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Tree Trimmer in California Is Throat-Slashing Suspected ‘Serial Killer’: Prosecutors


Ryan Scott Blinston is seen in an image released by the Butte County, Calif. District Attorney’s Office

Authorities believe a rural California tree trimmer is a “serial killer.”

The Butte County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday charged Ryan Scott Blinston, 37, of Oroville, Calif., with three separate murders and another attempted murder. Blinston was already in jail on charges connected with a different attempted murder when the four new charges were lodged against him.

Blinston is accused of killing Loreen Severs, 88, and is accused of trying to kill her husband, Homer Severs, 91, of Los Molinos (he reportedly died in Dec. 2020 from an unrelated illness). He is also charged with killing Sandra George, 82, and Vicky Cline, 57, both of Oroville. Cline has been described as a friend of the suspect. Blinston is further charged with arson for allegedly setting fire to Cline’s car.

The additional charges came as Blinston sat in jail on accusations he attempted to kill another man in a mobile home in Brush Creek, Calif., on June 21, 2020.  Authorities say they caught Blinston in the act of trying to enter a motorhome to finish a throat-slitting he’d attempted shortly before the authorities arrived.

A Butte County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team “stealthily approached” that “isolated motorhome in a heavily wooded and isolated area,” a news release stated in dramatic fashion:

Information had been developed that Blinston was staying on the property with a 50-year-old male resident. As the team approached the motorhome, they heard the muffled screams of a man inside and loud banging on the outside of the motorhome. The banging turned out to be Blinston attempting to get into the motorhome with a hatchet. The motorhome resident later told officers he was asleep in his bed when Blinston suddenly attacked him and cut his throat. The resident was able to kick Blinston out of the motorhome and lock the door, but Blinston was attempting to get back in the motorhome when the SWAT team coincidently arrived. Blinston attempted to run into the woods but was captured by the team. The resident was tended to by the team’s medic and taken by helicopter to a local hospital.

The man survived and Blinston was charged with attempted murder and has been held without bail in Butte County Jail pending court proceedings as the investigative teams put together the other Butte and Tehama murder cases.

While Blinston sat in jail, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey and Tehama County District Attorney Matt Rogers said their officers pursued a joint multi-count murder complaint in Butte County Superior Court which allows a possible sentence of life without parole against the defendant.  Their joint press release laid out how authorities believe Blinston killed — and attempted to kill — the earlier victims:

The multi-agency investigation revealed that Blinston worked for a tree-trimming service and was part of a work crew at the Severs’ Los Molinos home on May 18, 2020. Evidence showed Blinston returned to the Severs’ home on May 23, 2020, and killed Loreen and attempted to kill Homer after a forced entry into their home. Both had their throats cut. Homer survived the attack, but later died of an unrelated illness in December of 2020.

On June 4, 2020, Blinston again was part of a tree-trimming work crew that serviced Sandra George’s Oroville home. After the work was completed and the crew left, Blinston returned to George’s home and killed her. As with the Severs, her throat was slashed inside her home.

On June 6, 2020, Vicky Cline, an acquaintance of Blinston, was last seen alive with him in downtown Oroville. An arson fire destroyed Cline’s car later that night. Blood and DNA evidence on and in Blinston’s car was forensically matched back to Cline. Her body was later discovered by a fisherman in the Feather River near Belden on June 21, 2020. Damage to her throat was consistent with the other victim murders.

The crime scenes are one to two hours due north of Sacramento.

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.