More on Trinity Man Arrested in Florida Cold Case–Details on the Death of “Little Missy” and the Capture of the Suspect
A Trinity County man, Rodney Manley, was extradited to Florida yesterday in connection with a 15-year-old cold case–the homicide of Marion Louise Cato, battered to death and partially buried behind a motel.
A story posted a short time after her death in the St. Petersburg Times gives a sense of her life,
She was known as “little Missy” in some of the roughest parts of Clearwater.Marion Louise Cato, 31, was familiar to people at the coin laundry, bars and motels in the area of town known as the gateway. That’s where she was found dead Friday, killed by someone who left her body on a dirt path behind a cheap motel.
“We don’t know who (killed her) or why,” said Clearwater police Sgt. Doug Griffith. “She was living from motel to motel to motel. She’d just been evicted from one.”
According to the article, Cato was tiny–only 4’11” with a rich southern accent. She had three children, a “a 14-year-old boy and two girls, 6 and 3 years old.” For 15 years, her case was unsolved. Recently a new detective with the Clearwater Police was handed the case and submitted evidence to a lab that led to Manley’s arrest. Below is the press release provided by the Clearwater police.
Clearwater Police have charged a 61-year-old California man with first-degree murder in the slaying of a woman 15 years ago this month.
Rodney Dean Manley (DOB 7-16-53) was taken into custody on Wednesday by homicide detectives who traveled to Weaverville, Calif., where the suspect now resides. Manley is currently being held in the Trinity County Jail awaiting extradition.
Manley was charged in the slaying of Marion Cato, whose body was found April 28, 2000, next to what was then the Rio Hotel at 1488 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. Cato, 31, died from upper body trauma.
“This arrest shows what a new set of eyes and dogged determination can mean to a cold case like this,” said Police Chief Dan Slaughter. “For 15 years, our suspect thought he got away with murder. Our detectives made sure that wasn’t the case.”
Chief Slaughter lauded the work of Detective John Margnelli, who recently was handed the Cato case as a new member of the homicide squad. Margnelli is the detective who submitted the piece of evidence to the lab.
Chief Slaughter also thanked the Pinellas/Pasco Forensics Laboratory, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Latent Fingerprint Identification Section, the California Highway Patrol and the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office in California for their assistance in the case.
Homicide detectives, as part of their continued re-examination of cold-case homicides based upon a National Institute of Justice grant, worked closely with representatives of the Pinellas/Pasco Forensics Laboratory, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Latent Fingerprint Identification Section, and the Pinellas/Pasco State Attorney’s Office, to take another look at physical evidence collected during the investigation. Exhaustive testing by the Pinellas/Pasco Forensics Laboratory ultimately identified DNA from the crime scene as Manley’s. He lived in Pinellas County at the time and had been arrested on several occasions.
During questioning on Wednesday in California, Manley made several admissions to investigators relating to his role in this incident.