Fugitive arrested after nearly four decades on the run

Murder victim victim Cynthia Ruth Wood (left) and accused killer Donald Michael Santini (Image: Hillsborough Sheriff's Department)
Murder victim victim Cynthia Ruth Wood (left) and accused killer Donald Michael Santini (Image: Hillsborough Sheriff’s Department)

OAN’s Sophia Flores
11:55 AM – Thursday, June 29, 2023

A man who has appeared on ‘America’s Most Wanted’ several times for his notable 1984 murder has finally been arrested.


Nearly four decades later, the infamous Donald Santini has been captured in relation to the murder of Cynthia Wood. The Florida man was reportedly the last person to be seen with Wood. Her body was discovered in a ditch with strangle marks all over her body.

The two had met at a daycare where Wood worked. Santini was picking up his then-girlfriend’s children from the facility and he introduced himself to Wood. During that time, she was going through a divorce.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

Santini was apprehended last month following a tip provided to the U.S. Marshals Services by the Florida/Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force.

On Wednesday, Santini was extradited from San Diego, California to Tampa, Florida. There, he was booked at the Orient Road jail on a first-degree murder charge.

“The arrest of Donald Santini brings closure to a long-standing cold case and provides justice for the victim and her family after nearly four decades of waiting,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “Let’s not forget the tireless work that has gone into this case over the years, the resources, and expertise to pursue justice for Cynthia Wood.”

This is not Santini’s first time behind bars. He served some time for raping a woman while he was stationed in Germany.

For years, Santini had been living under the alias “Wellman Simmonds.” As Simmonds, he owned a restaurant, volunteered with the Rotary Club, and ran an apartment block. The 65-year-old mentioned to a news station that no one in his life knew about his past, including his wife of 30 years.

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