When something doesn’t work, there are always 2 options. You can either give up and accept defeat, or you can improvise and adapt until you find a way to succeed.
In 1973, police exhausted all of their options in the hunt to find the sick person who took an 11-year-old girl. Sadly, every lead went cold, but the police never stopped hunting the person responsible. Thanks to their dedication and a creative use of new technology, the police finally have a new lead in the 45-year-old cold case…
A Ride To School
On the morning of Friday, July 6, 1973, an 11-year-old from Newport Beach walked out the front door of her family’s home at around 8 in the morning and jumped in the car with her piano teacher, who was waiting by the curb to drive her around the corner to summer school.
Stuck In Summer School
While the 11-year-old was good at spelling and loved science class, she struggled in almost all of her other classes and hated doing homework, which is why she was stuck spending her summer taking classes at Lincoln Intermediate School…
A Weekend Of Freedom
Throughout the 4 classes that day, the 11-year-old, who loved painting and playing the piano and the organ was described as ‘shy’, ‘quiet’, and ‘sensitive’, dreamed about the upcoming weekend and going to the beach close to her family’s house on Orchid Avenue.
A Call Home
After her last class of the day, the 11-year-old would normally have just jumped on her bike and headed straight home. However, because she got driven to school that morning, she didn’t have her bike and decided to call her mother at home from the school’s office asking for her to come and pick her up as she hated walking…
Too Busy And Too Close
When Linda Ann O’Keefe asked her mom to come and pick her up from school that afternoon, her mother refused. Not only was she busy with a sewing project, but the walk was so short as they lived just around the block from the school.
Tears Of Frustration
During their phone conversation, Linda started crying after her mother told her she had to walk home from school, which wasn’t unusual for the sensitive 11-year-old. Her mother figured she would sit around the school and sulk for a while before eventually coming home once she was hungry for lunch…
Sending A Message
In the hours that followed the phone call, however, Linda never came home. At first, Linda’s mom wasn’t too worried as Linda would often come home late to send a message to her parents if she was upset about something. In 1973, it was also normal for kids to go out roaming the neighborhood by bike or on foot for hours at a time.
The Search Begins
After 3 hours, however, Linda’s mom started to get a little worried since she still hadn’t heard from her 11-year-old. When Linda’s dad got home from work, she still wasn’t home, so he and Linda’s 18-year-old sister went out driving around the neighborhood looking for her…
Gone Without A Trace
At that point, the family believed that Linda was just being disobedient, not that she was in any real trouble. However, she was nowhere to be found and none of her friends had seen her after she got out of summer school. When it started to get dark out, Linda’s mom knew it was time to call the police as the 11-year-old would never stay out past dark.
A Missing Person Report
At 6:42 p.m., the family called the Newport Beach Police Department and reported Linda missing. During the call, the family told police Linda was 4 feet tall, weighed 85 pounds, and had long brown hair and blue eyes. She had been sent off to school that day wearing a white and blue dress that Linda’s mother made and a green ski jacket as it was unseasonably cold that day…
A City-Wide Search
That night, the police searched everywhere around the school, the streets between Lincoln Intermediate School and the family’s home, as well as the vacant fields, reservoir, and almost all the other streets in the neighborhood. Sadly, they didn’t find any trace of Linda.
A New Lead
By midnight, every police officer in the city had been looking for Linda, but there was no sign of the 11-year-old anywhere. That night, however, police got 1 of their only leads when a young woman named Jannine told detectives she was in the car with her mother outside the school and saw Linda talking to a man that pulled his turquoise blue van over to speak to her…
The Turquoise Van
Jannine and her mom watched with suspicion as Linda stood on the sidewalk next to the opened front passenger door of the van talking to the driver, who they described as a white man in his mid-20s or early 30s. They knew something didn’t feel right about it, and Jannine’s mom told her to write down the license plate number if the van drove by.
A Limited Description
Unfortunately, Linda climbed into the van, and it pulled away on a different street. Jannine and her mom never got a chance to get the plate number and couldn’t see if anyone else was in the van. Later, Linda’s friend Brenda told police that she saw a man in a turquoise van pull up next to Linda a few times as Linda walked back to school to call her mom after grabbing a snack quickly from a nearby shop…
A Horrifying Discovery
Early the next morning, a man rode his bike down to Back Bay with his 4-year-old son to meet up with 2 friends to look for a good spot to observe frogs for a nature study. While looking for frogs in a thick bunch of cattails, however, he found Linda’s body. After running off to get help, the man and his friends found a police officer who was looking for Linda and told them about what they found.
A New Type Of Investigation
After recovering Linda’s strangled body from the cattails, the missing person case has officially turned into a homicide investigation. Detectives interviewed countless witnesses and friends and followed every lead they had. But the case went cold. 45 years later, the police are still looking for Linda’s murderer…
45 Years Later
“Was it someone I knew? A stranger? The man in the van? There are so many questions… There will be theories, and a sketch of a ‘person of interest’, but my murder will eventually become a cold case. NBPD detectives still look at my file, interview people who saw me or knew me, follow leads… but the trails lead nowhere,” the police wrote in a chilling first-person ‘live-tweet’ 45 years to the day after Linda’s body was found in the hopes someone who knows something will provide new tips.
A New Approach
“Years have passed since this heinous murder, but the [Newport Beach Police Department] remains dedicated to justice for Linda and committed to finding her killer,” police said. “It’s difficult with a cold case … for people to relate to the victim on a personal level,” Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella explained. “We thought people would be able to connect with Linda in a different way from spending time with her…”
A New Lead
“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,” the police wrote during the ‘live-tweet’.
A Culprit Discovered
Thanks to new DNA technology and facial reconstruction software, investigators have finally tracked down the man they believe to be responsible for Linda O’Keefe’s murder. Orange County prosecutors have charged the murder to 72-year-old James Alan Neal of Colorado. If he is convicted, Neal faces a minimum of life in jail without parole. In this case, perhaps justice will, at last, be served.