Authorities Release Photo of Suspect in ’73 Killing

February 22, 2019 Updated: February 22, 2019

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado—California authorities have released a decades-old photo of a suspect in the 1973 killing of an 11-year-old girl in the hopes of jogging the memory of potential witnesses.

Officials in Orange County said on Thursday, Feb. 21, that the photo may depict what James Neal looked like around the time Linda O’Keefe was killed. They’re asking anyone who saw him around then to come forward. The photo shows a smiling Neal with bushy hair and a mustache.

James Neal Colorado 71 killer
This undated photo provided by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office shows James Neal. (Orange County District Attorney’s Office via AP)

The 72-year-old was in court in Colorado on Thursday. A judge scheduled a Feb. 28 hearing on his extradition.

Neal was arrested this week in Colorado Springs in the killing the girl in Newport Beach, California.

Linda was seen July 6, 1973, walking home from summer school, and her body was found the next day.

Linda Ann Keefe cold case 2
This undated photo provided by the Newport Beach Police Department shows Linda O’Keefe, a case that has long shaken the seaside community of Newport Beach, Calif. (Newport Beach Police Department via AP)

Authorities say Neal lived in Southern California in the 1970s.

A Colorado man arrested after DNA tied him to the 1973 killing of an 11-year-old California girl has yet to decide if he will fight extradition.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports 72-year-old James Neal, of Monument, nodded at his crying relatives as he was led into court for a brief appearance Thursday.

members of James Neal family 1
Several members of James Alan Neal’s family leave El Paso County’s Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Feb. 21, 2019. (Dougal Brownlie/The Gazette via AP)

A judge scheduled a Feb. 28 hearing, where Neal could say if he will fight extradition to California to face a murder charge.

Neal was arrested in Colorado Springs on Tuesday for investigation of killing 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe in Newport Beach, California.

Authorities say Neal lived in Southern California in the 1970s.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer speaks during a news conference
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer speaks during a news conference at the OCDA’s office in Santa Ana, Calif., on Feb. 20, 2019. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)

Linda disappeared on July 6, 1973. She was seen walking home from summer school, and her body was found the next day.

A photo of a smiling Linda O’Keefe has hung for years on the wall of the police department in Newport Beach, reminding investigators to keep pressing forward on cold cases like hers.

Authorities said they never gave up the search for her killer, even after decades passed and her parents had died. The suspect’s DNA profile was uploaded to a criminal database in 2001 but there were no hits for years, authorities said.

They got a hit this year on a genealogical database, leading investigators to obtain a DNA sample from Neal, and it matched, Spitzer said.

Neal lived in Southern California at the time of O’Keefe’s killing and moved to Florida soon afterward, where he changed his name, Spitzer said.

O’Keefe’s two living sisters have been told about the arrest, authorities said. Over the years, hundreds of people have worked on the case, the police chief said.

One of them was now-retired Newport Beach police Officer Stan Bressler, who said O’Keefe’s death stunned the community and was never forgotten.

“Every once in a while, you just think, ‘Gee, I wonder if we’ll ever find him,’” he said.

By Amy Taxin

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