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The 1973 gruesome murder case of Linda O’Keefe resurfaced in 2018, exactly 45 years after it occurred, in a series of tweets as part of a campaign initiated by the Newport Beach Police Department. The motive was to narrate the story from Linda’s point of view, drawing attention from people across the world while also assisting the police in generating new leads for the cold case.
The murderer, James Alan Neal, was ultimately arrested in 2019 after a rigorous process of DNA testing. However, on May 25, 2020, the accused died in the hospital due to an unrevealed illness, while in custody.
#LindasStory: Live tweets recount final hours of girl killed in 1973
On the 45th anniversary of Linda Anne O’Keefe’s death, Newport Beach police used Twitter to recount her final hours before announcing a new lead in the case….https://t.co/bbCXcWluh3 pic.twitter.com/onytFeUHjm
— Fight Against Violence & Abuse (@AntiAbuseSA) July 10, 2018
ID’s 48 Hours will revisit 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe’s horrific murder case and take a look at the remarkable attempts by Newport Beach PD officials to catch the culprit. The upcoming episode, titled Linda’s Story, is expected to air on ID on June 20, 2022.
The official synopsis of the episode states:
— Newport Beach Police (@NewportBeachPD) February 20, 2019
“For nearly 45 years, the murder of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe continues to haunt California’s Newport Beach Police Department; new technology and social media can turn the tide and help track down her killer; Tracy Smith investigates the cold case.”
More about Linda O’Keefe’s murderer, James Alan Neal
“But now, 45 yrs later, I have a voice again. And I have something important to say. There is a new lead in my case: a face. A face that comes from DNA that the killer left behind. It’s technology that didn’t exist back in 1973, but it might change everything today.” #LindasStory pic.twitter.com/GsZClKFwPj
— Newport Beach Police (@NewportBeachPD) July 7, 2018
James Alan Neal, formerly known as James Albert Layton, lived in Orange County, less than a half-hour drive from Corona del Mar, from where Linda was kidnapped at the time of her death. However, he moved to Florida shortly after the killing, and changed his name from Layton to Neal.
Neal was arrested at the age of 72, as a resident of Monument, Colorado.
Linda’s case was eventually consolidated by the Orange County DA with a couple of additional accusations against Neal for reportedly sexually abusing two young girls in Riverside County, California, between 1995 and 2002. These matters were never brought to court and were thus not beyond the point where prosecution could be considered. Neal would have been sentenced to life in prison if he were found guilty on all three charges.
However, in 2020, while in custody, Neal died of a disease at the age of 73, not giving the court a chance to convict him of the charges.
How advacement in DNA testing helped identify the murderer of Linda O’ Keefe
Reportedly, Colorado resident James Alan Neal was arrested in 2019 after a DNA report linked him to Linda O’Keefe’s 1973 cold murder case.
Over 45 years ago, Linda went missing while returning home from summer school in the Newport Beach area. The following day, her dead body was discovered in a ditch along the Back Bay area trail. Semen evidence was found in her body and reports stated that the victim was sexually assaulted and then murdered.
Although DNA was not yet a forensic technique at the time O’Keefe died, authorities were able to acquire sufficient evidence from the victim’s body and the crime scene. The evidence was then safely preserved due to the lack of technology and resources back then.
Although initial DNA testing started in the 1990s to identify Linda’s murderer, authorities were unable to procure successful results until 2019.
Reports state that after Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs was commissioned in 2017 to create a then and now “snapshot,” they used genetic genealogy to track down the culprit. The murderer’s DNA profile was later entered into the GEDmatch public database, which accepts voluntary DNA submissions from those who are seeking family relations.
Ultimately, in 2019, they found the perfect match on FamilyTreeDNA, leading the authorities to James Alan Neal.
ID’s 48 Hours will narrate Linda’s story this Monday, June 20, 2022.