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Remains of 1977 murder victim found in Napa County

Photo: Roger Kibbe in 2009. Credit: KTLA-TV The remains of a Bay Area woman who was kidnapped and murdered in 1977 by the so-called I-5 Strangler have been found in Napa County, authorities said Tuesday.

A deputy from the Napa County Sheriff’s Department found the remains of Lou Ellen Burleigh, 21, of Walnut Creek in a dry riverbed near Lake Berryessa, Walnut Creek police said.

In 2002, serial killer Roger Reece Kibbe confessed to murdering Burleigh and five other Bay Area women.

Kibbe was already serving 25 years to life in prison for kidnapping and murdering a 17-year-old woman, and after DNA linked him to the slayings attributed to the I-5 Strangler — the man who killed five women in 1986 and dumped their bodies near highways and freeways — he confessed to all six homicides.

In exchange for avoiding the death penalty and instead serving life in prison, Kibbe said he would cooperate with investigators and help locate Burleigh’s body.

Kibbe told authorities he had taken Burleigh, who he said was his first victim, to Lake Berryessa, where he raped and killed her, leaving her body in a dry riverbed near the lake.

Investigators took Kibbe to several locations around the lake in 2003 but didn’t find Burleigh’s body.

Searches in 2007 and 2009 also were not successful. In early 2011, a Napa County sheriff’s deputy was searching for Burleigh’s body on his own when he found a small piece of bone sticking out of some gravel on the bottom of a creek bed, Walnut Creek police said.

After an anthropologist confirmed the bone fragment was from a human female, it was sent to a lab where it was confirmed as Burleigh’s.

Her family was notified Friday about the discovery, police said.

Kibbe was up for parole in 2009, when San Joaquin prosecutors charged him with the six other slayings. Kibbe, now 72, is currently serving his sentence in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.

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-- Kate Mather

Photo: Roger Kibbe in 2009. Credit: KTLA-TV

 
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