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Police Investigating Whether Teen Girl's 1974 Death Is Linked To Golden State Killer Suspect

Investigators in Visalia have confirmed that they are looking into the death of 15-year-old Jennifer Armour to see if there are links to Golden State Killer suspect Joseph DeAngelo.

By Gina Tron

Law enforcement are investigating a lead that the Golden State Killer suspect abducted and killed a teenage girl in 1974.

Tulare County law enforcement previously considered the 1975 murder of Claude Snelling in Visalia as the first killing attributed to the Golden State Killer’s rampage of murders and rapes. Snelling’s death and about 100 break-ins were originally attributed to an unidentified criminal dubbed the Visalia Ransacker. Now police believe that the Golden State Killer and the Visalia Ransacker are the same man: Joseph DeAngelo, a 72-year-old ex-cop who was arrested in April and has been charged with 12 murders, but not Snelling’s. His crimes sprawled from Sacramento all the way to Southern California, investigators believe. Besides the killings, he's suspected in more than 50 rapes, none of which he's been officially charged with.

A Tulare County Sheriff’s Department cold case investigator Detective Chris Dempsie told the Visalia Times-Delta that he and his partner Dwayne Johnson are looking into the murder of 15-year-old Jennifer Armour. She had left her home to head to a football game, a game she never made it to. Her body was found nine days later in a nearby canal.

Internet sleuths on Golden State Killer message boards have talked about Armour’s death for years, wondering if there was any link between her murder and the Golden State Killer. Dempsie told the Visalia Times-Delta that even before DeAngelo’s arrest, there was a suspicion that Armour’s killing was linked to the Visalia Ransacker. Although DeAngelo has not been officially charged with any of the Visalia Ransacker’s crimes, court documents released in June reveal that authorities suspect that DeAngelo is behind the crime spree of 120 burglaries, multiple sexual assaults, and the murder of Snelling, a college journalism professor, all during a two-year span: 1974 and 1975. 

One challenge in investigating Armour’s death is the how little physical evidence is available, according to police. Because her body was submerged in water for nine days, Dempsie said it’s hard to know exactly how she was killed. Her official cause of death was listed as a drowning. Since her death, police have named several suspects but they have never made an arrest.

[Photo: Getty Images]