Police, prosecutors seek witnesses to 1973 murder of 11-year-old, release vintage photo of defendant

Police sought witnesses to the 1973 killing of an 11-year-old girl and, on Thursday, Feb. 21, released an old photograph of a man who had been identified as a suspect and arrested with the aid of DNA evidence.

The picture of James Alan Neal, 72, of Monument, Colorado, who is a defendant in the kidnapping and murder of Linda O’Keefe, was taken between 1970 and 1980, according to a news release from the Newport Beach Police Department. He was taken into custody Tuesday after a sample he submitted to a genealogy website matched evidence obtained by investigators.

“On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, detectives from the NBPD arrested this man – James Alan Neal, DOB 7/28/46 – in Colorado Springs, CO for murder. My murder.” #LindasStory pic.twitter.com/bDNcrKwGeS

— Newport Beach Police (@NewportBeachPD) February 20, 2019

Neal also went by the name Albert Layton Jr., according to the release, and spent several years living in Riverside. Authorities hope the sepia tinted photo of Neal smiling with a mustache and bushy haircut will help potential witnesses remember details relevant to the decades-old killing. Officers have asked people to contact the Newport Beach Police Department’s Cold Case Tip Line, 949-644-3669, with information possibly related to their investigation.

O’Keefe was last seen walking to home her home in Corona del Mar before she went missing 45 years ago on Friday, July 6. Relatives and police searched for her through the night. She was found strangled in a ditch off of Newport Beach’s Back Bay the next morning.

  • Retired Newport Beach police officer Stan Bressler talks following the announcement of the arrest of James Alan Neal in the 1973 murder of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe during a press conference at the Orange County District AttorneyÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Bressler was an officer in 1973 and was called out to the murder scene.
    OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer speaks during a press conference at the OCDAÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Spitzer announced the arrest of James Alan Neal in the 1973 murder of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe. OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. Also with Spitzer is Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis and Newport Beach Police Deputy Chief Jay Short, from left.
    (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • A photo of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe is displayed during a press conference at the Orange County District AttorneyÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 to announce the arrest of James Alan Neal in the 1973 murder of OÕKeefe. OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A photo of James Alan Neal is displayed during a press conference at the Orange County District AttorneyÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 to announce the arrest of Neal in the 1973 murder of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe. OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • This photograph of defendant James Alan Neal, 72, of Monument, CO, also Known as Albert Layton Jr., was taken between 1970 and 1980. He has been charged with the 1973 murder of Linda O’Keefe, an 11-year-old girl who disappeared more than 40 years ago on Friday, July 6, and was found strangled to death in Newport Beach. Police and prosecutors have released this image in hopes of contacting witnesses in the decades old case. (Photo courtesy of the Newport Beach Police Department)

  • Jeffrey C. Malecki, 55, and wife Yvette Malecki, 54, of San Jacinto, react as they read an online story that their former next-door neighbor, James Alan Neal, has been charged in the 1973 abduction and killing of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe of Corona del Mar, who disappeared as she was walking home from school. (Richard K. De Atley, SCNG)

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The case went cold. At one point, a suspect admitted to killing O’Keefe, but his confession turned out to be false.

In July of 2018, Police released a sketch based on DNA evidence collected during their investigation and began a social media campaign behind the hashtag #LinsasStory in hopes of tracking down a suspect. Then, in January, a sample submitted to the website FamilyTreeDNA.com led police to identify Neal as a suspect.

“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

 

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Highland man suspected in sexual assaults dating to 1995 is charged in Orange County

SANTA ANA – A 53-year-old garage door repairman was charged Monday, Jan. 14 with raping a 9-year-old girl and a woman jogger in south Orange County in the 1990s and molesting a 12-year-old girl between 2002 and 2003.

Kevin Konther, 53, of the San Bernardino County community of Highland, was arrested Thursday at his home after investigators linked him to the 1990s attacks through a genealogy website, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said last week.

Konther is charged with two counts each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and aggravated sexual assault of a child, as well as one count each of forcible lewd acts on a child younger than 14 and lewd acts on a child younger than 14, all felonies. With sentencing enhancement allegations of kidnapping and sexual assault of multiple victims, he faces up to 140 years to life in prison if convicted.

Konther made his initial court appearance Monday, but his arraignment was rescheduled for Thursday in the Central Jail courtroom in Santa Ana.

He is accused of grabbing a 9-year-old girl who was walking home from a convenience store in Lake Forest at 6:40 p.m. on Oct. 21, 1995.

The girl’s attacker dragged her into a wooded area in Serrano Creek Park, where she was raped and then let go. She ran home, told her parents, and a search ensued that bore no results.

Konther is also accused of kidnapping and raping a 31-year-old woman who was attacked at 11:30 a.m. on June 2, 1998. She was jogging on a Mission Viejo trail near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway when she was dragged into some bushes and raped.

Investigators matched the DNA collected from the woman’s rape and linked it to the suspect in the 9-year-old girl’s attack, according to Barnes.

Over a 23-year period, investigators had checked the DNA against law enforcement databases with no luck. In August, using the same technique that led to the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer, investigators submitted the DNA to an ancestry website and got a match to identical twins.

Konther’s brother was released from custody and investigators said they were confident they have arrested the correct suspect, Barnes said.

While investigating the attacks on the 9-year-old girl and the jogger, authorities also found evidence that Konther allegedly molested a 12-year-old girl three times between January 2002 and December 2003, Deputy District Attorney Michael Carroll said.

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Man gets 25 years to life for sexually assaulting girls at the Anaheim daycare he worked at

SANTA ANA — A 20-year-old Buena Park man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls, ages 6 and 7, at the Anaheim daycare center where he worked.

Daniel Antonio Martinez pleaded guilty in August to three counts of lewd acts on a child 14 and younger and three counts of sexual penetration of a child 10 and younger, according to Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer. He was sentenced last week.


Daniel Martinez. (Photo courtesy Anaheim Police Department)

Martinez sexually assaulted the girls between the beginning of August and November 2016, Zimmer said.

The 6-year-old told a relative on Nov. 9, 2016, that she was feeling pain, which ultimately prompted the family to call police. Additional investigation led police to the second victim.

Martinez’s attorney, Shane Bernard, acknowledged that his client agreed to a plea deal from prosecutors, but said it would be better if the defendant had a shorter prison sentence and received rehabilitation instead.

“Not to negate the harmful nature of the alleged conduct whatsoever, but this was a young man who was just starting his adult life” at 18 when he assaulted the girls, Bernard said.

He said a life sentence was “egregious and unjust” under the circumstances, Bernard told Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer.

Zimmer said he was “a little shocked” at the defense attorney’s comments since the sentence was agreed upon when the defendant pleaded guilty.

If Martinez had been convicted at trial he would have faced 75 years to life in prison, Zimmer said. Because of the defendant’s age he would have been eligible for a parole hearing in 25 years anyway, the prosecutor said.

“The circumstances of this case, frankly, your honor, were horrific,” Zimmer told the judge.

Martinez was a part-time employee who “used his position to gain access to two girls, one 6 and the other 7,” Zimmer said. “And he did this more than once to more than one victim.”

Paer said he agreed with Zimmer.

“This is a very serious case,” he said, adding the victims were “extremely vulnerable.”

“He violated his position of trust. He was supposed to be a protector, not an abuser,” the judge said.

Paer noted that many of the defendant’s family members were in court, so he had a “huge support system,” and if he takes advantage of counseling programs in prison he could bolster his plea for parole.

The judge said, however, “Cases like these call for huge sentences.”

The crimes result in “huge negative effects” for the victims, Paer said.

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4 men accused of sexual misconduct with Huntington Beach teen in separate incidents

SANTA ANA — A 42-year-old Florida man made his first appearance in court Wednesday on charges of sexually assaulting a girl in Huntington Beach, who was allegedly victimized by three other men, according to court records.

Dwight Nicholas Castaldi, who was arrested Monday, was charged last month with four charges of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and a count of luring a child with the intent to commit a sex crime, all felonies, according to court records.

Castaldi was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail. The dates of the alleged crimes are in January 2016, according to court records.

The four defendants do not know each other, but met the 13-year-old victim online, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Two of the men had personal sexual relations with the teen, but two others engaged in sexual conduct with her online, according to prosecutors.

Huntington Beach police Officer Angela Bennett said authorities were working on a news release about the case, but were not ready to comment on it.

The other defendants in the case are Christian Reid Palmer, 27, of Sacramento; Sohrab Anaraki, 33, of Topanga; and Bradley Thomas Williams, 34, of Dana Point. Palmer’s attorney, John Barnett, declined comment.

Williams is charged with three counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and a count of meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct, all felonies.

Anaraki is charged with one count each of luring a child with the intent to commit a sex crime and meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct, and six counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14, all felonies.

Palmer is charged with one count each of luring a child with the intent to commit a sex crime and meeting a minor to commit a lewd act and seven lewd acts with a minor younger than 14, all felonies.

All four defendants face a sentencing enhancement allegation of substantial sexual conduct with a minor, according to court records.

Palmer, Anaraki and Williams pleaded not guilty last month and were next due in court for a pretrial hearing on April 27.

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