Police: DNA Evidence Results in 1973 Cold Case Arrest

After more than 45 years, James Alan Neal has been arrested for the alleged murder of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe in July 1973 in California.
El Paso County Jail/Newport Beach Police Department

After more than 45 years, James Alan Neal has been arrested for the alleged murder of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe in July 1973 in California.

The now 72-year-old Neal has been charged with one count of murder, including kidnapping and committing lewd and lascivious acts upon a child younger than 14, according to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. He was arrested on Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Neal moved to Southern California from Chicago, living under the name James Allen George Layton. According to prosecutors, he relocated to Florida and changed his name after the murder. And while he has only been arrested for this single crime, Spitzer is concerned that there may be other blood on his hands.

“Individuals who engage in sexual activity against minors tend to … have certain indicators of a predatory nature,” Spitzer said. “I want to know if there are any other victims.”

But how was O’Keefe connected to her alleged killer after nearly half a century? Spitzer credited “genealogical DNA.” According to Spitzer, DNA investigator CeCe Moore was instrumental in giving law enforcement a “pointer” toward Neal. Moore discovered the link “very recently” in January 2019.

Last year, the Newport Beach Police announced that they would take another look at the case. Now, in a statement on Wednesday, Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis said: “For 45 years, the Newport Beach Police Department continued to search for Linda’s killer. Generations of investigators worked on her case. We never gave up.”

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