Bellingham Police Detectives solve 35-year-old homicide case

Darren D. O’Neall, 63, Umatilla, OR, arrested and booked on murder charges

March 02, 2023 - by Claudia Murphy, BPD PIO

On Tuesday, April 28, 1987, Wendy L. Aughe, 29, was reported missing when she did not come and pick up her 8-year-old daughter.  Detectives found blood at Aughe’s home, along with other evidence suggesting a violent encounter occurred.  Aughe’s body was never recovered, but the investigation continued throughout the years.  Advancements in technology and the science of DNA testing in 2015 provided investigating detectives with a DNA profile belonging to O’Neall.  Based on the totality of the investigation probable cause for murder in the second degree was established and O’Neall was picked up on an extraditable warrant from Oregon on March 1, 2023, and booked into the Whatcom County Jail.

Original investigation

When detectives in 1987 investigated this case, they found Aughe was a student at McDonald’s Beauty School in Bellingham and went across Holly Street to the La Paloma restaurant for lunch.  When she returned from lunch, she told classmates she met a man in a three-piece-suit and was planning to go on a date with him that evening.  Aughe met her date, who told her his name was Mike, and introduced him to another friend of hers.  They gave a friend a ride home to Burlington and came back to visit one of Aughe’s friends in Bellingham.  Aughe was last seen at that friend’s house wearing gray pants, brown boots, and a Levi’s jeans jacket, in the early morning hours of April 25, 1987.  The clothing items were found (inside out between the bed and wall) at Aughe’s home on H Street during the service of the search warrant on April 29, 1987.

The man known to Aughe as Mike was seen at the Lighthouse Mission on April 25th at 7:30 a.m., where he told another resident he had spent the night with a woman.  He was seen removing his belongings from the Lighthouse Mission before driving away in Aughe’s 1972 Ford Torino.  He drove to the La Paloma, where he was starting his second day of work.  He was there about 15-30 minutes when he disappeared, leaving with all the money in the till and a bottle of Jack Daniels from the bar shelf.

On April 26, 1987 at 9:58 p.m., Aughe’s Ford Torino was logged entering the United States from Canada at the Oroville, WA port of entry.  Approximately eight hours later, on April 27th at 6:00 a.m., Aughe’s Torino was found abandoned in Eugene, Oregon.  Police in Oregon processed the recovered stolen car for latent fingerprints and found one on a Burger King hamburger box.  This latent print belonged to Darren D. O’Neall, who matched the description of the person claiming to Aughe and her friends to be Mike.  Latent prints belonging to O’Neall were also found on the job description “Mike” filled out at the La Paloma.

Clothing matching those worn by O’Neall earlier were found in the trunk of Aughe’s car.  Police also saw a small red dot, appearing to be blood, on the front left pocket of the pair of slacks found in the trunk.  O’Neall was later found guilty of auto theft in 1989 in Whatcom County Superior Court for stealing Aughe’s car.

Continuing investigation and DNA analysis

On August 15, 2015, Bellingham Police got a report from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory from testing of evidence collected from Aughe’s home, which had been submitted to them earlier. The report indicated the DNA profile from the semen stain on the bedsheet from Aughe’s bed originated from two individuals, the presumed profile of Aughe, and a single male source designated as individual B. The partial profile was entered into both the Washington State and National Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) databases.  A match between profiles of individual B and O’Neall was declared. Probable cause for murder in the second degree was established for O’Neall and an extraditable warrant for his arrest sought.


O’Neall was picked up from Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, OR, on March 1, 2023 on an extraditable warrant for murder second and transported back to Bellingham and booked into the Whatcom County Jail.

“Nothing short of dedicated investigative work started by BPD detectives in 1987, continuing for 35 years, and working with improved DNA testing allowed this case to be solved,” said Bellingham Police Chief Rebecca Mertzig.  “This is truly exemplary teamwork spanning three generations of BPD detectives to never stop the work of finding justice for Wendy’s family.”

Media Contact

Claudia Murphy, Lieutenant
Bellingham Police Department
(360) 815-2701

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