SANTA ANA, California – Investigators have been searching for decades for the murderer of a missing 11-year-old girl as she was walking home from a summer school, in a case that concerned a seaside community. California.
A smiling photo of Linda O 'Keefe is hanging on the wall of the Newport Beach Police Department, reminding investigators to continue to advance cases as serious as her own.
More than four decades later, Southern California authorities announced Wednesday that a Colorado man had been arrested and charged with murdering him in 1973. The announcement was made during the day. even where the authorities claimed to have indicted a man for killing an 11-year-old boy near Los Angeles Angeles in 1990.
In the case of Linda, the authorities said they were touched last month by a genealogical database that corresponds to a sample of DNA taken when her body was found strangled in a ditch a day after her disappearance. Investigators have increasingly found a powerful tool in databases consisting of DNA samples submitted by people seeking to know more about their ancestry.
"The investigators continued the case," Orange County attorney Todd Spitzer told reporters, without specifying whether the suspect or his relatives had submitted DNA for genealogical purposes. "We have every opportunity in the world to solve such a high number of unprecedented cases that we have never hoped to solve."
James Neal, 72, was arrested Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and charged with murder for special circumstances in the death of O 'Keefe, Spitzer said.
"He looked like a good guy," said Neal's owner, Michael Thulson, at the Colorado Springs Gazette. "I had no indication that he was capable of anything, even 10 not less than that, which just shows you what you do not know."
Neal's son-in-law told the newspaper that the family was not ready to comment. It was not clear right away if Neal had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf and if the voicemail was full of the number indicated for him.
Neal was scheduled to appear in Colorado court on Thursday.
In Los Angeles County, authorities said that Edward Donell Thomas, 50, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and killing William Tillett. The boy disappeared while he was walking home from school in Inglewood. His body was found in a dark carport later in the day. The coroner determined that he had been choked.
The Inglewood police have "substantial and convincing material evidence that implicates Edward Thomas in the murder of William Tillett," said Captain Mark Fried. He refused to elaborate.
Thomas was detained without bail, and we did not know he had a lawyer. His appearance is scheduled for April 4.
In Newport Beach, O 'Keefe was walking home from school in July 1973 when she disappeared. She was last seen talking to a stranger in a van and never went home, said Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis.
His family and friends sought him out and called the police. The next morning, his body was found.
The authorities said that they had never abandoned the search for his killer, even after decades and the death of his parents. The suspect's DNA profile was transferred to a criminal database in 2001, but there was no correspondence for years, authorities said.
Police released last year sketches of the suspect based on genealogical evidence. They had a success this year in a genealogical database, which led investigators to obtain a DNA sample from Neal, and that corresponded, said Spitzer.
Neal lived in southern California at the time of O Keefe's murder and soon after moved to Florida, where he changed his name, Spitzer said. The prosecutor refused to say if Neal had a criminal record.
The two living sisters of O & # 39; Keefe have been informed of the arrest, authorities said. Over the years, hundreds of people have worked on this case, said the police chief.
One of them, Stan Bressler, Newport Beach police officer, today retired, said that the death of O & # 39; Keefe had stunned the community and had never been forgotten.
"From time to time, you just think, 'Good God, I wonder if we'll ever meet him again,'" he says.
Christopher Weber, a writer with the Associated Press in Los Angeles, contributed to this report.