Law authorities say they used investigative genetic geology to solve the 1976 rape and murder of a 19-year-old nursing student.
Investigators said the technology helped identify the man who attacked Janet Stallcup at Christmastime that year while she was on her way to a party. Her body was found eight days later inside her car, about 2 1/2 miles from her Garden Grove apartment.
Her alleged killer, who police identified as Terry Dean Hawkins, died in 1977 while inside an Orange County jail for an unrelated reason. He was 45.
Despite the case going cold for decades, the Orange County crime lab obtained a single source male DNA profile in 2002 from swabs taken from the crime scene, the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office said. The profile didn’t find a match in the Combined DNA Index System database.
The Garden Grove Police Department then asked the OCDA’s Office in 2020 to open an investigative genetic genealogy investigation into Stallcup’s murder. Analysts tested DNA tissue from Hawkins’ autopsy, which led to him being identified as the culprit.
Although the Stallcup family will not see justice, the OCDA’s office and Garden Grove police met with them to inform them that Janet’s murder had been solved.
“We know who killed Janet Stallcup because generations of law enforcement officers refused to give up on finding her killer,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “Advances in technology and DNA is breathing life back into cases that have grown cold over the years. Justice that had been evasive for decades is now at our fingertips hidden away in DNA. Loved ones who have spent years wondering if they will ever have the peace of mind of knowing who killed their daughter, their sister, their friend, now know who is responsible.”
Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRé said the case would have been difficult to solve without technological advancements.
“Advances in DNA technology have not only assisted in identifying Janet Stallcup’s murderer, but have become a valuable tool for law enforcement,” he said in a statement. “This case would not have been solved without the determination of our detective unit and the support from the Orange County District Attorney’s office science and technology unit. We are thankful that through our partnership, we are finally able to bring closure to Janet Stallcup’s family and loved ones.”