How was Linda O'Keefe murder case solved 45 years after her death? 48 Hours on ID to revisit Newport horror story

Linda O'Keefe's 1973 murder case was solved 45 years after it happened (Image via @NewportBeachPD/Twitter)
Linda O'Keefe's 1973 murder case was solved 45 years after it happened (Image via @NewportBeachPD/Twitter)
Nikita Mahato

In 1973, 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe was brutally assaulted and murdered before her body was dumped near a nature trail, the the Back Bay in Newport, California. The summer school student at Lincoln Intermediate School in Corona Del Mar, California, was last spotted on July 6. It was just one day before her dead body was discovered in a ditch.

The case engulfed the beachside town and had authorities distressed for over four decades looking for the killer of the innocent girl who went missing while returning from summer school. Reports state that the Newport Beach Police department even has a picture of the 11-year-old victim hanging on one of its walls.

“Hi. I’m Linda O’Keefe (or Linda ANN O’Keefe, if I’m in trouble with my mom). Forty-five years ago today, I disappeared from Newport Beach. I was murdered and my body was found in the Back Bay. My killer was never found. Today, I’m going to tell you my story.” #LindasStory

Exactly 45 years after the incident, on July 6, 2018, the Newport Beach Police Department initiated their remarkable Twitter campaign. The campaign sought fresh leads on the unsolved murder case of Linda O'Keefe.

The case received much-required attention and James Alan Neal, the culprit behind the gruesome murder, was finally arrested in 2019. Neal was arrested after his DNA matched the semen found in the victim's body.

Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis said they were able to identify Neal as the culprit with the help of modified DNA technology that they lacked earlier.

"She was an old soul". The sister of Linda O'Keefe talks about the arrest of the man accused of killing her younger sibling on ⁦@NBCLA#LindasStory@NewportBeachPD⁩ ⁦@OCDAToddSpitzer

ID's 48 Hours revisited Linda O'Keefe's murder story and the remarkable investigation of the cold case in its new episode titled Linda's Story. The episode aired on June 20, 2022.

The official synopsis states:

"For nearly 45 years, the murder of 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe continues to haunt California's Newport Beach Police Department; new technology and social media can turn the tide and help track down her killer; Tracy Smith investigates the cold case."

How was Linda O'Keefe's 1973 murder case pushed forward 45 years after it happened?


In 2018, forty-five years after Linda O'Keefe's disappearance on July 6, 1973, the Newport Beach Police Department decided to narrate her story to the world. With Linda's story, they were looking for fresh leads to solve the case that went cold all those years ago.

With information on Linda's life and unnerving descriptions of her last day, the series of 68 tweets captured readers' attention. The narrative was the brainchild of former Newport Beach Police spokesperson Jennifer Manzella. Manzella meticulously built the story with the help of official police records and a detailed conversation with the victim's sister.

The hashtag #LindasStory received close to 7 million views, likes, and retweets worldwide.

“When my big sister gets to work, she is shocked to see the headline on the front page of the Daily Pilot: ‘Girl, 11, Vanishes in Newport’.Linda? Vanished? ‘No, no, no,’ she thinks, ‘They must have it wrong.’” #LindasStory

The tweet series started off with the last call she made to her mother, describing the last time she was spotted. It went on till the very moment that her body was discovered in a ditch in the Back Bay area.

One tweet also revealed that Linda O'Keefe was last spotted talking to a white man in a turquoise van by a mother-daughter duo who lived close to O'Keefe's house.

For many years, investigators withheld the fact that Linda O'Keefe had been sexually abused. Jim White, a foresighted criminologist, collected and preserved the semen the killer left on Linda's corpse in 1973, despite the lack of DNA technology in crime-solving at the time.

“But now, 45 yrs later, I have a voice again. And I have something important to say. There is a new lead in my case: a face. A face that comes from DNA that the killer left behind. It’s technology that didn’t exist back in 1973, but it might change everything today.” #LindasStory

The DNA profile was submitted to the government's CODIS database after the case underwent testing in late 1990s, but no matches were ever found. However, DNA technology made significant progress by 2017, which gave authorities with the required resources.

In 2017, the Newport Beach Police Department hired Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology firm based in Virginia that specialises in a procedure employing genetic materials. Parabon was hired to create a blended portrait of the suspect at 25 years old and how the murderer may now appear.

Authorities then acquired a "snapshot" that pointed them in the direction of then-73-year-old James Alan Neal. The snapshot was later incorporated into one of the tweets of the #LindasStory Twitter campaign.

Following this, the suspect was placed under observation. Meanwhile, police took a sample of his DNA and compared it to the evidence obtained from Linda's body all those years ago.

Finally, in 2019, the police arrested the murderer over 45 years after Linda O'Keefe was brutally r*aped and murdered.

Investigation Discovery took a look at the brutal murder case of Linda O'Keefe on its latest 48 Hours episode that aired on June 20, 2022.

Edited by Madhur Dave


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