Forty years after a 5-year-old girl was raped and killed in a small city on the Monterey Peninsula, authorities have charged a former soldier with her murder.
Robert Lanoue, 70, of Reno was charged last week with one count of first-degree murder with special circumstance allegations that he killed Anne Pham while committing kidnapping and a lewd act on a child younger than 14, according to the Monterey County district attorney’s office.
Anne was kidnapped Jan. 21, 1982, while walking to her kindergarten class at Highland Elementary School in Seaside, near Monterey Bay. Two days later, her remains were found outside Ft. Ord, a now-closed U.S. Army post east of the town.
The Seaside Police Department, FBI and U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division investigated the killing before the case went cold for nearly 40 years.
Anne was the child of refugees from Vietnam who fled the country after the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces in 1975, the Mercury News reported. Anne’s father, Tuong Pham, moved to Seaside to make a living as a fisherman, according to the Mercury News. She was killed four years after the family moved to the Monterey Peninsula.
Lanoue was 29 at the time of Anne’s killing and lived in Seaside, according to the district attorney’s office. He was a soldier stationed at Ft. Ord.
The case was reopened in 2020 by the Monterey County district attorney’s office’s newly formed cold case task force.
Investigators used “a new type of DNA testing not previously available to earlier investigators” to identify Lanoue as a suspect, the district attorney’s office said.
A $535,000 federal grant that the cold case task force received includes provisions that allow investigators to use private laboratories that trace family genealogical data, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A similar method was used in 2018 to track down the Golden State Killer, one of the country’s most notorious cold cases.
Lanoue is a registered sex offender and was convicted in 1998 of lewdness with a minor as well as possession of child pornography, according to Nevada prison records. He spent about 20 years in prison in Nevada.
He is being held in a Washoe County, Nev., jail, and authorities are awaiting his extradition to California.
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