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Husband arrested in 1989 'quilt cold case' murder of California mother

  • quiltcase12.jpg

    UNDATED: Cathy Zimmer, a 38-year-old mother of two, was found dead in the backseat of her car in a San Jose airport parking lot on March 10, 1989. She was covered by a quilt. (Santa Clara County District's Attorney's Office)

  • quiltcase_12.jpg

    UNDATED: Cathy Zimmer, a 38-year-old mother of two, was found dead in the backseat of her car in a San Jose airport parking lot on March 10, 1989. She was covered by this quilt. (SANTA CLARA COUNTY DISTRICT'S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE)

Nearly 25 years after a Northern California woman was found strangled to death under a quilt in her car, authorities on Friday announced the arrest of her husband and his brother on murder charges.

The arrests came just weeks after prosecutors in Santa Clara County released new details in hopes of finally solving the case, including photos of the large, colorful quilt that covered Cathy Zimmer's body when she was found March 10, 1989.

David Zimmer, 66, of Half Moon Bay, was arrested Friday in the slaying of his estranged wife. Cathy Zimmer's body was found wrapped in a patchwork quilt in the backseat of her Chrysler New Yorker in a parking lot at San Jose International Airport in 1989, the Santa Clara County district attorney's office said.

David Zimmer's brother, Robert Zimmer, 69, of Santa Clara, was arrested last week on similar charges.

Prosecutors said an investigation revealed the couple was going through a separation at the time Cathy Zimmer was killed. The 38-year-old mother of two worked part-time at a real estate office and took classes at San Jose State University, where she was last seen two days before her body was discovered.

Within a month of his wife's slaying, David Zimmer sold their home for more than $225,000 and collected from two life insurance policies totaling $183,000, authorities said.

Yet evidence also linked Robert Zimmer to the case, according to court documents. Evidence found "in an intimate area" of an item of Cathy Zimmer's clothing matched Robert Zimmer's DNA profile, investigators wrote in a court affidavit. 

Zimmer's DNA could have been on file with the county's crime lab because he was arrested in Santa Clara County in fall 2010, according to court records obtained by the San Jose Mercury News. It was not immediately clear what he was arrested for at the time.

Robert Zimmer told his daughter that he had met with Cathy Zimmer on the day she was killed, that he was in the car with Cathy Zimmer because he was worried about her, and that he was concerned that his fingerprints would be found in the car, thus implicating him in her murder, investigators wrote.

During an interview with investigators two months ago, the court document said, Robert Zimmer told them that had had no personal or sexual relationship with Cathy Zimmer. When asked if he was ever alone in a car with Cathy Zimmer, he stated that he "did not recall."

According to District Attorney Jeff Rosen the cold case unit, which was restored in 2011, has  helped solve five major cases in the county, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"When I reinstated the cold case unit to assist county law enforcement with the investigation of unsolved homicides and sexual assaults, it was these kinds of arrests that I had in mind," Rosen said in a statement. "We do not forget victims, nor do we ever give up on justice."

David Zimmer was scheduled to be arraigned next week. Robert Zimmer already has made an initial appearance in court and is due back April 18.

Both are being held without bail. It was not known if they had retained lawyers who could be reached for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from KTVU.com.

Click here for more from MercuryNews.com.

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