kate Brown, who had 30 days to consider the request, according to a response from the Oregon corrections department.