Human remains found decades ago now tied to 1970s cold case

·3 min read

Partial remains found more than 35 years ago in California have been identified as those belonging to a woman who went missing in 1977, according to authorities.

The Riverside Country District Attorney’s Office said on Friday that the remains found in 1986 are those of Linda Louise LeBeau, formerly Durnall, who went missing on 6 October 1977, aged 27.

Ms LeBeau went missing in the city of Tustin, between Irvine and Anaheim. Her skeletal remains including her skull were found by a Cal-Trans survey crew in 1986 who notified the county sheriff’s department.

Investigators found the victim had been shot in the head but were unable to identify her or any suspects connected to the murder case.

In August of 2021, the Cold Case Homicide Team, which includes the Riverside County Coroner’s Office, exhumed several sets of remains in cold case homicides. The skull was among those and it was sent to a Department of Justice lab for possible DNA comparison.

Earlier this week, Ms LeBeau’s identity was confirmed by familial DNA in the Department of Justice’s Missing Unidentified Persons database.

Ms LeBeau, who was divorced, was reported missing by her boyfriend to the Tustin Police Department in 1977.

Tustin police investigators had maintained an active investigation into the missing persons, possible homicide case, since her disappearance, continuing to follow up on leads, but had not been able to bring the case to resolution.

While police now have some of the answers they were looking for, it is unlikely any arrests will be made as the primary suspect is deceased.

According to a 2013 article in The Orange County Register, the day of Ms LeBeau’s disappearance, she was supposed to meet her ex-husband, Phillip LeBeau, at a Love’s Restaurant in Tustin to collect $300 he agreed to pay her for slashing her boyfriend’s tires and pouring sugar in the gas tank.

Witnesses reported seeing her at a nearby Texaco gas station arguing with a man, believed to be her ex-husband. She was never seen again.

Three days later, her 1971 Volkswagen van was found abandoned on Interstate 5. All of her belongings were still inside.

The couple had once lived off Ortega Highway in the San Juan Capistrano area, according to Tustin police.

Mr LeBeau died in 2008 and was considered the primary suspect until his death. He was alleged to have been physically abusive to his wife.

On the night of her disappearance, he returned home wearing wet clothes and told police he had gone to their old house to reminisce and then stopped for a swim.

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