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February 22, 2019

46 Years after Girl’s Tragic and Untimely Death an Arrest Has Finally Been Made

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Authorities have finally arrested the man who allegedly killed 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe in 1973. 

It's been more than four decades since O'Keefe disappeared in Newport Beach, California. She was walking home from school when she was taken. 

The morning after, her body was found. The only clue at the time was a man she was seen talking to some time before disappearing. Police recently revived the case to the public in a series of tweets made last year. 

Technology back then was not sufficient to use the DNA that was found. However, investigators entered it into their criminal database in 2001. 

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There was a hit on the suspect's DNA profile in January 2019. On Tuesday, 72-year-old James Neal was arrested and charged with murder. 

Neal, who lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had been putting on a facade for years. His landlord Michael Thulson spoke to the Colorado Springs Gazette. 

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He said: 

“He seemed like a good guy. I had no indication he was capable of anything even 10 steps less than this, which just shows you what you don’t know.”

Police who have been working on the case and keeping their eyes open were relieved. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spizer did not give details about the DNA. 

He said: 

"The detectives dogged this case. We have every opportunity in the world to solve so many of these cold cases that we never had hope in the past of solving.”

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In O'Keefe's situation, the police were constantly reminded of the little girl's case by a photo of her that hung up on the Newport Beach police department's wall for years. 

Her parents passed away years ago, but police never let up. Neal was due for a court appearance on Thursday. He changed his name to Spitzer when he moved from Southern California to Florida after the murder. 

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Neal's family are not willing to comment at this stage of the case. As for O'Keefe's remaining her family, her two sisters were informed about Neal's detainment. 

Last year marked the 45th anniversary of O'Keefe's disappearance. In a tribute, the department launched a Twitter campaign that gave the little girl's story. 

It began: 

“Hi, I’m Linda O’Keefe. Forty-five years ago today, I disappeared from Newport Beach. I was murdered and my body was found in the Back Bay. My killer was never found. Today, I’m going to tell you my story.”

It described how O'Keefe got a ride from her teacher on the day she disappeared, instead of taking her bike like she normally does. She left Lincoln Intermediate School on July 7. The next day she was found strangled.

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Another cold case was solved in November 2018 by the same genetic genealogy system used for O'Keefe's. Police found the killer of Christine Franke, who died 17 years ago. 

After an initial discovery in 2016, a new sample of DNA was tested by the same crime scene analyst of 17 years ago. The police arrested Benjamin Holmes, 38, for the 2001 murder.

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