Cold case closed: Man sent to prison for 1981 rape, killing

Man sent to prison for 1981 rape, killing of 21-year-old woman after cold case is reopened

Thirty years after a Whittier woman was found raped and strangled in her apartment, her killer has been sentenced to prison.

Joseph Allen Thornton, 53, pleaded no contest to four felonies, including rape, sodomy, voluntary manslaughter and digital penetration by force, in connection with the 1981 death of Blanca Negrete, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday.

A Los Angeles judge sentenced Thornton to 24 years in state prison and ordered him to register as a sex offender for life.

Whittier police investigated the killing of 21-year-old Negrete, but the case grew cold and sat dormant for three decades.

During a 2010 review of cold cases, Whittier Police Department detectives sent items gathered from Negrete’s apartment to a crime lab for DNA analysis.

In 2011, the crime lab’s results linked Thornton to the killing.

After searching for Thornton in Southern California and Topeka, Kans., detectives eventually arrested him April 18, 2012, at his home in the Northern California city of Auburn. 

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