On Thanksgiving Day in 1972, 11-year-old Terri Lynn Hollis decided to go for a bike ride. It was the last time the young girl would be seen alive. Her body, partially clothed, was eventually discovered by fishermen on a cliff beneath a busy California highway. For decades, the case remained cold.
But this week detectives announced they had finally pinpointed a suspect. Police said that a man named Jake Edward Brown, now deceased, was responsible for carrying out Hollis’ "senseless" killing.
“I want to first-off offer my condolences to the family for their loss,” Torrance Police Chief Eve Irvine said Wednesday at a news conference. “This crime is what nightmares are made of. No family should ever have to go through such a tragedy.”
USA Today reported that in the near half century the case has been open, investigators conducted roughly 2,000 interviews. Irvine said that Brown died in Arizona in 2003.
“Under these very unfortunate circumstances, we are very proud to say that this case has been solved,” Irvine told reporters.
Authorities, who matched a DNA sample of Hollis to one of Brown’s relatives, said that it was genealogical forensics that ultimately led them to the child’s killer.
Irvine noted that the work of Virginia-based DNA technology company, Parabon NanoLabs Inc., was instrumental in leading them to Hollis’ killer.
“Technology had not caught up to the evidence that had been preserved,” the police chief explained.
“Genealogical genetics was key to cracking the case,” Steve Armentrout, CEO of Parabon NanoLabs Inc., told Oxygen.com.
“Without it, the case may have never been solved,” he said.
Genealogical genetic testing is responsible for solving a wave of cold cases across the United States. Most notably, the technology, which is a relatively new tool for law enforcement, led to the capture in California of the man suspected of being the Golden State Killer, who is believed to be responsible for multiple murders and sexual assaults in the 1970s and 1980s.
“It is always rewarding to learn that our work has helped investigators solve a case,” the 56-year-old DNA technologist explained.
Armentrout noted that his company is helping investigate roughly 75 other cases.
“At first, such news was so exciting, it would interrupt work,” he described. “There have been so many at this point – about one per week – we have come to expect it.”
Brown had been charged in two separate rape cases following Hollis’ murder, according to USA Today. Authorities are looking into whether Brown, who reportedly used an alias, may be responsible for other cold cases.
“When you think about it, 47 years, it’s amazing that we’ve come to this day,” Randy Hollis, Terri’s older brother, said upon learning the news.
Randy was only 16 years old when his younger sibling was killed.
“I only wish that my parents were still alive to see this.”
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