‘83 Case Cracked by DNA

From Times Wire Reports

A 57-year-old Oregon man has confessed to the 1983 strangulation of a prostitute in Laguna Beach after police linked him to the killing through DNA evidence, authorities said.

He now awaits extradition to Orange County.

A Superior Court judge signed an arrest warrant Friday for John Laurence Whitaker, who was being held on $1-million bail.

Whitaker, a New York native who lived in Los Angeles during the period in question, was found in Gresham, Ore., where he was arrested Thursday for failing to register as a sex offender, according to Laguna Beach police Capt. Danell Adams.


Whitaker confessed to Laguna Beach Det. Paul Litchenberg and Lou Gutierrez, an investigator for the Orange County district attorney’s office, during a three-hour interview, Adams said. Both had flown to Oregon to question him.

Whitaker was convicted of an unspecified crime in 1985, but eventually left Southern California and failed to register with police in Oregon, as required by law, Adams said.

In December 1983, the body of Patricia Ann Carpenter, 27, was found in a parking lot near Laguna Canyon Road. For decades, police had no leads or suspects.

Litchenberg, Gutierrez and police volunteer Dawn Garner were credited with helping to solve the case. In January, Litchenberg and Garner sent scrapings from the victim’s fingernails to the Orange County crime lab for DNA testing, then looked for a match in crime databases, Adams said.


In April, a match was found, and the genetic markers pointed to Whitaker, she said. But Whitaker, known to have used at least 18 aliases, couldn’t be found. Garner tracked down Whitaker, who was known to police in Gresham, she said.

With the confession, and Whitaker behind bars, Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Glass signed a warrant for the man’s arrest, Adams said.