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41 years after Anaheim woman’s killing, DNA evidence leads to arrest

 Viola Hagenkord
Anaheim police announced the arrest of a New Mexico man accused of killing and sexually assaulting Viola Hagenkord, shown in 1980.
(Anaheim Police Department)

A man has been arrested and charged on suspicion of killing and sexually assaulting a 79-year-old Anaheim woman who was found dead in her apartment 41 years ago.

Anaheim police said Friday that New Mexico resident Andre William Lepere, 64, has been arrested in the death of Viola Hagenkord and faces charges of first-degree murder with a special-circumstance allegation of rape by the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Lepere is being held without bail in New Mexico’s Otero County pending extradition proceedings. It was unclear who was representing him.

On Feb. 18, 1980, police responded to Hagenkord’s home in the 2500 block of West Winston Road after a neighbor entered her apartment and found her body. She had been “very well liked” in her community and her neighbors had grown worried after not seeing her for two days, according to Anaheim Police Sgt. Shane Carringer.

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Officials determined that Hagenkord died of asphyxiation, Carringer said.

Detectives investigated the case over the next few decades but never identified a suspect. Lepere was ultimately arrested as a result of DNA evidence, said Carringer, but he didn’t provide additional details on how the identification was made or the original leads pursued.

“In September, they went back, took another look at it,” he said. “They believed it would be a new candidate for the emerging DNA technology.”

Carringer said that in 1992 a jury acquitted Lepere of an attempted murder allegedly committed in California but could not provide more details.

Lepere had lived near Hagenkord and worked as a truck driver and plumber. Carringer said that it’s unclear whether Lepere had a direct relationship with Hagenkord and that police haven’t identified a motive.

DNA technology also solved Orange County’s oldest homicide cold case. In July, officials announced they had used genetic genealogy to identify the man who killed Anita Louise Piteau in Huntington Beach 52 years earlier.


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