Investigators have identified a suspect in two cold case murders from the 1970s, decades after the young women were found brutally murdered in South Lake Tahoe, California.
The El Dorado Cold Case Task Force now believes real estate agent Joseph Holt was responsible for the murders of Brynn Rainey, 27, and Carol Andersen, 16, whose bodies were discovered two years apart less than two miles from where Holt was living each time.
Holt died in 2014.
Although Holt will never serve jail time for the crimes, the victims' families are grateful to have some element of closure.
“Finally after 44 years of hell and back, we have some answers,” Rainey’s brother Pete Garl said in a statement, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Rainey’s body was discovered in 1977 in a shallow grave by passing horseback riders in South Lake Tahoe, the El Dorado District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Her purse, which carried her identification, was found nearby, the paper reports. Investigators were unable to determine a cause of death, but believe it was likely strangulation or suffocation.
Two years later, in 1979, Andersen’s “battered body” was found on the side of the road. She was found with marks around her wrists that suggested she had been bound before she was strangled and abandoned off a trail.
Her family described the 16-year-old as a “beautiful, vibrant teenager.” She had last been seen at a party before she disappeared, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reports.
“Unfortunately, relatively quickly the case went cold and while from time to time it would be revisited nothing could be found, until about a year ago,” her family said in a statement, according to the local paper.
They added that through the “hard work and efforts” of the task force, Anderson will finally be able to rest in peace.
Investigators identified Holt as a suspect in 2018, four years after he had died, using new DNA technology from Parabon Nanolabs that allows the company to develop a “family tree” from DNA recovered at both crime scenes along with a public DNA database.
The technique — which has helped investigators identify new suspects across the country including the alleged Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo — identified three deceased brothers as potential suspects in the Rainey and Andersen murders.
The task force was able to narrow the suspect list down after obtaining DNA from the son of one of the brothers as well as a toothbrush he had used, prosecutors said.
Further DNA testing confirmed that Holt’s DNA matched with the samples found on Rainey’s shirt and Andersen’s body.
“Holt’s surviving family members had no idea he was a killer, and fully cooperated with law enforcement during this investigation,” the district attorney’s office said.
Parabon Nanolabs credited the collaborative relationship with the task force for finally identifying the potential killer.
“Our genetic genealogy team was fortunate enough to be able to generate good leads after which the casework and forensic laboratory analyses were exemplary,” CeCe Moore, chief genealogist for Parabon Nanolabs, said in a prepared statement according to The Sacramento Bee.
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