A man accused of killing 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe nearly five decades ago has been linked to the sexual assaults of two other children, authorities said Wednesday, the same day the suspect made his first court appearance in Orange County.
James Neal, 72, has been charged with murder and multiple felony counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. He also faces a sentencing enhancement alleging he had multiple victims.
DA Todd Spitzer revealed after Neal appeared in court that he is now suspected in sex crimes against two other children from Riverside County.
“While that evidence will be presented in court, there are now allegations of multiple sexual assault victims,” he said. “And so, we do believe that Mr. Neal was involved in creating more victims beyond the murder of Linda O’Keefe.”
According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Neal is facing five counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14 against two Jane Does between 1995 and 2004 in Riverside County.
Neal is also charged in the sexual assault and killing of O’Keefe, who vanished in Newport Beach on July 6, 1973, as she walked home from summer school. The girl’s body was found the following day in a ditch in the Back Bay.
She had been strangled, officials said.
The complaint alleges that O’Keefe’s killing was premeditated and carried out while Neal was engaged in lewd acts with the child.
Investigators were eventually able to use a genealogical website to link O’Neal to DNA evidence found at the crime scene, prosecutors said when they announced the charges against him last month.
At the time of the homicide, Neal was known as James Alan George Layton. He later moved to Florida and changed his name.
Neal was taken into custody in Colorado, where he resided, on Feb. 19. He was subsequently extradited to Southern California following a hearing in late February.
The suspect appeared for the first time in a Santa Ana courtroom on Wednesday, but his arraignment was postponed to March 29, according to the DA’s Office.
If convicted in the 1973 case, Neal faces a maximum sentence of 82 years to life in prison, according to a news release from the DA’s office.
Spitzer indicated after the charges were filed that his office would research the death penalty as an option in the case; prosecutors, however, came to the conclusion that legally it was not, the release stated.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the Riverside County alleged crimes as “cold cases.” In fact, the allegations came to light more recently. This story has been updated.