South Carolina man charged in 1998 East Hampton "cold case" homicide

A South Carolina man has been arrested and charged with murder in the 1998 homicide of a woman found strangled in an East Hampton stream, the state Division of Criminal Justice said.

Gerald Brian Tuttle, 51, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Surfside Beach, S.C., and was charged as a fugitive from justice in the homicide of Gertrude Ochankowski. He was charged with one count of murder in an arrest warrant issued in Connecticut.

Bond was set at $1 million.

East Hampton police found Ochankowski’s body on Jan. 12, 1998, after responding to a report of a woman’s body in a stream just off of Tartia Road in East Hampton, an area known as Engel’s Falls.

Ochankowski was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined she had been strangled and ruled the case a homicide.

Ochankowski had been the subject of a missing person’s investigation earlier that day after her car was found running in the front parking lot of 82 Main St. in East Hampton. Witnesses saw her car running with her dog inside as early as 9:30 p.m. Jan. 11.

The state had authorized a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The case was investigated by the East Hampton Police Department in conjunction with the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Middlesex and the Cold Case Unit in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

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