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Detectives hope this old photo can help in the Linda O’Keefe cold case investigation

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James Alan Neal is seen in an undated photo released by Newport Beach police, who hope to find additional witnesses in the murder case against him related to the 1973 slaying of Linda O’Keefe.
(Newport Beach Police Department)

Hoping to jog the memories of longtime residents who might have crossed paths with the suspect in the kidnapping and killing of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe in July 1973, authorities have released a photo of James Alan Neal to show what he may have looked like at the time of the slaying.

The photo is thought to have been taken between the late 1970s and the early 1980s, Newport Beach police said.

Neal, 72, was arrested Tuesday by authorities in Colorado, where he lives and remains in custody. Barring any legal challenges, he awaits extradition to California, according to Newport Beach police.

Neal has been charged with special-circumstances murder, kidnapping and lewd and lascivious acts on a minor under 14 in connection with Linda’s death.

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Authorities say Neal went by the name James Albert Layton Jr. at the time of the killing. Investigators believe that he lived in Southern California in the 1970s and changed his name following an incident in Florida.

A sketch of a person of interest in Linda’s death was circulated at the time of the killing, but it generated no leads.

DNA testing wasn’t available at the time. Instead, investigators tested bodily fluids and blood left at crime scenes for proteins that helped provide clues or narrow a list of suspects.

The science eventually became key to the case.

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Newport Beach detectives in 2018 contacted Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based medical lab, which used DNA from the crime scene to calculate a possible suspect’s facial composite, gender, ancestry, freckles and skin tone, and eye and hair color.

The lab provided two profiles — one showing a man in his mid-20s and another detailing what he might look like today in his late 60s or early 70s.


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