A body found in Southern California over four decades ago has finally been identified through DNA technology as a teenage boy from La Puente.

The remains of “John Doe 1978,” which were discovered on a residential street in Long Beach on June 3, 1978, were officially identified as Kenneth Nevada Williams, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) said in a statement Wednesday.

Williams, 15, ran away from his home in La Puente the same year his body was discovered. He was never reported missing.

At the time of his death, he had the word “paid” stamped on his hand.

“There was no identification, fingerprints were taken, the fingerprints didn’t match any databases and the victim, unfortunately, was only identified as a John Doe,” LBPD detective Shea Robertson told ABC7 of the initial discovery of Williams’ body.

John Doe 1978 was originally linked to convicted serial killer Randy Kraft. Sometimes known as the “Freeway Killer,” Kraft raped, tortured, and murdered 16 young men in Southern California between 1972 and 1983. After an investigation, he was ruled out as a suspect.

The break in the 44-year-old case came in September, when homicide detectives reached out to the Othram lab in Texas to create a DNA sample of John Doe 1978 for investigative genealogy. The sample was subsequently matched to Williams.

Although police did not reveal how Williams died, they vowed to continue the investigation into his death.

“Justice delayed doesn’t have to be justice denied in this case. Kenneth Nevada Williams is now a known victim and identifying his killer is the next step in solving this case,” Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement.

Speaking to ABC7 earlier this week, Williams’ sister, Roxanne Jones, said that the family assumed the teen had started a new life elsewhere.

“He wanted to live in the city and go to clubs and have fun and he just … he wasn’t into drugs or anything like that but you know, bright lights, big city,” she told the outlet.

“As soon as [the police] said there was a familial DNA match, I knew who it was who it had to be.”

Williams’ death is one of several cold cases inching closer to a resolution thanks to advanced DNA technology. Last month, police in Marysville, WA made an arrest in the 1998 murder of Jennifer Brinkman after DNA from the murder weapon was linked to a suspect.

“Solving this case has been at the top of the priority list of the Marysville Police Department for the past 24-plus years,” Police Chief Erik Scairpon said at the time.

“We never gave up or put this on a shelf.  It was continuously being investigated, with the belief that we would one day be able to bring some level of closure for the family and justice for Jennifer.”


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