The man accused of sexually assaulting and killing an 11-year-old girl in Newport Beach over 40 years ago, as well as more recent sex crimes against two Riverside County girls, denied the charges on Friday, officials said.
James Alan Neal, 72, pleaded not guilty to one count of murder while committing lewd acts on a child in the death of Linda Ann O’Keefe and five counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Orange County Superior Court staff told KTLA.
O’Keefe was abducted while walking home from school the summer of 1973. Her strangled body was later found dumped in a ditch in Newport Beach’s Back Bay.
Prosecutors say DNA evidence collected at the crime scene eventually linked Neal to the homicide — 45 years after the fact — thanks to data from genealogical website FamilyTreeDNA.
Neal was arrested Feb. 19 in Monument, Colorado, where the Colorado Springs Gazette reports he’d been living with his family since 2016.
But investigators believe he lived in Southern California in the 1970s, when he was known as James Albert Layton Jr. He later moved to Florida and changed his name, officials said.
Prosecutors have revealed few details about the Riverside County allegations, which first came to light last month.
According to a criminal complaint filed March 13, the charges involve two Jane Does who were assaulted between 1995 and 2004.
Neal scheduled to return to court June 14.
If convicted as charged, he could face a maximum penalty of 82 years to life in state prison.