The wheels of justice have churned exceedingly slowly for Linda Louise Archer, the homeless woman found beaten to death in a culvert by the Castillo off-ramp back in 1997.
It would take Santa Barbara police investigators 18 years to arrest Manuel Salmeron Manzanares earlier this summer for Archer’s murder. And it would take another three hours of waiting around for nothing in particular in the otherwise unused courtroom of Judge Clifford Anderson for Manzanares to plead guilty to second-degree murder late this Friday morning, a process that took no more than ten minutes. Garbed in county jail blue with orange socks and slippers and a locked chain — that connected to his in-front-of-the-gut handcuffs — cinched around his waist, Manzanares — with the aid of an interpreter — answered “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes,” to a series of questions from county prosecutor Arnie Tolks.
Bottom line, Manzanares, now 37, will spend at least the next 16 years in state prison; after that, he would be eligible for parole. The procedure was utterly devoid of any trace of courtroom melodrama. None of Archer’s relatives were on hand, nor was the city detective Andy Hill, who got Manzanares to confess to the crime by confronting him with a last-minute DNA match.
At the time of the killing, Manzanares was a quasi-homeless young man barely north of age 18. Born in Mexico, he immigrated to the United States as a child with his family and grew up in Santa Barbara. According to court records, he would amass an extensive record of petty street crimes associated with his drug addiction.
There was little evidence of the violence used to kill Archer, then a 43-year-old mentally ill street person with two kids. Even in his confession, Manzanares was skimpy with details. He and Archer had come to an agreement to have sex, but Archer reportedly wanted a beer first. Manzanares objected. That seemingly minor disagreement escalated into a violent fight. Evidence suggests that Archer fled her homeless camp and that Manzanares caught her and beat her to death with a tree stump.
Police detectives worked the case hard, and twice they thought they had Archer’s killer. In both instances they were proven wrong. In 2012, city police detectives sent dried skin taken from underneath Archer’s fingernails to a national DNA lab to see if it matched with anyone behind bars. It belonged to Manzanares, who was then being held in the Lompoc federal prison for having re-entered the United States illegally.
Hill and another detective made the trek to Lompoc not long afterwards to interview Manzanares. Had he denied the crime, detectives worried prosecutors might have a hard time securing a conviction. There might be any number of reasons for such a DNA match. For whatever reason, Manzanares came clean. With that confession, the only question was whether he’d be convicted of second-degree murder — there was no evidence of the premeditation required of first-degree murder — or manslaughter. Although Manzanares pleaded guilty in court Friday, he won’t be sentenced for the killing until December 1.