It was Feb. 4, 1979, and three young men would never make it home.
All three men: Michael Olsen (newly married and father of a one-year-old daughter), Tracy Anderson and William Baumgartner were finishing up their shift at the PayLess drug store at 666 Concar Drive in San Mateo (now a Rite Aid store). The store closed at 7:00 pm and the trio was performing the regular duties after the store had closed.
Olsen’s wife called the store to speak to him after the store had closed but the phone just rang endlessly. That was unusual. The cleaning crew showed up for their nightly shift but nobody answered their knocking to get into the store. That, too, was unusual.
Eventually, a key from the store manager let the crew in where they found a bloody crime scene: the three men had been shot at close range and were lying in pools of blood in the back storeroom or in the upstairs office. The police were called.
Wanting to take advantage of the fact that the shootings had taken place so recently, the police moved quickly to process the crime scene. It was a futile exercise. In the time before DNA testing, there was only so much they could do and they struggled to find any usable evidence. Fingerprint collection was impossible as there had been countless customers and numerous employees throughout the store in recent hours.
What was apparent was that $20,000 was missing.
The investigation continued with what meager information the police could glean from the crime scene. Eventually, a PayLess employee named George Bandy became the most likely suspect. When questioned by police, Bandy gave contradictory information about his ownership of a gun matching the bullets found at the scene, his reason for being in the store on the date in question (it was his day off), and other particulars about the crime and evening in question. Nothing he said added up. He broke down during his interrogation and curled up into a fetal position - but he never confessed to anything related to the crime. He failed a total of three lie detector tests, which were unfortunately not admissible in court. The police were pretty sure they had their man, they just couldn’t prove it. Still, they moved forward and arrested Bandy in San Diego nearly 20 months after the killings. He was held on one million dollars bail, but it was a moot point: the judge at the preliminary trial freed him due to insufficient evidence.
And the case went cold, although some police officers continued to investigate (and to pursue Bandy, now supposedly living out of the country) as time allowed. In 2003, there was an attempt to revive the investigation, which had generated binders of information totaling a span of more than four feet in length, and in 2007 the loved ones of the three victims made an impassioned plea for help from the public in closing the case.
The case remains unsolved and is one of the most nefarious triple homicides in our county’s history.