Court records show Santini’s trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 28. He was initially charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping, which could have landed him in prison with a life sentence.
Santini lived in California and Texas under the alias Wellman Simmonds. He eluded authorities for years but was caught when he reportedly applied for a passport and officials took his fingerprints. The state attorney’s office said the prints were a match for Wood’s missing killer.
Hillsborough County Jail records listed his other aliases, which included Joseph Brewster, Steve Buice, Charles Stevens, and John Trimble, among others.
According to the original affidavit, Wood was last seen alive June 5, 1984, and her body was found four days later. Santini allegedly admitted to someone on June 6, 1984, that he fatally strangled Wood. Her body was found June 9, 1984.
KGTV-TV reports Santini was an active member of the San Diego community when he lived under the name Wellman Simmonds and reportedly served on local leadership boards.
State Attorney Suzy Lopez said in the statement, "No family should have to spend decades waiting for justice to be served in the cruel murder of their loved one. This defendant not only stole an innocent life, but he also left a family without their mother, and without answer."