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Second suspect identified in 35-year-old murder case

December 29, 2010 |  1:01 pm

Los Angeles police have identified a second suspect in connection with the suffocation slaying of an 80-year-old Mar Vista woman, a crime that occurred 35 years ago this month, authorities said Wednesday.

Kevin Shanahan has been charged with murder by Los Angeles County prosecutors, authorities said. He is currently in custody in Olmstead, Minn., pending extradition to California.

Investigators said Shanahan was a 15-year high school student when, on Dec. 17, 1975, he and another boy allegedly raped and suffocated Alice Lewis after breaking into her home. Detectives described this as the first multi-defendant case of its kind in the decade-old history of the Los Angeles Police Department's cold-case homicide unit.

"As a homicide detective, it's rewarding to be able to use technology to solve cases that were thought to be unsolvable," said LAPD Det. Tim Marcia.

In September 2009, authorities charged Dennis Vasquez, 51, of Los Angeles, in connection with the case. Vasquez was 16 at the time of the killing. Minors typically are not identified by the court or tried as adults, but because Vasquez was arrested decades after the crime, a judge found he was unfit to be tried as a juvenile.

Vasquez had been arrested on an unrelated crime, which led to a swab of his DNA being taken by authorities.

That led to a "cold hit" on a DNA sample from the 1975 crime that had been placed in the state database about seven years ago, according to Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Detectives said Vasquez indicated that he may have participated in the burglary with another person. Cold-case detectives identified Shanahan, a convicted bank robber, through fingerprints found at the scene and other investigative work.


Mar Vista neighbors still recall 1975 rape and murder

Suspect identified in 1975 rape and murder of elderly Mar Vista woman

-- Andrew Blankstein
Twitter: @anblanx @latimescitydesk @lanow