Police use DNA to identify teen found dead on the street in 1978

In September, a DNA sample of “John Doe 1978” helped investigators identify the teen as Kenneth...
In September, a DNA sample of “John Doe 1978” helped investigators identify the teen as Kenneth Nevada Williams, a 15-year-old who ran away from his home in the city of La Puente in 1978.(Long Beach Police Department)
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 10:59 AM MST
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LONG BEACH, Calif. (Gray News) – A teenager who was killed in the 1970s and only known as “John Doe” for decades has finally been identified.

A young man’s body was found June 3, 1978, lying on the pavement of a street in Long Beach, according to the Long Beach Police Department.

Detectives determined at the time the victim, between 15 and 19 years old, had succumbed to his injuries and died at the scene.

Despite decades of working to identify the victim, all investigative leads were exhausted, and the case went cold.

According to police, advances in investigative genealogy over the years made it possible for detectives to develop new leads and reopen the case.

In September, a DNA sample of “John Doe 1978″ helped investigators identify the teen as Kenneth Nevada Williams, a 15-year-old who ran away from his home in the city of La Puente in 1978.

Police say Kenneth was never reported missing.

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Police Department confirmed Kenneth attended Sierra Vista Middle School in 1977 and was enrolled in Fairgrove Academy on Oct. 18, 1977.

Records state Oct. 27, 1977, was the last day he attended school.

Homicide detectives contacted the victim’s family members to further confirm his identity.

“A teenager who was murdered in the 1970s has been known only as ‘John Doe’ for decades until recent technology and dogged investigators led to his true identity,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Justice delayed doesn’t have to be justice denied in this case. Kenneth Nevada Williams is now a known victim and identifying his killer is the next step in solving this case.”

The Long Beach Police Department is asking for the public’s help in developing investigative leads to identify who killed Kenneth in 1978.

Anyone with information regarding the 1978 murder of Kenneth or his whereabouts from Oct. 27, 1977, to June 3, 1978, is urged to contact the Long Beach Police Department’s Homicide Detail, Missing Persons Section at (562) 570-7246.

Anonymous tips may be submitted through LA Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-TIPS (8477) or downloading the P3 Tips app to your smartphone (available at the Apple app store or Google Play), or by visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org.