US News: Long Beach police ID teen found dead in Belmont Shore in 1978

More than four decades after the body of a teenager was found on a residential street in Belmont Shore, Long Beach police finally have discovered the identity of the victim thanks to advances in investigative genealogy, authorities said Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Now, Long Beach police are asking for the public’s help in solving the cold case as they continue to investigate the death of Kenneth Nevada Williams, who was 15 years old when he was found dead on Division Street near Corona Avenue, June 3, 1978.

Williams was from La Puente, but ran away from home sometime in 1978, Long Beach police said, adding that his family never reported him missing.

“They had mentioned that at that time he had run away a couple times…and they had spent time in the past on other occasions finding him or he would return on his own,” Long Beach Detective Shea Robertson said. “That final time he ran away, they assumed he would just return as he had previously.”

Detectives did not know whether Williams was killed at the location where he was found or if he may have been dumped there, Robertson said. Police officials declined to comment on Williams’ cause of death.

Up until he was identified, Williams had been known to Long Beach homicide detectives as “John Doe 1978,” police said.

Homicide detectives created a DNA sample for “John Doe 1978” for investigative genealogy and in September, that sample led to the identity of Williams, police said.

Police said without the advances in genealogy technology, Williams may never have been identified, but further details about how the genealogy technology led to identifying Williams were not disclosed.

“Identifying him after 44 years is a pretty big deal,” Robertson said. “The goal is to solve this case.”

Williams was a Fairgrove Academy student who last attended the school on Oct. 27, 1977. Where he was between that date and June 3, 1978, when his body was found, is not known.

He was also a student in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, attending Sierra Vista Middle School in 1977.

Family members told detectives that he had struggled in school, Sgt. Robert Trout said.

They also said Williams was known to frequent beach areas, including in Long Beach, and would often take trips, though detectives don’t know if he traveled by bus, hitch-hiked or used other methods to get around.

“We haven’t been able to find anyone who was known to go with him on these beach trips,” Robertson said. “We’re hoping anyone who may have hung out with him at the beach that summer might have some information.”

The Belmont Shore neighborhood where Williams was found was similar at the time of his death to its characteristics today, Robertson said – a well-populated area that attracts tourists.

“It’s not a regular occurrence to locate a murder victim in that neighborhood on the street,” Robertson said.

His family members declined comment, Long Beach police spokesman Brandon Fahey said.

“They’re naturally kind of shocked by the news,” Robertson said, “but they’re surprised that after all these years, the case wasn’t forgotten. They’re hopeful as well that we can ultimately solve this case.”

Long Beach detectives partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner and the Forensic Science Section of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office in learning Williams’ identity.

Anyone with information regarding the 1978 murder of Williams or his whereabouts from Oct. 27, 1977 to June 3, 1978 was asked to contact the Homicide Detail’s Missing Persons Section at 562-570-7246.

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