SANTA ANA, California – For decades, the investigators searched for the murderer of an eleven-year-old girl who disappeared home during a summer school walk, in a case involving a Californian coastal community.
A photo Of a smiling Linda O'Keefe hanging on the wall of the Newport Beach Police Department for years, reminding the investigators to continue on cold cases like hers.
More than four decades later, Southern California authorities reported Wednesday that a Colorado man was arrested and charged with murdering her in 1973. The announcement came on the same day the authorities claimed that they had indicted a man for murdering an eleven-year-old boy near Los Angeles in 1990.
In Linda's case, the authorities said they had received a hit from a genealogical database last month that matched a DNA sample taken when her body was strangled in a ditch one day after she was lost. Increasingly, investigators have found a powerful tool in databases that consists of DNA samples submitted by people looking for information about their ancestors.
"The detectives were following this case." Suspects or their relatives submitted DNA for genealogical purposes. "We have every opportunity in the world to solve so many of these cold cases that we never had hope of before."
James Neal, 72, was arrested on Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and charged with murder Under special circumstances in O & # 39; s Keefes death Spitzer said.
"He seemed to be a good person," said Neal's landlord Michael Thulson of the Colorado Springs Gazette. "I had no clues that he was able to do even ten steps less than this, which only shows you what you do not know."
Neal's son-in-law told the newspaper that the family was unwilling to comment. It was not immediately clear if Neal had a lawyer who could speak for him, and the voicemail was full for a number listed for him.
Neal should appear in court in Colorado on Thursday.
Los Angeles According to the authorities, 50-year-old Edward Donell Thomas was arrested and charged with kidnapping and killing William Tillett. The boy disappeared when he went home from the Inglewood school. His body was found later in the day in a dark carport. The coroner realized he was suffocating.
Inglewood police have "significant and compelling evidence that implicates Edward Thomas in the murder of William Tillett," said Captain Mark Fried. He refused.
Thomas was detained without bail and it was not known if he had a lawyer. His indictment is scheduled for April 4.
In Newport Beach, O & # 39; keefe went home from the Summer School in July 1973 when she disappeared. She had been last seen talking to a stranger in a van and never came home, Newport Beach chief of police Jon Lewis said.
Her family and friends searched for her and called the police. The next morning, her body was found.
The authorities said they never stopped searching for their killer even after decades had passed and their parents had died. The suspect's DNA profile was uploaded into a criminal database in 2001, but there were no hits after years,
The police released sketches of the suspect based on genealogical evidence last year. They were found in a genealogical database this year. The investigators had received a DNA sample from Neal, and that agreed, said Spitzer.
Neal was living in Southern California at the time of the murder of O'Keefe, and shortly thereafter moved to Florida, where he changed his name, Spitzer said. The prosecutor declined to say if Neal had a criminal record.
The two living sisters of O & # 39; Keefe were informed of the arrest, the authorities said. Hundreds of people worked on the case over the years, the police chief said.
One of them was retired Newport Beach police officer Stan Bressler, who said O Keefe's death had amazed the community and never been forgotten. 19659005] "Every now and then just think," I wonder if we'll ever find him, "he said.
Christopher Weber, Associated Press, Contributed to This Report