70-year-old arrested for rape and murder of 5-year-old in 1982
Seaside, California: On January 21, 1982, 5-year-old Anne Sang Thi Pham went missing while walking to her kindergarten class at Highland Elementary School. Two days later, on January 23, 1982, her remains were found at Fort Ord, an army base that closed in 1994.
A medical examiner's report at the time revealed that she had been raped and strangled, but no arrests were made at the time.
Now, 40 years later, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office has announced charges against 70-year-old Robert John Lanoue of Reno, Nevada. He has been charged with one count of first degree murder with special allegations and lewd act on a child under the age of 14.
According to KION Lanoue waived his extradition at a hearing in Washoe County on Monday, July 11. The state of California has 11 days to pick him up and take him to Monterey County for trial. At the time of this writing, he remains in custody at the Washoe County Detention Facility.
The Monterey Herald revealed that the break in the case came after the Monterey County District Attorney's Office Cold Case Task Force received a $535,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice targeting cold cases where DNA belonging to a suspect had been previously identified.
"Funding from the U.S. Department of Justice grant enabled the Cold Case Task Force to seek justice in Pham's case," the press release from the Monterey County District Attorney's Office said. "A new type of DNA testing not previously available to earlier investigators identified Lanoue as the suspect in Pham's murder."
At the time, Lanoue was 29-years-old and lived near Anne and her family who had immigrated from Vietnam in 1975.
Law enforcement is asking that anyone who may have additional information contact Investigator Justin Bell at (831) 755-5070.
According to court records, Lanoue faced 75 charges in a Clark County case dating back to 1998. Of those charges, four were lewdness with a child under the age of 14 years old, five were using a minor in producing pornography, and the remainder were possession of child sexual abuse material.
According to the case records, Lanoue plead guilty to one count of each charge and was sentenced on June 3, 1998. For the charge of lewdness with a child under the age of 14 he was sentenced to between 24 and 62 months in prison with a lifetime of supervision, for using a minor in production of pornography he was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, and for possession of child sexual abuse material he was sentenced to between 12 and 36 months in prison.
Citing unnamed officials, the Independent reports that he spent more than 20 years behind bars.
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