DNA testing and genetic genealogy helped police in Southern California crack a 47-year-old cold case wide open and identify the man who raped and murdered an 11-year-old girl who was taken from her home on Thanksgiving Day.
The body of Terri Lynn Hollis was found naked except for a T-shirt on a cliff below the Pacific Coast Highway in Oxnard on Nov. 24, 1972. Terri was last seen leaving her home in Torrance to go on a bike ride.
Hollis had been strangled and sexually assaulted, Torrance Police Chief Eve Irvine said during a press conference Wednesday.
Despite an extensive investigation by authorities at the time, including 2,000 interviews and DNA searches, attempts to find Hollis' killer were unsuccessful.
More than four decades later, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department submitted DNA found at the crime scene to Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs Inc., which conducted a genetic genealogy analysis of public databases and helped authorities track down a relative of the match, Jake Edward Brown.
Brown had already died in 2003 in Arizona, but authorities exhumed his body and confirmed that his DNA was a match to the evidence, Irvine said.
"DNA Labs International was successful in extracting DNA evidence from the bones collected by the detectives and they were able to confirm that the bone remains of Jake Edward Brown were a one in 20 septillion match to the evidence collected from Terri Lynn Hollis,'' Irvine said.
Brown, who was 36 years old at the time of Hollis' murder, had previously been arrested in connection with two rape cases that occurred after her death.
Irvine said Brown "had prior arrests for narcotics, robbery and two rapes that occurred after the murder of Terri Lynn. The first rape occurred in 1973 and the second in 1974. Under these very unfortunate circumstances, we are still proud to say that this case has been solved, but detectives will continue to investigate to see if he was involved in any other unsolved crimes.''
"This crime is what nightmares are made of, and no family should ever have to go through such a tragedy," Irvine added.
Hollis' brother, Randy, who was 16 years old at the time of Terri's death, described the findings as "amazing" and said, "I only wish that my parents were still alive to see this."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.