Who is Steven Paul Criss? Army vet arrested in 1974 murders of 2 teen boys who were shot in the head

Steven Paul Criss allegedly shot dead 16-year-old Donny Bartron and 18-year-old Pete Zito, Jr in an execution-style shooting

Who is Steven Paul Criss? Army vet arrested in 1974 murders of 2 teen boys who were shot in the head
Pete Zito, Jr (L) and Donny Bartron (R) were killed by Steven Paul Criss (C) (Washington County Sheriff’s Office)
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PORTLAND, OREGON: An army vet has been arrested for the murder of two teenage boys in 1974 in Oregon, officials have confirmed. 65-year-old Steven Paul Criss allegedly shot dead 16-year-old Donny Bartron and 18-year-old Pete Zito, Jr in an execution-style shooting. The slaying took place in a rec center parking lot in 1974. The following morning, the bodies of the two boys were found by an Oregonian newspaper delivery driver.

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At the time when he was shot, Barton had been working on the engine of a 1956 Oldsmobile. His body was discovered slumped over under the open hood. Zito, on the other hand, was found lying on the ground next to the driver’s door. “Both teens had been shot multiple times in the head with a .22 caliber gun,” case lead Det Mark Povolny said at a Friday press conference.

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Both Criss and Barton worked at the Black Angus restaurant in Hillsboro. They were co-workers but it was said they did not get along, according to police. Officers knew Criss “had reason to be upset with Donnie," but they pursued another suspect.

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Joseph Amir Wilson was later arrested and charged with double murder. However, he continuously maintained innocence. Wilson was accused of assaulting another person at the recreational center a few hours before Bartron and Zito were murdered, and officers, therefore, believed he shot the two boys in a case of “mistaken identity". However, he was later released without conviction, New York Post reported. 

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Who is Steven Paul Criss?

Not much is known about Criss except that he went on to become a suspect after the sheriff’s office arrested him for theft just two months after the murder. A .22 caliber gun was found inside the car, Povolny said. Police, however, could not match his gun to the murder scene, and it was subsequently returned to Criss. Criss took the gun with him to the Fort Lewis United States Army base in Washington and eventually used it to kill his commanding officer, Sgt Jacob Kim Brown. Brown's murder took place nearly two years to the date that Barton and Zito were slaughtered.

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The shooting took place after an argument between Criss and his Boss. Criss, who shot the man five times, had damaged Brown’s car, and instead of paying for repairs, he killed him. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in jail but was released after 12.

Meanwhile, 38 years later, Washington County sheriffs decided to reopen the double-murder case. They planned to re-run ballistics on the gun Criss used to murder Brown, and this time it matched. Criss, who had been living in Iowa, was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder, according to the department.

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“Mr Criss was taken into custody using the same pair of handcuffs used when deputies arrested him in December 1974,” Povolny said. The detective added that the gun match is the “oldest known match nationwide” that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has ever been able to confirm. 

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