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California cold case: DNA solves Terri Lynn Hollis' 1972 murder

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5 days ago Kristin Lam, USA TODAY
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Southern California investigators have solved the murder of an 11-year-old girl, nearly five decades after her Thanksgiving Day kidnapping.

Genetic genealogy identified Jake Edward Brown, who died in 2003, as the man responsible for the disappearance and death of Terri Lynn Hollis, authorities said Wednesday. She vanished from her family's home in Torrance, near Los Angeles, on Nov. 23, 1972. Fishermen found Hollis, wearing only a T-shirt, on a cliff below the Pacific Coast Highway in Oxnard the next day. 

“This crime is what nightmares are made of, and no family should ever have to go through such a tragedy,” Torrance Police Chief Eve Irvine said at a news conference.

After 2,000 interviews over nearly half a century, Irvine said an analysis of public databases by Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs Inc. led them to a relative of Brown. Police had preserved a DNA sample from Hollis' body, and it matched. Authorities then dug up Brown's body in Arizona to confirm the connection. 

Evidence: Here's how one yellow sock helped solve a 28-year-old cold case murder

The same DNA investigation technique has helped investigators crack numerous cold cases, from California to Pennsylvania, with evidence from old socks to razors. 

Brown had been arrested in two rape cases after Hollis' death, Irvine said, and police are investigating whether he may be responsible for other unsolved crimes. He also had multiple addresses and went by an alias. 

Randy Hollis, who was 16 when his younger sister was killed, teared up as he thanked police and urged families searching for answers not to lose hope. He said he still mourns his sister every Thanksgiving. 

“When you think about it, 47 years, it’s amazing that we’ve come to this day,” he said. “I only wish that my parents were still alive to see this.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California cold case: DNA solves Terri Lynn Hollis' 1972 murder

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