Suspect identified in two Orange County cold-case murders using DNA testing

David González Image
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Two 30-year-old murder cases solved in Orange County
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Using DNA advancements, the murders of at least two women in Orange County more than 30 years ago have now been linked to a man who died in 1999.

The cold murder cases of two Orange County women have been solved more than 30 years after they were killed, using advancements in DNA science.

"We now know that Reuben Smith was responsible for the murders of Shannon Lloyd and Renee Cuevas," said Amir El-Farra, deputy chief for the Garden Grove Police Department.

In May 1987, 23-year-old Shannon Lloyd was sexually assaulted and strangled inside her Garden Grove home.

El-Farra said DNA was collected but the case went cold.

"In 2003, the OC Crime Lab conducted forensic testing on evidence found at the scene and a male DNA profile was collected," he said.

Investigators said the suspect's DNA profile matched a sample collected at the scene of Renee Cuevas' 1989 murder in Irvine.

However, the breakthrough wasn't until 2021 when the cases were submitted to the Orange County District Attorney's Investigative Genetic Genealogy unit.

They take an unknown suspect's DNA and identify it using family members who voluntarily submit their DNA samples to a database.

"This time scientists and investigators were able to identify a possible suspect, Reuben J. Smith," El-Farra said.

Authorities said Smith killed himself in 1999 in Las Vegas.

The victims' families say decades later the pain of what happened remains fresh in their minds.

Cuevas' cousin, Yolanda Lui said, "If I could speak with my cousin again I would tell her how sorry I am. I would make her laugh so I can see her beautiful dimples. Some day I'll get a chance again to hug you and to tell you I love you."

Officials said Investigative Genetic Genealogy also helped solve the 1976 murder of Janet Stallcup.

Stallcup's sister, Lee Neil, said, "We'll never have all the answers that we want. But we know now who, what, where; we'll never know why. But we go on and we deal with it just one day at a time."

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said genetic genealogy has helped solve at least four homicides in the county.

"Because of the advent of science there's no case that's cold anymore," Spitzer said. "Every case is potentially resolvable."

Investigators said there is a possibility Smith may have been responsible for other homicides so they will continue to look at other cold cases to see if there is a match.