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Sheriff’s Office Links Serial Killer to 1977 Slaying

Despite considering Death Row inmate Rodney Alcala a “known suspect” in murder of woman found dead on a Mount Tam trail, department closes case, citing insufficient new evidence.

Thirty-four years ago, the naked, badly beaten body of a 19-year-old San Jose resident was found along the Boy Scout Trail about a quarter-mile from the on Panoramic Highway.

Her murder has been considered a cold case ever since.

In the past week, however, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office has both identified a suspect in the case and closed its investigation due to insufficient new evidence, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Barry Heying.

Heying said Monday that detectives have identified serial killer Rodney James Alcala, who is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison, as a known suspect in the murder of Pamela Lambson, a computer assistant and aspiring actress and singer.

The Sheriff’s Office had been investigating the 67-year-old Alcala’s possible ties to the slaying since he was sentenced to death by a jury in Orange County in March 2010 for the sexual assault, torture and strangling of four women and a 12-year-old girl in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s.

Sheriff’s detectives were drawn to Alcala after hearing about a catalogue of hundreds of photographs of young women who had posed for him in the 1970s. Detectives traveled to Huntington Beach in March 2010 to review those photos as well as other evidence the city’s police department had in its files.

The detectives brought a sketch of the Lambson murder suspect from 1977, based on a description provided by store clerks who reported seeing Lambson and another man at Fisherman’s Wharf. Lampson’s co-workers and parents told police at the time that their daughter had met a photographer at an Oakland A’s game and made a date to meet him later at the Wharf to pose for a photo shoot.

Detectives “immediately recognized it as a match with Alcala,” Heying said. “Detectives in Huntington Beach said it appeared as though Alcala had posed for the sketch in-person.”

Lambson’s body was discovered on Oct. 9, 1977 on the Boy Scout Trail by a local doctor who was on an early morning run. Lambson had been raped, beaten and strangled.

At the time of the murder, DNA analysis had yet to be discovered as a means of identifying criminal suspects. 

Heying said case evidence was submitted to the state crime lab in 2000 for analysis as part of a cold case project, but the decades-old samples yielded no results.

With DNA analysis methods much improved over the past decade, detectives sought again to match physical evidence obtained from where Lambson’s body was found to Alcala, but the samples were too degraded and no viable DNA profile could be produced.

“Without physical evidence to link Alcala to the crime, the case was rendered inactive,” Heying said.

On Monday, Sheriff’s detectives informed Jean Lambson, Pamela Lambson's 78-year-old mother, that they are convinced Alcala murdered her daughter in 1977, according to the Orange County Register. She told the newspaper that she felt relief upon knowing the identity of her daughter's killer and that he will never be freed from custody to hurt anyone else again.

"But I already had closure because of my faith," Jean Lambson, a devout Mormon, told the Register. "I forgave him a long time ago. I think closure happens when you forgive."

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