Image of Kenneth Nevada Williams, who was identified on Wednesday as the victim of a 1978 homicide. Photo courtesy of Long Beach Police Department
Dec. 16 (UPI) — A DNA technique called investigative genealogy helped identify a teen “John Doe” victim of a 1978 homicide in Long Beach who had gone missing from school for months before he was found, Long Beach Police detectives said — now they want his killer.
The DNA technique, which is used to develop a family tree of possible living relatives who could help identify the subject, confirmed the victim of the homicide was Kenneth Nevada Williams, a 15-year-old runaway from La Puente, Calif.
Investigative genealogy made national headlines in 2018 when investigators used it to identify the suspect in the decades-old “Golden State Killer” case. Former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for murders dating back to the 1970s.
“Without the assistance of investigative genealogy, Kenneth Williams may have never been identified, however, his story is far from over,” the Long Beach Police Department said in a statement.
“The person(s) responsible for his murder are still outstanding and must be identified to be held accountable for their crimes so that Kenneth Williams and his family will get the justice they have long deserved.”
Authorities said according to records provided by the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Police, Williams last attended Sierra Vista Middle School in 1977 and was enrolled in Fairgrove Academy on Oct. 18, 1977. His last attended school day was on Oct. 27, 1977.
Long Beach Police detectives often came back to the case over the years but were never able to develop any solid leads on the victim and suspect until using the still relatively new DNA technique.
Roxanne Jones, the sister of Williams, said she was stunned to hear about her brother’s death. She said he ran away from home often and family members believed he had simply moved away to start a new life away from them.
Jones said the family even hired a private investigator to find him with no success.
“He wanted to live in the city and go to clubs and have fun,” Jones told KABC-TV. “He wasn’t into drugs or anything like that but you know, bright lights, big city. As soon as they said there was a familial DNA match, I knew who it was, who it had to be.”