The first killing happened in 1987 when Shannon Rose Lloyd, 23, was found dead in a bedroom she was renting in Garden Grove, Orange County. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office
Then, in 2003, a crime lab linked Lloyd’s death to the 1989 killing of another woman, 27-year-old Renee Cuevas, whose body was found near a marine base in the same county.
Both cases went cold until 2021 when an investigative genetic genealogy team identified a possible suspect: Reuben J. Smith.
Smith was a Las Vegas man who died by suicide in 1999 at the age of 39, a year after being arrested in Las Vegas on suspicion of sexually assaulting and attempting to kill a third woman, the District Attorney’s Office said. The victim fought back and was able to escape, authorities said.
“The evil in him. I know if I didn’t fight, I was going to die,” the unidentified woman who survived the 1998 attack said in a statement released by the DA’s office. “It was horrible. The things that he did, the things that he said. He told me he was going to kill me.”
DNA evidence collected during Smith’s arrest was a positive match for the DNA profile left at the 1980s crime scenes of Lloyd and Cuevas.
Smith had lived in Orange County in the ’80s, when the killings happened, before moving to Nevada.
“The loved ones of Renee Cuevas and Shannon Lloyd have the answers to the question they have been asking for more than three decades,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “The justice that every victim deserves was hidden away in DNA, but with advances in IGG technology combined with the relentless dedication of generations of detectives and the talented prosecutors and forensic scientists at the District Attorney’s Office, we now know who killed Renee and Shannon.”
“Justice does not have an expiration date,” the DA added.
This was the second time a suspect was identified in a cold case killing in the city of Garden Grove with the help of the genetic genealogy unit in the past year, officials said.
Investigative genetic genealogy, which combines DNA analysis with genealogical research, is being across the globe to solve decades-old crimes.
In one of the most high-profile cases, California’s so-called Golden State Killer
was identified using the then-novel investigative technique.
Investigators identified former California police officer Joseph DeAngelo as a suspect after DNA from a crime scene matched genetic material from one of his relatives, who authorities said was registered on a genealogy site.