TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Cindy Borgeson, Linda O’Keefe’s older sister, said she got the call Tuesday, Feb. 19.
“He said are you sitting down and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m having a burger at In-N-Out.’ And he said, ‘I just arrested the gu. We have our man;’ and I said, ‘Wow, OK,” Borgeson said.
Words she said she never really expected to come, especially after more than 45 years.
“It was one day and Linda didn’t come home from school and I just thought, ‘Linda is hanging out at a friend’s house.’ And I just thought, ‘Mom is going to be mad when she comes home,’" Borgeson said.
But Linda never did make it to her home in Newport Beach, CA, on that July day in 1973. Authorities said Linda was kidnapped while walking home from school.
The 11-year-old was found the following day. She had been strangled to death, her body dumped in a ditch.
“My dad says, ‘They found her,’ and I thought, ‘Great.’ And he said, ‘No, you don’t understand. They found her,’” Borgeson said.
After hundreds of leads - even a post on Twitter - and four decades, the Newport Beach Police Department publicly announced Wednesday, Feb. 22 they got their guy, 72-year-old James Alan Neal in Colorado.
“This murder rocked the city of Newport Beach in a very, very serious way for over four decades," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
The department said detectives were able to track the suspect down with help from the genealogical database, Family Tree DNA. Information pointed investigators to Neal, and detectives collected new DNA to compare.
“Once Parabon (a DNA technology company) provided the snapshot from the DNA, that was an extra boost," Borgeson said.
“The DNA that they then subsequently collected through surveillance was then compared to the DNA from the victim and there was a match,” Spitzer said.
Neal is facing multiple charges, including murder, kidnapping, and committing a lewd and lascivious act.
“They had a whole team of people working on just this case full time, so the proof is in the outcome, obviously,” Borgeson said.
Borgeson’s parents have passed away. She shared photos of Linda with KOLD News 13 that were handed down to her from her mother.
She said her faith has already allowed her to forgive and putting a face to the crime won’t change that.
“There’s a saying about forgiveness, that it’s taking a poison in wanting the other person to die," Borgeson said. " So I couldn’t live with that anger and hatred and vengeance in my heart because I don’t believe it’s what ... my lord .... my lord doesn’t want me to live like that.”
Borgeson said she hopes this closure for her family will give hope to others who may be searching for answers.
Investigators are working to extradite Neal from Colorado to California. He hasn’t entered a plea.
The District Attorney said he is looking at the possibility of pursuing the death penalty.