Spokane police arrest L.A. man in connection with 40-year-old cold case murder
Nov. 9, 2022 Updated Wed., Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:17 p.m.
Betty Tomlinson and Archie Rutherford are pictured for a production of in “The World Of Carl Sandburg.” (Cowles Publishing)
A suspect in a 40-year-old cold case killing has been arrested in Los Angeles, Spokane police said in a news release on Wednesday.
Police officers from the Spokane Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department arrested 62-year-old Tracy Sabron Pruitt on suspicion of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Spokane businessman Archie Rutherford on May 25, 1982. Pruitt remains in custody in California awaiting extradition, which could take several months, police said.
Spokane police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said DNA is one of the elements that led to Pruitt’s arrest, but that she could not provide other details because the investigation is active.
Rutherford, 58, was found in the bedroom of his South Hill home, at E. 1207 27th St., with fatal stab wounds, a skull fracture and electrical cord tied around his neck.
He was found “unclothed in his blood-soaked bed,” a Spokesman-Review article from the time reported. There was no evidence of forced entry, the article said.
His wife, Eleanor Rutherford, a former Spokesman-Review columnist, discovered his body at about 4:40 p.m. that day after returning from a three-day trip. She had not heard from her husband since Sunday and became worried when he did not meet her at the airport that Tuesday.
Rutherford was likely knocked unconscious by a blow to the head before he was repeatedly stabbed to the left side of the head and neck, Coroner Lois Shanks told the Spokesman-Review at the time. He was likely asleep when the attack began, she said.
Certain objects around Rutherford’s home appeared to have been used in the attack, potentially including a glass decanter that had been shattered, the article said. The report also mentioned two open liquor bottles found in the house.
Rutherford’s vehicle was missing from the driveway when his body was discovered but was later found at the 1200 block of West Sprague Avenue. Police did not make any arrests at the time of his death.
Pruitt was arrested in Ohio for an unrelated rape and robbery charge later that same year and spent 27 years in prison, police said in the news release.
Rutherford worked as a night clerk at the Trade Winds Motor Hotel downtown and had been a part-owner with family members of drive-in restaurants called Rutherford’s Triple XXX. He was also active in the Spokane Civic Theatre and had directed several plays. Eleanor Rutherford died in 1996.
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