Orange County prosecutors announced Wednesday that investigators have determined who raped and killed a 19-year-old Garden Grove nursing student 44 years ago, thanks to a DNA match made through a genealogical connection.
Terry Dean Hawkins, who died in the Orange County Jail in 1977, was deemed responsible for the rape and murder of Janet Stallcup in December 1976, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Stallcup was reported missing after she failed to show up for a party on Dec. 19, 1976. Her body was found in her car about eight days later, just 2 1/2 miles from her apartment.
Investigators were able to create a DNA profile of the killer in 2002 from evidence taken from the crime scene, but they were not able to match it to anyone in a law enforcement database.
Last year, Garden Grove police asked prosecutors to use genetic genealogy to help match the DNA to a suspect. The investigation included testing of tissue from Hawkins’ autopsy, allowing the Orange County Crime Lab to conclude he was the killer, prosecutors said.
“We know who killed Janet Stallcup because generations of law enforcement officers refused to give up on finding her killer,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
“Advances in technology and DNA is breathing life back into cases that have grown cold over the years,” he said. “Justice that had been evasive for decades is now at our fingertips hidden away in DNA. Loved ones who have spent years wondering if they will ever have the peace of mind of knowing who killed their daughter, their sister, their friend, now know who is responsible. I want to thank the Garden Grove Police Department and the Science and Technology Unit at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for their never-ending dedication to the pursuit of justice.”
Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRé said it was gratifying to solve the case.
“Advances in DNA technology have not only assisted in identifying Janet Stallcup’s murderer, but have become a valuable tool for law enforcement. This case would not have been solved without the determination of our detective unit and the support from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office Science and Technology Unit,” he said. “We are thankful that through our partnership, we are finally able to bring closure to Janet Stallcup’s family and loved ones.”