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Task Force Uses DNA Technology To Close 2 South Lake Tahoe Cold Cases

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Authorities have closed the books on two murders from the late 1970s in South Lake Tahoe. Investigators used the same DNA testing used to arrest the alleged East Area Rapist.

After 40 years, the El Dorado County Task Force says they have their man. Now dead, Joseph Holt has been identified as the man who murdered Brynn Rainey and Carol Ann Anderson in South Lake Tahoe in the late 1970s.

The bodies of both victims were found two years apart. According to investigators, they were strangled or suffocated.

Investigators used DNA from the victims and a toothbrush from the suspect to link Holt to the homicides.

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"We've met with the families' two families over the last several weeks and months as the case has evolved, and they are relieved that they know who is responsible for it," said District Attorney Vern Pierson. "And equally important for us, that means that there isn't another serial killer like this that's still out of custody."

Unable to find any hits on CODIS, the task force tested DNA with Virginia-based Paragon Nanolabs. They then used GEDmatch as an open source to build a family tree and trace biological evidence to three brothers, one of whom was Holt, whose son provided investigators with a critical DNA sample.

"When you investigate a case like this, particularly because they're old, you don't know how it's going to turn out you don't know if you're ever going to solve it," Pierson said.

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Rainey was reported missing in August of 1977. Her nude body was found partially buried near Sunset Stateline Stables. Anderson's body was found in July of 1979 near Golden Bear Trail, also in South Lake Tahoe.

Holt worked as a realtor and moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1974. He died in 2014. A search of his home last month revealed a newspaper article from a car burglary he was suspected of being involved in. The victims of that crime also provided a sketch which left police suspecting him in other crimes.

"I'm hopeful that with some of the other cases we have that using this technology and forensics we'll be able close those cases out," Pierson said.

The recent success in solving the cold cases has lead investigators to believe more open cases can now be fast-tracked using the same technology.

There are more than 60 cold cases that the El Dorado County task force are trying to solve. Investigators are confident they'll be closing more cases now that the technology is catching up with old crimes.

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