Newport Beach police arrest man in 1994 cold case murder of mother

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Officers from the Newport Beach police department arrested a man last week on a warrant for the 1994 murder of his mother. (KABC)

Officers from the Newport Beach Police Department arrested a man on a warrant for the 1994 murder of his mother last week.

He was taken into custody without incident as he got off of his boat and was booked at the NBPD Jail without bail. John Henry Van Uden III, 70, of Dana Point, was charged on Oct. 26, with one felony count of murder with a special circumstances enhancement for financial gain.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 6 in Santa Ana.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced the charges at a news conference. Van Uden III is accused of killing his mother, Frances Marjorie Van Uden, 23 years ago.

"This morning, we're delivering justice to a son who's charged with ending the life of the person who gave him life," said Rackauckas.

On March 3, 1994, Van Uden III is accused of murdering 76-year-old Marjorie, a mother of three who enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, by striking her on her head with a blunt object.

On Saturday, March 5, 1994, officers from the NBPD responded to Ms. Van Uden's home in the 1200-block of Keel Drive. Concerned neighbors reported they had not seen the victim in two days.

The officers entered the home to conduct a welfare check and found the victim, deceased, in her living room. There was significant trauma to the back of her skull. "The back of her skull had been brutally shattered with a blunt object, our detectives immediately initiated a homicide investigation," said Chief Jon Lewis from the Newport Beach Police Department.

Throughout the course of the initial investigation, the victim's son, Van Uden III, was identified as a possible suspect. Over the course of the next 23 years, the NBPD Detective Division continued to conduct interviews, follow leads, and collect evidence in the case.

The case file was reviewed, developed and expanded by a number of detectives over the years whenever there was a chance to dedicate staff time to the investigation. "This was a long, complex case, and it was just the product of old-school police work and investing time and interviews," said Lewis.

In 2016, the Newport Beach City Council approved contracts to hire two part-time cold case homicide investigators. Two retired homicide detectives were assigned to the Newport Beach Police Department Crimes Against Persons Unit to assist in investigating the NBPD's cold case homicides with no other case load.

Over the next year, they continued to build on the strong foundation of evidence against Van Uden III. Police wouldn't say what that evidence is. Detectives says the murder driven by financial gain, but wouldn't give more details.

"You might think you've gotten away with it, but you really don't know when you're going to be on the receiving end of a set of handcuffs," said Rackauckas.

If convicted, Van Uden III faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Related Topics:
crimecold caseNewport BeachOrange County
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