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Man arrested in Monument for 1973 murder dies in custody

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Posted at 3:42 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 17:42:18-04

SANTA ANA, CA — Officials in California say James Alan Neal, who was arrested last year in Monument for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe, has died.

Neal moved to Monument in 2016, after moving around California for many years.

O'Keefe was last seen talking to someone in a van while she walked home from summer school on July 6, 1973, in Corona del Mar, California, but never made it. She was kidnapped and was sexually assaulted before she was strangled to death.

Prosecutors in California say DNA samples collected at the time of the murder were entered into national systems. Investigators tracked Neal down as a suspect based on a DNA sample sent in a part of a genealogical tracking effort.

According to a media release from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, a 73-year-old inmate was transferred to the hospital on May 25, 2020, due to an illness.

The sheriff's department later confirmed to NBC Los Angeles that Neal was the inmate who died.

That release says there are no suspicious circumstances or signs of trauma at this time, and that he was not showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office will investigate Neal's death, and the Orange County Sheriff's Department will conduct an in-custody death review.

The Newport Police Department used Twitter to gather more information on the case, using conversations in O'Keefe's voice to get attention.