Newport Beach cold case: Suspect ID'd in 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe's murder after arrest in Colorado staff KABC logo
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Suspect ID'd in 1973 murder of Newport Beach girl
Authorities on Wednesday identified the suspect who has been arrested in the 1973 murder of an 11-year-old girl in Newport Beach.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- More than 45 years after 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe was found murdered in Newport Beach, authorities on Wednesday identified the suspect who was arrested in the case this week.

James Alan Neal, 72, was taken into custody by Newport Beach police detectives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is expected to appear at a hearing Wednesday afternoon in El Paso County.

He is accused in the strangulation of the young girl, who disappeared while walking home from school in a blue and white dress on July 6, 1973. The next morning, authorities discovered her body in Back Bay.

Witnesses saw a turquoise van where Linda was last seen. An extensive search was launched, aided by DNA evidence that was recovered at the location.

James Alan Neal, 72, has been arrested in connection with the murder of 11-year-old Linda O
James Alan Neal, 72, has been arrested in connection with the murder of 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe in Newport Beach in 1973.

The initial investigation proved fruitless. Newport Beach homicide detectives continued to review evidence in the years that followed, but the case eventually went cold.

In July 2018, police launched a social media campaign in an effort to generate new leads. DNA-progression tools helped create a new composite image of the suspect.

In January, after utilizing genealogical technology -- similar to methods that led to the suspected Golden State Killer -- authorities located Neal and were able to collect additional DNA, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

Spitzer was accompanied by Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis and detectives who have worked on the decades-old case.

"Linda's face and her memory has been with us and our investigators since this happened," Lewis said. "Her picture hangs in our detective division, where our folks see it every day -- as a reminder of her and a reminder of why it's so important that we continue to pursue these cases -- and hopefully come to some kind of resolve for the families, for our investigators, but also for our communities as well."

Neal remained in custody in Colorado. If he waives his extradition rights, he could be transferred to Orange County by the end of this week, Spitzer said.

The suspect faces a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged. The district attorney said he had not yet decided whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the case.