North Sound News

Prosecutors say possible serial killer is suspect in Bellingham woman’s 1987 murder

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A 36-year-old missing person’s case in Whatcom County is now a homicide, and prosecutors believe an accused serial killer who’s been serving a prison sentence in Oregon is the main suspect.

In 1987, Darren Dee O’Neall was the suspect in the disappearance of 29-year-old Wendy Aughe, according to the Bellingham Herald.

Police said Aughe, 29, had told coworkers she was going to go on a date with a man she had met that day.

Her body has never been found, though pools of drying blood were found in her bedroom.

O’Neall served jail time for stealing Aughe’s car but was never charged with her death. He has been serving time in an Oregon prison since 2008 for the kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old Portland girl in 1987, the Seattle Times reported.

In 2015, Bellingham police received DNA evidence linking O’Neall to Aughe from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. Five years later, in 2020, Bellingham police received another DNA report linking O’Neall to Aughe, and the following year, cheek swabs were taken from O’Neall and sent to the WSP lab, according to the Herald.

On Oct. 11, 2022, O’Neall was charged with second-degree murder for Aughe’s death, according to the Herald.

He was extradited to Washington on Wednesday from the Two Rivers Correctional Institute in Umatilla, Oregon, and appeared in Whatcom County court on Thursday.

O’Neal, now 63, has also been accused of murders in Utah and Idaho.

“Prior to that, he was convicted of murder in the first degree in Pierce County and possession of stolen property under circumstances similar to the present case. It is my understanding that the defendant may also be a suspect involving other crimes of violence and murder in other jurisdictions,” Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric Richey said in court on Thursday.

At one point, O’Neall was on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list before he went to prison.

O’Neall’s bond was set at $10 million. His next hearing will be on March 10.

“Nothing short of dedicated investigative work started by Bellingham Police Department detectives in 1987, continuing for 35 years, and working with improved DNA testing allowed this case to be solved,” Bellingham Police Chief Rebecca Mertzig said in a news release. “This is truly exemplary teamwork spanning three generations of BPD detectives to never stop the work of finding justice for Wendy’s family.”