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75-year-old North Whitehall man wanted in killing of California ‘go-go’ dancer 51 years ago

Allentown Morning Call logo Allentown Morning Call 10/28/2020 Sarah M. Wojcik and Laurie Mason Schroeder, The Morning Call
a house with a grass field: John J. Sipos lived off Cobbler Road in North Whitehall Township for several years, according to neighbors. © Sarah M. Wojcik/The Morning Call/TNS John J. Sipos lived off Cobbler Road in North Whitehall Township for several years, according to neighbors.

California authorities have confirmed that a 75-year-old Lehigh County man is wanted in their state for the murder of a “go-go” dancer who was found dead in her apartment nearly 51 years ago.

John J. Sipos was identified as a suspect through forensic genealogy in the Nov. 20, 1969 killing of 24-year-old Mary Scott, a spokesperson for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

News reports from 1969 say Scott was found “apparently strangled" in her apartment, which was about a mile from her workplace, the Star and Garter Cafe in uptown San Diego. Neighbors heard screaming in her apartment around 2:30 a.m., according to a Los Angeles Times article, “but did not investigate.”

In a news release, officials at the San Diego District Attorney’s Office said investigators exhausted all leads in the case and it went cold. They did not give details about the genealogy methods used to identify Sipos as a suspect.

Forensic genealogy is an investigative tool that allows police to compare crime scene DNA evidence with genetic genealogy database information.

DA spokesperson Tanya Sierra said more information will be released after formal charges are filed.

Sipos was detained Saturday afternoon at his home in the 5200 block of Cobbler Road in North Whitehall Township on an extradition warrant.

Donna Wyble, Scott’s daughter, said Tuesday from her home in Lafayette, Louisiana that she wanted to believe that her mother’s killer would eventually be brought to justice. As years went by, however, she worried that time was running out.

A phone call from San Diego detectives in April, however, provided an unexpected ray of hope, she said. Wyble was told that authorities believe they had narrowed down a suspect.

On Saturday, when Pennsylvania State Police swarmed John J. Sipos' home, Wyble received the phone call she thought would never come: Police had picked up the suspect on an outstanding warrant.

“We’ve been struggling a long time to see this get solved. I know we still have a long way to go, but this has been such a long time coming,” Wyble said Tuesday from her home in Lafayette, Louisiana. “I’m just overwhelmed.”

Sipos is being held without bail in the Lehigh County Jail while awaiting an extradition hearing, which has not yet been. His attorney, John Waldron, said he is exploring whether to have Sipos evaluated by an expert to determine if he’s competent to stand trial.

Sipos suffers from diabetes and kidney disease, and has had three heart attacks, Waldron said.

Forensic genealogy is a somewhat controversial investigative tool that allows police to compare crime scene DNA evidence with genealogy database information. The technique, in which police often narrow down suspects based one relatives’ DNA samples, has led to the arrest of an estimated 150 arrests in cold cases, including the 2018 capture of so-called “Golden State Killer” Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer who pleaded guilty in June to the murder of 13 people and the rape of around 50 women across California during the 1970s and 80s.

California officials ask anyone with information about the case to call the Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

This story will be updated.

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