The so-called mastermind of the abduction, rape and murder of University of New Mexico student Linda Lee Daniels has died in prison, almost 29 years to the day when his crime sent shock waves throughout the Albuquerque community.
Johnny Zinn, who had been housed at the long-term care unit of the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas, died last week, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin confirmed Wednesday. He was 74.
Zinn had been serving a sentence of life plus 96 years after being found guilty of first-degree murder and 18 other charges in Daniels’ death.
Daniels, a 22-year-old anthropology major, was abducted Jan. 12, 1986, outside her boyfriend’s house in the Northeast Heights by three men who had been sent by Zinn, then 45, on a search for a woman to star in a pornographic video.
The three spotted her in a grocery store and followed her.
The men – Sidney Thomas Sliger, then 20, Wallace Randolph Pierce, then 24, and James Scartaccini, then 17 – were to be paid $1,500 apiece by Zinn, according to court testimony.
Instead of shooting a video, however, Daniels was taken to an East Central motel, where the men took turns raping her at knifepoint. She was later driven to the Jemez Mountains northwest of Albuquerque, where she was shot in the head and left under a bridge. Scartaccini led authorities to her body Jan. 20, 1986.
News of Daniels’ disappearance terrorized the city, sending many women to self-defense classes and sales of firearms skyrocketing. The publicity of her disappearance was the reason given, according to testimony, as to why Zinn ordered Daniels’ death.
Pierce, believed to be the one who fired the fatal shot, was sentenced to 66 years in prison. Sliger pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to three years. Scartaccini, given a controversial immunity deal in exchange for his cooperation, served no prison time. He hanged himself in 1990.
Tomlin said she was not at liberty to say what Zinn died of, whether he had been in failing health or how long he had been in the long-term care unit, citing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act confidentiality laws.
But previous news accounts indicate that Zinn had been transferred to the unit, which houses ailing and elderly inmates, in early 2013.