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Police solve California cold case through DNA, genealogy

LOS ANGELES — DNA and genetic genealogy led police to solve a cold case and identify a now-deceased man who kidnapped and killed an 11-year-old girl in Southern California nearly 47 years ago, authorities said.

Terri Lynn Hollis disappeared from her Torrance home on Thanksgiving in 1972. Her body, clad only in a T-shirt, was found the next day by fishermen on a cliff below the Pacific Coast Highway in Oxnard.

Authorities exhumed the body of Jake Edward Brown, who died in Arizona in 2003, to confirm that his DNA was a match to the evidence, Irvine said. Brown had been arrested in connection with two rape cases that occurred after Hollis’ death.

“This crime is what nightmares are made of, and no family should ever have to go through such a tragedy,” Torrance Police Chief Eve Irvine said Wednesday at a news conference.

Randy Hollis, her brother, was 16 at the time and said he still mourns every Thanksgiving.

“When you think about it, 47 years, it’s amazing that we’ve come to this day,” he said. “I only wish that my parents were still alive to see this.”

For years, efforts to find Hollis’ killer were unsuccessful despite 2,000 interviews and DNA searches. In 2018, a genetic genealogy analysis of public databases by Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs Inc. led authorities to a relative of Brown’s. Police were able to identify him in 2019 — which Irvine said would have been impossible if the initial evidence had not been preserved.

Irvine said Brown also went by an alias and had multiple addresses. She said police do not know why he was in Torrance in 1972.

Police are investigating if Brown is linked to other unsolved crimes.

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