Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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Sentencing in Brutal Castro Valley Cold Case Murder

On July 17, 2017, Defendants Cheryl Ann Drace and William Joseph Devincenzi were each sentenced to 15 years to life for the cold case murder of Defendant Drace's ex-husband Stephen Rudiger in 1990. The cold-blooded murder of Mr Rudiger 27 years ago had remained open until a 2010 anonymous tip helped solve the mystery.

Defendant Cheryl Ann Drace and Mr Rudiger married in 1985 and both had children from their previous relationships. But by mid-1990, Defendant Drace had become prison-penpals with Defendant William Devincenzi, who was serving time in Federal Prison. She would frequently speak to Defendant Devincenzi for hours at a time on the phone and they wrote love letters to each other. In September 1990, divorce proceedings between Defendant Drace and Mr Rudiger were finalized, though one matter remained unresolved: the sale of their Castro Valley home.

Defendant Drace refused to lower the price of the house, so the family court judge intervened and said he would lower the price every month if they did not sell the home and live separately. Meanwhile, Mr Rudiger and Defendant Drace continued to live in the house together. The victim repeatedly told his friends and family that Defendant Drace was stripping the house of valuables and he chose to remain to protect the inheritance of his three daughters.

During this time, Mr Rudiger changed his will to reflect the dissolution of his marriage and told his co-workers that he was in fear of his life. He said Defendant Drace had bought a gun and had threatened him with it.

As 1990 drew to a close, Mr Rudiger feared his death was imminent. Mr Rudiger mentioned to friends and colleagues that his ex-wife, Defendant Drace, had moved her boyfriend and recent parolee, Defendant William Joseph Devincenzi, into the house. The beloved cat of Mr Rudiger had also disappeared and the cat’s collar was hung on the doorknob of his bedroom. The day prior to his murder, Mr Rudiger placed a copy of his will in his toolbox at work and mentioned it to a colleague.

In the late evening of December 27, 1990, Mr Rudiger was brutally murdered by Defendant Drace and her boyfriend, Defendant Devincenzi. Mr Rudiger was stabbed at least 21 times and beaten to death. He fought for his life, as evidenced by the defensive wounds on the inside of his fingers. While Mr Rudiger laid slowly dying, he looked up at Defendant Drace and said "Why are you doing this, Cheryl? All I ever did was love you.”

In the hours following the murder, Defendants Drace and Devincenzi had packed up Mr Rudiger’s truck with the body of Mr Rudiger in the back, along with other evidence they wanted to destroy. Defendant Drace drove her car to a spot along Redwood Road with Defendant Devincenzi following just behind in Mr Rudiger’s truck. They dumped the body close to the spot where Mr Rudiger and Defendant Drace had been married five years before. They disposed of Mr Rudiger’s truck in Oakland, leaving the keys in the car in an attempt to set-up other people for his murder.

When the victim didn't show up for work on December 28th, 1990, his colleague knew something was wrong. The colleague alerted Mr Rudiger’s brother and then went to Mr Rudiger’s house in Castro Valley. There was no answer at the door, and Mr Rudiger’s truck was gone.

A few hours later, the body of Mr Rudiger was spotted by a passer¬by down a steep embankment on Redwood Road. East Bay Regional Parks recovered the body of Mr Rudiger. Meanwhile, Defendants Drace and Devincenzi drove to Reno and were married that same day.

In 2010, The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip about the murder. With this new information, and along with DNA, ACSO were able to reopen the investigation and solve the murder of Mr Stephen Rudiger.

Defendant William Joseph Devincenzi pled guilty to second degree murder on February 22, 2016. Defendant Cheryl Ann Drace pled to second degree murder on April 6, 2017. Both Defendants were sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

This case was prosecuted by Senior DDA Angela Backers, with assistance from DA Inspector Gus Galindo and Victim-Witness Advocate Nadia Bueno.

Posted on Jul 21, 2017