Five days after Ryan Scott Blinston had finished trimming trees at Loreen and Homer Severs’ California home last May, the 37-year-old decided to go back and take care of some unfinished business.
After forcing his way into the elderly couple’s house in Los Molinos, about two hours outside of Sacramento, Blinston cut both of their throats—instantly killing 88-year-old Loreen, authorities say. While her 91-year-old husband miraculously survived, the attack marked the start of a grisly two-month crime spree, during which Blinston allegedly killed two other people he targeted while working for a tree-trimming service.
“This case is different from other homicides we have dealt with. There was no fight, no jilted lover, no drug deal gone bad. None of these murders were anything like that,” Tehama County District Attorney Matthew D. Rogers told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “They were just purely random attacks of defenseless people.”
At one point during a multi-county investigation into the spate of murders, Rogers said he remembers a moment “where we were like wow, we may have a serial killer on our hands.”
On Wednesday, the Butte County and Tehama County District Attorney’s offices announced several charges, including murder and attempted murder, against Blinston for the bloody crime spree. In addition to the May 23, 2020, murder of Severs and the attempted murder of her husband, who died of natural causes last year, Blinston has been charged with the June 2020 deaths of Sandra George, 82, and an acquaintance, 57-year-old Vicky Cline, both of Oroville. Prosecutors have also charged Blinston with arson for allegedly setting Cline’s car ablaze.
Blinston, who is expected in court on Thursday, was arrested about a week after Cline’s disappearance last June—while allegedly attempting to kill another individual with a hatchet—and has been in jail since.
A criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast includes special sentencing allegations that he “used a deadly and dangerous weapon... a cutting implement,” attacked an elderly victim, and murdered several people.
Authorities say that less than two weeks after Blinston attacked the Severs, he zeroed in on his next target while working on a tree-trimming crew. After the crew had left George’s Oroville property for the day on June 4, Blinston allegedly returned to her home and fatally slashed her throat.
Just two days later, Cline, who worked as a waitress and had apparently turned her life around after enduring unspecified tough times, was last seen with Blinston, according to authorities. Later that night, her car was destroyed in a fire.
“[You’re] so beautiful cousin!” one of Cline’s family members wrote on Facebook in 2012, eight years before her murder. “Thank you! I’ve cleaned my act up and doing alot better,” Cline replied. “I feel like the old Vicky again,” she added in another message.
In a joint statement released Thursday by the Butte County and Tehama County District Attorney’s offices, authorities said, “blood and DNA evidence on and in Blinston’s car was forensically matched back to Cline.”
A Butte County sheriff’s SWAT team tracked Blinston to a motorhome in an isolated area on June 14 with the intent of arresting him for torching Cline’s car. But when the officers got closer to the RV, they heard a man’s muffled screams coming from inside and loud banging sounds.
“The banging turned out to be Blinston attempting to get into the motorhome with a hatchet,” said the DA’s statement.
Blinston, who had met the 50-year-old owner of the motorhome that day, stayed over after telling the man he was afraid to leave after dark in case of a bear attack. He tried to outrun the police but was soon caught hiding in heavy brush nearby, hatchet still in hand, and jailed.
The motorhome owner told authorities that he had been asleep and woke up to find Blinston attacking him with a knife, according to Butte County District Attorney Michael L. Ramsey. After Blinston slashed his victim’s neck, the man—whose imminent demise was almost certainly staved off by the police raid—somehow managed to get Blinston out of the motorhome and lock the door, Ramsey stated.
The man was airlifted to a hospital for treatment and survived.
Authorities say that on June 21, 2020, a fisherman in the Feather River finally discovered Cline’s body. Her throat was slashed in a similar manner “consistent with the other victim murders.”
“The guy’s a dirtbag and he ought to be executed, bottom line,” Tom Dowd, a retired agricultural biologist who has lived in nearby Durham, California, his whole life, told The Daily Beast. “This is farming country, mostly conservative folks, there’s all sorts of people in the hills like that guy—all sorts of drug activity going on, meth, they’re kind of isolated, away from law enforcement. Those kinds of things are happening in the hills all the time around here. It’s insanity.”
Sergeant Patrick McNelis and Detective Vaj Thao of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, the lead investigators on the case, were unable to comment. Meghan McMahon, the Butte County Sheriff’s public information officer, declined to comment on behalf of the department. Family members for the victims did not immediately respond for comment.
For Rogers, the charges against Blinston mark the beginning of the end of one of the most “shocking cases” he has come across in his career.
“The victims were well-loved in the community and the hardest part is that these crimes were really out of nowhere. No robbery and burglary—he just would go in, slash their throats, and leave,” he added.