Eleven-year-old Terri Lynn Hollis was riding her bicycle in her Torrance neighborhood when she was kidnapped on Nov. 23, 1972, Thanksgiving Day.
Her body was found a day later, miles away on a desolate, rocky beach in Oxnard. Terri had been raped and strangled.
For nearly half a century, her family never knew who was responsible.
Terri’s brother Randy Hollis was 16 at the time of his little sister’s death. Every Thanksgiving since, he takes a moment to remember her. A few weeks ago, he arrived home to find officers in his driveway. Inside, they told him that a suspect in Terri’s murder had been identified. Though it had been 47 years, Randy Hollis said, he was consumed by emotion.
“That really surprised me after all this time. It brings back a lot of tough memories,” he said.
On Wednesday, he and his sister Tammy — the only two left from their family of six — sat with family and friends inside the Torrance Police Department as they listened to officials publicly reveal the details of their discovery.
“This is what nightmares are made of,” said Torrance Police Chief Eve Irvine.
A sample collected from Terri’s body at the time of her death had been connected to a DNA sample submitted to a genealogical database by a relative of the suspect.
That match led detectives to identify the suspect as Jake Edward Brown. Brown died in Arizona in 2003 and had previously been arrested for narcotics, robbery and two rapes after Hollis’, in April 1973 and again in April 1974. The DNA matching method was the same as that used to identify Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. as the suspect in the Golden State Killer case.
In 1974, Torrance police arrested a man believed to have been connected with Terri’s murder. Evidence showed otherwise, and in the decades since, nearly 2,000 interviews and multiple leads had proved futile. Then in 2018, a hit on the genealogical database led officials to Arizona, where Brown was buried. Detectives exhumed the body and ultimately, DNA Labs International in Virginia was able to extract DNA and confirm that Brown, also known as Thomas Tracy Burum, was the killer.
Randy Hollis, Terri’s big brother, assumed the role as family spokesperson. At the news conference, he tearfully addressed the crowd to share a message with families still searching for answers about their loved one’s death.
“Don’t lose the heart or the drive to get resolution. You just never know.”
He said that although his sister’s killer has been identified, this Thanksgiving will be no different than those past. He’ll still take a moment by himself to remember his sister. Maybe, he said, a moment longer.
“Just a few moments to remember how lucky we are to have what we have.”