New DNA investigation technique helps solve 2 SoCal cold cases

BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- Authorities are pursuing a first-of-its-kind case in Los Angeles County - a murder prosecution using evidence from a commercial genealogy database.

Horace Van Vaultz, 64, is charged with the rape and murder of two women in the 1980s: 20 year-old Selena Keough in San Bernardino and 22 year-old Mary Susan Duggan of Reseda.

Police say Duggan was found dead in the trunk of a car parked near a closed Burbank business on June 9, 1986. Her cause of death was ruled homicide by asphyxiation.

Keough was murdered in Montclair in 1981, police say.

They were cold cases for a long time, until detectives used a relatively new technique: Entering crime scene DNA into a commercial database and finding family matches that can point to a suspect.

Police arrested Vaultz, a Bakersfield resident, last week on a traffic stop in Inglewood. The District Attorney's office has filed two counts of murder with special circumstance allegations. He is being held without bail.

Vaultz made his first court appearance on Monday, but did not enter a plea. His arraignment was rescheduled for Dec. 19.

Outside of court his defense attorney, Damon Lamont Hobdy, said his client is prepared for the court battle.

"Mr. Vaultz maintains his innocence,'' Hobdy told reporters outside the courtroom. "Surprisingly, Mr. Vaultz has taken this very well ... he understands that this is going to be a fight.''

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said she was glad new technology has allowed her office to provide some level of closure to the families of the victims after all these years.

"As district attorney one of the most frustrating aspects of my job is being unable to provide comfort and closure to the families of murder victims in cases that have gone unsolved. But thanks to the advances in technology and forensics, we are now able to virtually reach back in time and find those responsible for these very vicious crimes,'' Lacey said.

Anyone with information about the cases and the suspect is asked to call the Burbank police 24-hour tip hotline at (818) 238-3086. Callers may remain anonymous.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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