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Florida man arrested in 1972 death of Palm Springs prostitute

January 10, 2012 | 10:30 pm

A Florida man was arrested Tuesday in connection with the slaying of a Palm Springs prostitute 39 years ago, a killing that had remained unsolved until it was reopened by cold case detectives with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Michael Hayes, 63, was taken into custody with help from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department at his Pompano Beach home. He was arrested on suspicion of murder in the death of Mary Costa, 23.

Costa’s decomposed body was found off Cottonwood Road and Avenue 20 in the Desert Hot Springs area on March 12, 1972. She was killed one to four weeks before her body was found, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Costa worked as a prostitute in Palm Springs and was last seen at a bar in the area. In 2010, the Sheriff’s Department's cold case team reopened the investigation, retesting evidence and re-interviewing witnesses.

The evidence, seriously degraded, provided few clues. But witnesses led investigators to Hayes, authorities said.


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-- Phil Willon in Riverside