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Who Is Linda O'Keefe? New Details About The 11-Year-Old Girl Whose Murder Went Unsolved For 45 Years —​ Until Now

Photo: Newport Beach Police
Who Is Linda O'Keefe? New Details About The 11-Year-Old Girl Whose Murder Went Unsolved For 45 Years —​ Until Now

The unsolved case of a slain 11-year-old went unsolved for 45 years but new DNA technology led police to her killer.

Linda O'Keefe was murdered in 1973 and her case baffled police for years. Thanks to a recent DNA match, authorities were able to identify the man who took her life and charge him with her murder. 

"My office will never forget about cold cases," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Tuesday in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the victim and the victim’s family in this case, having to endure decades without answers. We will make sure that the defendant is fairly and justly held accountable in a court of law.”

So who is Linda O'Keefe? Here's what we know about O'Keefe's murder and the man arrested for killing her.

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1. Her murder went unsolved for 45 years.

O'Keefe disappeared while walking home from summer school on July 6, 1973, in Corona del Mar, CA. She was last seen chatting with a man in a van beside the road.

The next day, the 11-year-old was found in a ditch, strangled to death wearing the same dress she wore the day before. Police were never able to find her murderer for 45 years — until now.

2. A recent DNA match led to her killer's arrest.

On Wednesday, authorities revealed how they used the genealogy website Family Tree to lead them to O'Keefe's killer.

"Our investigators used forensic DNA testing and an online genealogy website to identify the suspect's DNA as being consistent with DNA left at the crime scene," said Newport Beach police chief Jon Lewis.  

The DNA match led to the arrest of 72-year-old James Neal, who is suspected of abducting, sexually molesting, and murdering the young girl over four decades ago, CBS reports. Newport Beach police also used DNA technology to create a photo of what O'Keefe's killer would look like today.

Neal, who was formerly known as James Albert Layton, Jr. before he changed his name, was arrested in Colorado Springs, CO on Tuesday and charged with murder with special circumstances, Spitzer said.

Newport Beach Police

3. Police are asking possible witnesses to come forward.

The Newport Beach Police released a vintage photo of Neal and are hoping potential witnesses will see the picture and recall seeing him around the time of O'Keefe's murder. 

Anyone who has further information concerning this investigation is urged to call the NBPD Cold Case Tip Line at 949-644-3669.

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Newport Beach Police

4. Authorities launched a renewed effort to find O'Keefe in the last year.

Newport police took to Twitter to tell the story of O'Keefe's unsolved murder last July as a way to keep her story alive. 

“Hi. I’m Linda O’Keefe (or Linda ANN O’Keefe, if I’m in trouble with my mom),” the series of tweets, which all ended with the hashtag #LindasStory, started. “Forty-five years ago … I disappeared from Newport Beach. I was murdered and my body was found in the Back Bay."

5. Her sister didn't expect her killer to be caught.

When O'Keefe's sister, Cindy Borgeson, was told police arrested a suspect in the decades-old murder, she was shocked, despite being in contact with police in recent months about their renewed interest in the case, according to CBS.

"You know I never really thought they would actually find the individual," Borgeson said. "My hope is that it brings hope to other families that haven't had a resolve yet." 

Although it is great news that they captured her sister's killer, Borgeson says she sometimes wonders what life would be like if O'Keefe was still alive.

“She would have been 57 this year. I wonder sometimes what kind of life she would have lived. Would she be married? Have a family? Probably,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t dwell on that because that wasn’t her outcome.”

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Sarah Gangraw writes about all things news, entertainment and crime. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.