A Ventura County man has been charged with the cold case murders of two young women in the 1980s on Thursday.

The suspect, Tony Garcia, 68, is accused of killing Rachel Zendejas, a Camarillo resident and Lisa Gondek, an Oxnard resident, said the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

Authorities say Garcia allegedly kidnapped, raped and murdered Zendejas on Jan. 18, 1981.

Zendejas was a single mother of two daughters. According to police, after a night out, she dropped off her babysitters and was believed to have been attacked by Garcia on her way back home.

Two newspaper delivery boys discovered her body inside a carport on the 700 block of Mobil Avenue in Camarillo, just across the street from her family’s apartment. She was 20 years old at the time of her death.

Several months later, Garcia also allegedly murdered Gondek on Dec. 12, 1981. Gondek was out with friends that evening before she was dropped off at her Gonzales Road apartment in Oxnard.

Soon after, her neighbors reported seeing a fire coming from her building. Gondek’s remains were discovered in a bathtub inside her apartment, authorities said. She was 21 years old when she died.

Autopsy reports show that both women died from strangulation.

  • Tony Garcia in an undated photo from the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.
  • Rachel Zendejas in a photo from the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.
  • Lisa Gondek in a photo from the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.
  • Tony Garcia in a recent photo from the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.
  • Tony Garcia has been charged with the 1981 murders of Rachel Zendejas and Lisa Gondek. (Ventura County District Attorney's Office)

Authorities say Garcia was in the Navy and was working as a karate instructor during that time.

Both cases went unsolved for over 40 years until in 2004, Garcia was linked to the murders using new DNA analysis technology, authorities said.

“The fact is, this suspect has been hiding in plain sight for over 40 years,” said Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff.

Garcia was arrested on Feb. 7 and charged with two counts of murder. He made his first court appearance on Thursday and has an arraignment hearing scheduled for Feb. 23.

“After more than four decades, justice is finally coming to the families of Rachel Zendejas and Lisa Gondek,” said Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko. “As this case demonstrates, murder charges can be brought at any time and there is no statute of limitations for homicides. We thank the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, and the Oxnard Police Department for never giving up on finding Rachel and Lisa’s killer.”

The investigation remains ongoing.

Anyone with information about Garcia or these cases is asked to contact the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Bureau at 805-383-8704 or email coldcase@ventura.org.

Garcia is currently being held in the Ventura County Jail without bail.