Girl’s Unsolved Murder Prompts Family to Sift for Clues : California: Who killed Jenny Lin? In Castro Valley, friends and relatives of the 14-year-old band together and set up a toll-free hot line to try to solve the mystery.


On May 27, John Lin came home from work and opened the door to a nightmare. In an upstairs bathroom lay the broken, bloodied body of his 14-year-old daughter.

Months later, he is tormented by a single question:


No one has been able to answer. Whoever murdered Jennifer Lin left few clues.

So Lin has decided to try to find out why--and who--for himself.

“Jenny is too precious, too important, for us to just try to hide away from her death,” he said. “If I don’t come out and do something, there’s no way I can feel peace in myself.”

So the family has organized the Friends of Jenny Lin, and set up a toll-free hot line. They have held a candlelight vigil and fund-raising dance, decked trees and lapels with ribbons of royal blue--Jenny’s favorite color--and distributed thousands of flyers seeking information.


It’s an unusual step, but one that victim advocates say more families are taking, spurred by the need for solutions and, to some degree, solace.

“They’ve got to have some meaning. They cannot deal with their child dying in vain,” said Nancy McBride, executive director of the Adam Walsh Center, a victims’ advocate group, in West Palm Beach, Fla.


The concept of families declaring a personal war on crime is not new. Adam Walsh’s father, John, became a crusader for victims’ rights after his 6-year-old son was abducted and killed in 1981.

He now hosts the popular television program, “America’s Most Wanted,” which publicizes crimes to help police capture the criminals.

But the phenomenon drew new attention last year when hundreds of volunteers poured time and money into a massive effort to find another kidnaped child, 12-year-old Polly Klaas of Petaluma.

The search ended with the discovery of Polly’s body last December, but a foundation named after her continues to serve as an advocacy group, offering advice to other victims’ families, including the Lins.


“I think it’s very important for victims’ families to get involved in investigations and, more particularly, for volunteer organizations,” said Marc Klaas, Polly’s father. “What we have done in the past in our society is to really leave it up to law enforcement to come up with all the solutions.”

The nerve center of the effort for Jenny Lin is a donated storefront office in Castro Valley. Pictures of a smiling Jenny, from a brace-toothed grin to an elegant portrait in a full-length velvet dress, smile down from the walls.


A poster reads simply, “Friends of Jenny Lin, Always Remember.”

Brenda Wong, whose son knew Jenny, said she was reluctant to go to the first volunteer meeting, at the Lin home.

But there was an instant rapport, she said.

“Everyone was hugging everybody. It’s like we became a family right away.”

Not surprisingly, there has been some tension between the volunteers and the professionals on the case.

But Lt. Ted Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said he understands what is driving the volunteers.

“You bet, if it was my daughter, my loved one, I’d want to make sure that nothing’s being missed,” he said.


So far, there have been a lot of leads but few breaks.

Investigators say they believe whoever killed the teen-ager broke in through a small window downstairs.

They also believe the killer acted alone, was familiar with the neighborhood and the family schedule and had targeted the girl.

The wounds “indicate that it was a very deliberate, very careful, very controlled attack,” Nelson said.

One puzzling incident is an encounter John Lin had at a commuter train station a few weeks before the killing.


An unkempt man approached him and said something like, “I have a deal for you; we have your daughter,” Nelson said.

Lin avoided the man and drove away. He got home to find both his daughters safe and thought little more about the incident until the murder. Nelson said he doubts the man had anything to do with the case, but the volunteer group commissioned and has circulated a sketch.


What Nelson would like to learn more about is a report of a man seen walking away from the Lin neighborhood carrying a blue sports bag with red straps and heading toward an athletic field. There was no activity planned that night on the field.

Nelson concedes that could mean anything. Perhaps the witness was confused about the night he saw the stranger. He’d like to know for sure.

Meanwhile, Nelson says, he has no plans to give up on the investigation. Neither does Lin.

“Someone out there must know something about this,” he said.


The address for Friends of Jenny Lin is 3533 Jamison Way, Castro Valley, Calif. 94552. 1-800-759-5833.