11-year-old girl’s cold case 1973 murder in California cracked with help of DNA, genealogical website

1973 cold case cracked in case of 11-year-old girl's murder

SANTA ANA, CA (KTLA/CNN) - Police in California believe they have solved a cold-case child murder more than four decades old.

Linda O'Keefe was murdered in 1973. She was 11 at the time of her death.

A suspect in the case is now in custody in Colorado.

Authorities said DNA evidence and a genealogy website led to the arrest.

“Well over the years you think about it all the time,” said retired Newport Beach police officer Stan Bressler, who worked the case back in the 70s. “I don’t think that ever leaves anybody that was working then - it never left your thoughts.”

Linda was last seen talking to a stranger in a van on her way home from a day at summer school.

Linda O'Keefe was last seen walking home from summer school in 1973.
Linda O'Keefe was last seen walking home from summer school in 1973. (Source: KTLA/CNN/Newport Beach Police)

Her body would later be found in the back bay where Bressler and a group of explorers would be called out to search for evidence. But for decades the trail went cold.

Still, police never forgot. They said her picture even hangs in the detective division where it can be seen every day.

Last summer, on the 45th anniversary of the murder, the department launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of the case.

Then, recently, detectives got a break - some DNA from the case that was entered into a genealogical database led them to 72-year-old James Alan Neal of Colorado, who went by the name of James Alan George Layton at the time of the crime.

Police said they were confident based upon the DNA that Neal should be charged with murder as well as the kidnapping and the allegations of sexual assault.

Bressler, when he heard the news, expressed relief.

“Well, just - we got him."

The district attorney in the case said he doesn't know yet if Neal will waive extradition.

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