Police Use Genealogy to ID Now-Deceased Man as Killer in 1972 Death of Torrance Girl

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Investigators used DNA and genetic genealogy to identify a now-deceased man who sexually assaulted and killed an 11-year-old Torrance girl in 1972, authorities announced Wednesday.

Terri Lynn Hollis never returned home after going out for a bike ride on Thanksgiving Day. Torrance police searched for her before learning the next day that her body had been found on the rocks by the ocean near Point Mugu, Chief Eve Irvine said at a news conference.

Ventura County officials collected DNA samples from her body at the time, but years of analysis didn’t yield a match, Irvine said.

Finally, in 2018, publicly available genetic data led detectives to a relative of Jake Edward Brown.

Brown had been arrested for two rape cases after Hollis died, one in April 1973 then again in April 1974. He also had a narcotics and robbery record, Irvine said.

He served prison time but was not in custody when he died of a medical condition in Arizona in 2003, the chief said.

Investigators, who continue to investigate the case, have not determined what he was doing in Torrance when he kidnapped Hollis, Irvine said. Brown used an alias and had multiple addresses, she said.

Officials exhumed his body in 2018 and this year managed to confirm a match between his DNA and the evidence gathered from Hollis’ remains.

Recent technological advancement made that possible, authorities said at Wednesday’s announcement. Detectives have been able to solve such cold cases as more people use genealogical websites and voluntarily upload their data to a database in search of relatives.

The victim’s brother, Randy Hollis, thanked police for not giving up on the case. He said he was 16 at the time of his sister’s death and that he thinks of her every Thanksgiving.

“When you think about it, 47 years, it’s amazing that we’ve come to this day,” he said. “I only wish that my parents were still alive to see this.”

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