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Police Say New DNA Technology Could Help Solve 1994 Cold Case Murder Of 14-Year-Old Girl

Jenny Lin was found stabbed to death in her California home in May 1994. Police are hopeful that new DNA technology will lead them to her killer.

By Constance Johnson
An FBI handout of Jennifer Lin

Nearly 30 years ago, Jennifer “Jenny” Lin, a gifted musician and student, was stabbed to death in her California home. Now, police are banking on new DNA technology to help solve the decades old cold case.

“We have a couple of possibilities that we are holding close to our vest,” Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern told KGO, a San Francisco Bay area television station. “We want to make sure we don’t disclose too much to a potential suspect.”

Ahern told the station that advances in DNA technology has allowed them to extract a new profile, providing investigators with new leads to pursue.

Lin — a straight A student who played the viola — spoke to a friend on the telephone at 5:15 p.m. on May 27, 1994, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

An FBI handout of Jennifer Lin

Shortly after that, someone broke into her home through a broken window or sliding glass door, forced the teenager to take off her clothes and then stabbed her repeatedly in the bathroom. Investigators believed that the suspect was planning to sexually assault the teen but was somehow interrupted, according to multiple media reports.

Her father found her lifeless body after returning home from work around 6:45 pm.

The Chronicle reported that bloodhounds traced a man’s scent to a field behind the Lin’s home, leading police to believe that was likely how Lin's killer left the scene of the crime.

Every year since her death, Jenny Lin’s parents have held a vigil in in Castro Valley in their late daughter’s memory.

“We think about her, and we ask ourselves, ‘Is this what Jenny would want us to do?’ And that’s what keeps us going,” Jenny’s mother, Mei-Lian Lin, told KGO.

But her parents are frustrated that her murder has remained unsolved since 1994.

“We are still pretty frustrated that after all these years, the case is still not solved,” Jennifer’s father, John Lin, told KGO. “However, we are encouraged.”

In 2006, police told the Chronicle that Sebastian Alexander Shaw was the prime suspect in Jenny Lin’s death, but Ahern told KGO this year that Shaw was eventually ruled out as a suspect.

Shaw was arrested in Oregon in August 1994 for driving a stolen car with two rifles, which police said were taken from a San Ramon home three days after Jenny Lin’s murder in May.  Police also found pornography, a ski mask, surgical gloves, duct tape, knives, binoculars and plastic handcuffs, according to the Chronicle.

Shaw was subsequently found guilty of the 1992 murders of Donna Ferguson, 18, and Todd Rudiger, 29, and the June 1995 rape of a Portland woman. Electrical and telephone cords were used to tie up all the victims, the newspaper reported, and DNA evidence from a discarded cigarette linked him to the crimes.

In May 2006, he was found guilty of the 1991 murder of Jay Rickbeil, 40, a paraplegic man with cerebral palsy, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While in prison Shaw told police that he was responsible for at least 10 murders.

He tried to cut a deal with prosecutors that would've shielded him from the death penalty if he told them everything about the murders, but prosecutors refused, according to CBS News.

He died in an Oregon prison last year.

The Lins established the Jenny Lin Foundation, which provides music scholarships and free music programs every summer, in addition to awareness about child safety for both parents and kids.

Her parents remains committed to finding Jenny’s killer.

"It is very hard, but we have learned how to manage it," Mei-Lian Lin told KGO. "We know it's sad. But we also know that we need to find justice for Jenny."

A reward for $100,000 has been offered to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest in Lin's murder.

The FBI and Alameda County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help to solve the case. 

“If you have any information concerning this case, please contact the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office at (510) 667-3622 or the FBI San Francisco Division at (415) 553-7400,” the FBI said. “You may also contact your local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. Public tips can remain confidential."

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