DNA leads to arrest in 1980 murder of Oxnard girl
More than three decades ago, 15-year-old Stacy Knappenberger was found fatally beaten and stabbed multiple times inside her Oxnard home. Investigators also suspected she been sexually assaulted in July 1980 attack.
Time and technology finally caught up with the man Oxnard police detectives say killed the A-grade student in the 5300 block of South J Street.
Thursday afternoon, Oxnard police detectives and members of the Ventura County Cold Case Task Force arrested Thomas Young, 65, in Fairfield, Ala., for the murder of Knappenberger. Young was connected to the crime via DNA evidence collected at the time of the killing.
Young lived in the Oxnard area at the time.
“We know this is a very emotional day for the family and we hope that this helps in the healing process. We know that they have thought about Stacy every single day since she was killed in 1980," said Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams. "It’s also a very rewarding day for law enforcement and a tribute to the good work that was put into this case over the past 32 years.”
Despite an extensive investigation in 1980, Oxnard detectives developed no suspect information, but in 2000, due to advances in technology, the evidence in this case was reexamined by Oxnard detectives and the DNA evidence was submitted for testing by the Ventura County Sheriff’s crime lab.
Williams said in 2010, a DNA hit was made on a suspect through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that contains DNA profiles of arrested and convicted criminal offenders. That suspect was identified as Young.
Following the DNA hit, the case was assigned to the Ventura County Cold Case Task Force. Young was located with the assistance of the sheriff’s office in Jefferson County, Ala., and arrested about 2:30 p.m. Thursday under the authority of a Ventura County murder warrant.
Young was booked into the Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham, Ala., for murder and is awaiting extradition to Ventura County.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Thomas Young. Credit: Oxnard Police Department