ANTIOCH, Calif. – An arrest has been made in the notorious 1980 murder of a 14-year-old girl.
After 37 years, authorities in Northern California said they have a suspect in custody in the cold-case murder of a teenage girl that drew national attention at the time, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Mitchell Lynn Bacom, 63, has been held on charges in the murder and rape of Suzanne Bombardier (pictured), The East Bay Times reported.
Bombardier was reported missing on the morning of June 21, 1980. She had been babysitting her nieces at the time of her disappearance.
Her disappearance prompted an intense search in Antioch, a city east of the San Francisco Bay Area. Five days later, a fisherman discovered her body floating on the San Joaquin River about 97 miles away, the report said. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed with a single wound to the heart.
Bombardier’s family knew Bacom, police told the East Bay Times.
In 2015, the Police Department sent biological samples from Suzanne’s body to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Laboratory to create a DNA profile. Lab technicians used the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System to tentatively link the profile to Bacom earlier this year. The link was confirmed after additional testing, police said.
“When the biological evidence was collected in this case, DNA testing did not exist as a method of determining guilt in our justice system,” Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks said during a news conference at the police station, hours after Bacom was apprehended.
The re-opening of the case was attributed to author Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons, and retired Antioch police detectives Gregory Glod and Ron Rackley.
Gibbons came across Suzanne’s gravestone in 2014, which led her to write the Lost Girl blog that traced her discovery of Suzanne’s stories, the East Bay Times reported.
In the same year, Gibbons arranged a reunion between detectives Glod, Rackley and one of Suzanne’s close friends and one of her nieces, The Chronicle reported.
“My prayers have been answered,” Glod told the East Bay Times. “…Probably not too many days have gone by that I haven’t thought about this case … This has made my life complete to be quite honest with you.”
In a statement released by police, they said they had never given up on solving the case, and that they had tracked technological developments that would help identify the killer.
“It was through patience, persistence, networking, modern investigative techniques and scientific advances that this case was solved,” the statement read.
The man accused of the heinous act still lived in Antioch. Police detained him outside of his home on the 300 block of West Madill Street.
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said she will charge Bacom with kidnapping, rape, murder, oral copulation and murder with use of a deadly weapon.
Bombardier’s slaying was the oldest open homicide cold case on record in Antioch.
Friends remembered the slain junior high teen for her bubbly spirit and ability to see humor in everything. She was commemorated in a yearbook for having the best smile in her class. She swooned over Rod Stewart ballads and aspired to be a cheerleader.
Bacom had a criminal history that began long before Bombardier’s death. In 1973, he was arrested in Mountain View and convicted the following year of second-degree burglary, sodomy and assault with intent to murder. He was sentenced to five years to life.
In 1981, he was arrested in Isleton (Sacramento County) and later convicted of first-degree burglary, robbery, rape and sodomy. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
He was convicted in 2002 of failing to properly register as a sex offender in Contra Costa County and sentenced to four years in prison.
Suzanne’s family was notified of Bacom’s arrest on Monday. Several of her relatives still live in the Bay Area, but not in Antioch.
“We hope this development brings some comfort to them,” Brooks said.
The Antioch Police Department is working with other law enforcement agencies to determine if Bacom was involved in further crimes. They are also looking to hear from any past victims, including those who may have never reported the crimes.