Decades-Old East Bay Murder Case Solved Using Genealogy Techniques

Street Crime Scene Tape

Alameda County Sheriff’s investigators have solved a 32-year-old cold case using online genealogy, arresting a woman they say killed her newborn in 1988.

The two-day-old boy was found in a bag dumped by a Castro Valley creek. He had apparently been strangled. They knew little else, even giving the baby a name - Baby John Doe.

According to a release from the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, about 200 members of the San Leandro community attended a makeshift funeral for Baby John Doe at the time. The case was cold until 2005, when a female's DNA profile was pulled from crime scene evidence.

"It was a case that we always wanted to solve," Sgt. Ray Kelly told KCBS Radio. "I remember when I worked homicide back in the early 2000s looking over that case and wondering how it was that we were going to solve that case."

"Our investigators, and we believe it’s the first time anyone’s done it on the law enforcement side, we actually did a lot of the research ourselves," Sgt. Kelly said. "We worked with people, including people who were involved in the Golden State Killer case. So those genealogical experts could make sure we were on track."

Lesa Lopez, 52, was arrested July 23 at her home in Stanislas County.

She had no criminal record. She's now been charged with murder.

Lopez is being held at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.