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Investigators solve 33-year-old homicide of woman found on Ventura County hilltop

After more than three decades, Ventura police have solved the murder of a 42-year-old woman who was found dead on a hillside in 1991.

In a statement released on Tuesday, investigators say that the use of advanced genetic genealogy techniques led to them finally being able to identify the perpetrator after 33 years. 

Danielle Clause.  Ventura Police Department

The body of Danielle Clause was discovered on a hillside near the top of Tioga Drive close to downtown Ventura on July 16, 1991, the statement said. An autopsy showed that she had been sexually assaulted and died due to multiple blunt-force injuries to her head. 

The lengthy investigation spanned over the. years, but after "investigators at the time explored every avenue, the case was suspended and considered cold," according to a statement from the Ventura Police Department. 

In 2021, detectives decided to reopen the case to retest evidence gathered from the crime scene for DNA. They were able to locate genetic genealogy and develop a family tree of the perpetrator. 

"Phenotyping was used to verify distinct characteristics of the suspect, and after collecting family DNA samples, Larry Welch was positively identified," said a statement from VPD. 

Police say that Welch died in 1999 and that there is no known connection between the two. 

"Through extensive collaboration with local and national law enforcement agencies and nonprofits, it's with great pride that I share this success story," said Ventura Police Chief Darin Schindler. "From the initial investigation in 1991 to recent advancements in forensic techniques, I'm honored to highlight the perseverance of detectives as they continued to seek justice for the victim and her family."

Ventura police released a lengthy video detailing the extensive process behind the investigation, including more in depth information on how they used genealogy to identify Welch. 

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