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Newport police use Twitter to tell story of 11-year-old girl’s disappearance and death in 1973

Newport police use Twitter to tell story of 11-year-old girl’s disappearance and death in 1973
Linda Ann O’Keefe, an 11-year-old Corona del Mar girl, disappeared July 6, 1973, while walking home from summer school. Her body was found a day later in Newport Beach’s Back Bay, police said. (Courtesy of Newport Beach Police Department)

It has been 45 years since Linda Ann O’Keefe, an 11-year-old Corona del Mar girl, vanished while walking home from summer school.

Her body, still wearing the white dress adorned with blue flowers that her mother had sewn, was found the next morning — July 7, 1973 — in Newport Beach’s Back Bay. She had been strangled.

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“There were reports that a man in a van was seen stopped near Linda … and a bulletin was distributed with a sketch of this man, but he was never identified,” Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said Thursday. “Investigators have conducted interviews, gathered evidence and followed leads for 45 years, but none of them ever led to Linda’s killer.”

On Friday, the Police Department began telling Linda’s story on Twitter in an effort to generate new leads in a case that has long grown cold.

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The series of tweets — written with Linda as the narrator — began with an introduction to the girl, her home on Orchid Avenue and her journey to summer school at what was then Lincoln Intermediate at 8 a.m. Friday, July 6, 1973.

The tweets will continue into Saturday morning, chronicling the last hours of her life and culminating at about the same time of day that Newport police detectives launched a homicide investigation into her death more than four decades ago.

A video overview of the case as told by investigating detectives is expected to be released Saturday morning, along with a profile of a possible suspect that was generated using DNA gathered in the investigation.

The department recently used Parabon NanoLabs, a medical laboratory based in Virginia, to generate the snapshot profile, according to police.

The process uses DNA to calculate a possible suspect’s facial composite, gender, ancestry, freckles and skin, eye and hair color.

Police agencies across the country have sought Parabon’s services to help crack cold cases using DNA evidence. Last year, the laboratory helped Costa Mesa detectives identify a suspect in the 1997 slaying of 26-year-old Adrienne “Sunny” Sudweeks.

“We are hoping that the new Parabon snapshot will be the piece of evidence that helps us identify the man who killed Linda,” Manzella said.

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