A Bakersfield man was ordered Monday to appear on trial in the murders of two young women in the 1980s, including a Reseda resident whose body was found in the trunk of her car in a parking lot in Burbank.
After a three-day hearing, Los Angeles Supreme Court Justice Ronald S. Coen found enough evidence to bring the case against 65-year-old Horace Van Vaultz to justice. Year old Mary Duggan, whose body was found in the trunk of her car in an empty parking lot in Burbank, and the strangulation of Selena Keough, a 20-year-old mother who was killed in San Bernardino County on July 16, 1981 and under bushes in Montclair dumped.
Both women were sexually assaulted and tied up, the authorities said.
The case marked the first Los Angeles County prosecution to examine genetic genealogy. Detectives are accessing commercial DNA databases, downloading DNA material from the crime, and finding a relative’s match who can point to a suspect and collect their DNA, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said at the time.
“Mr Vaultz remains innocent,” his defense attorney Damon Lamont Hobdy told reporters shortly after his client – whom he described as a retired widower – was arrested and charged in November 2019.
“Surprisingly, Mr. Vaultz took this very well … he understands this is going to be a fight.”
Hobdy pointed out that the evidence linking his clients to the murders could be flawed.
“Your claim is that it is a DNA case,” Hobdy said at the time. “DNA can be flawed.”
In announcing the charges, Lacey said the two murders were linked to a single suspect about two decades after the crimes.
“These results linked a suspect to the crimes and provided law enforcement with another piece of important evidence. Based on the match, the detectives then collected DNA from the defendant’s trash,” Lacey said.
“The DNA matched the forensic evidence found in both crimes and gave us the evidence we needed to file murder charges against the suspect.”
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Burbank Police Department chief Scott LaChasse credited “more contemporary technology” with helping identify Vaultz as a suspect.
Burbank Police Department detective Aaron Kay said Vaultz – who was under surveillance – was arrested in the Inglewood area during a traffic obstruction on November 14, 2019.
“Because his criminal history goes back so far, it goes back to the advent of those (criminal) DNA databases we have,” said Kay, who was 2 years old when Duggan was killed with a handkerchief stuffed down her throat had been.
Authorities have failed to determine why Vaultz – who has “been all over Southern California” and has a “Texas connection” that investigators will investigate – allegedly targeted the two women, Kay said at the time.
San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson said in 2019 that his office agreed to bring Vaultz to justice in Los Angeles because “the Keough family waited 38 years to get justice and we don’t want them to wait any longer “.
Vaultz – who remains in jail without bail – will be tried on April 19 in a courtroom in downtown Los Angeles.