Wednesday, February 27, 2019


DNA discovery solves 2 South Lake Tahoe cold cases

By Pat Lakey

Mountain Democrat
February 25, 2019

A blood stain on a dead woman’s shirt found 41 years ago — DNA from another victim’s body recovered 39 years ago — and a toothbrush from the primary suspect obtained by law enforcement just this past October — all combined to help the Cold Case Task Force of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office close two murders that occurred in South Lake Tahoe in the late 1970s.

DA Vern Pierson and members of the team tasked with solving cold cases made the announcement Monday during a press conference in Placerville.

The task force’s work, along with DNA testing completed in partnership with a Virginia-based genetics lab, resulted in naming the man who likely killed Brynn Rainey, 27 when she was slain, and Carol Ann Andersen, just 16 when she died.

Both victims’ bodies were discovered in Tahoe-area locations, two years apart, and the cause of death for both appears to be strangulation or suffocation, according to pathologists’ reports.

The families of the women have been told of the cold case investigation team’s findings, which name Joseph Holt as the man who left DNA that was taken from Andersen’s body at autopsy and as the killer who left a blood stain on Rainey’s clothing.

Holt, a real estate professional who moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1974, died in 2014 and was not named a suspect in the two murders until just last year, 2018. His family members reportedly have cooperated fully with law enforcement officers in the investigation and have said they had no clue he could be the killer of the two women.

Rainey had been reported missing for about a month when her nude body was found Aug. 20, 1977, partially buried near the Sunset Stateline Stables in South Lake Tahoe. Because of decomposition, the cause of death was not precise but damage to a bone in her throat led a forensic pathologist at the time to point toward strangulation.

Andersen’s body would be discovered July 1, 1979, on the side of Sundown Trail north Golden Bear Trail in South Lake Tahoe. In addition to saying strangulation likely caused her death, the medical expert in that case found marks on the teenager’s wrists that indicated she had been bound sometime during her fatal ordeal.

The young woman was last seen at a party in South Lake Tahoe, authorities were told. Despite following all leads and trying to put the puzzle together back in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the two women’s cases went cold and the killer walked freely.

In fact, except for a skirmish with two men who stopped a guy trying to burglarize a vehicle in 1975 — a man that authorities have reason to believe was Holt — it appears he skirted the law successfully throughout his life.

That is, until the DNA from the blood stain and the swab from the teen led to Paragon Nanolabs in Reston, Va., using a family tree to trace the blood and biological evidence and conclude that it belonged to one of three brothers.

All three of the brothers are dead, but testing still was able to zero in on Joseph Holt as being the killer whose DNA remained behind to shout his guilt four decades later.

Investigators from DA’s Office met with the families of Brynn Rainey and Carol Andersen this past week, when it was learned that neither family had knowledge of any relationship between Brynn, Carol and the suspect.

“Both families were very relieved to hear we had solved their cases,” said chief investigator with the DA’s Office. “They were appreciative that we had used all investigative tools and
techniques to bring closure and peace of mind for their families.

“They were also grateful to the investigative team that had not forgotten their loved ones.”
Rainey’s brother, Pete Garl, said, “Finally after 44 years of hell and back, we have some answers.”

Carol Andersen’s family released the following statement:

“Almost 40 years ago, a beautiful, vibrant teenager was taken from her mother, older sisters, younger brother and younger sister. Unfortunately, relatively quickly the case went cold and
while from time to time it would be revisited nothing could be found, until about a year ago. It was at that time that an incredible team of four investigators from the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Cold Case (Task Force) and through all their hard work and efforts, they were able to give the family some answers and closure and ultimately allow Carol Andersen to rest in peace … We, the family of Carol Andersen want to extend our warmest thanks and highest
appreciation to the team.”

The Cold Case Task Force was able to trace Holt’s whereabouts at the time of Andersen’s slaying (a six-minute walk from where the victim last was seen and about a mile-and-a-half from where Rainey’s body had been found).

The task force also located Holt’s biological son and in August 2018 obtained a DNA sample from the cooperative man. It supported the likelihood that Joseph Holt was the depositor in the two murders.

The son two months later, in October 2018, provided the task force with several items he said had belonged to his father. Among them, a toothbrush that DNA testing showed held DNA that matched the killer’s.

Just last month, on Jan. 23, the task force served a search warrant and collected personal property belonging to Holt from a garage, where it had been stored since his death in 2014.

Among items found was a newspaper clipping that told of a 1975 Los Gatos shooting in which Holt may have been the man who tried to burglarize a vehicle and ended up shooting one of two men who caught him in the act and gave pursuit. One of the pursuers was the owner of the targeted vehicle and he ended up being shot twice in the upper body. The other man in pursuit then tackled the suspect and got the gun away from him, firing a couple shots that missed as the bad guy ran away, according to the newspaper account.

The shooting victim survived, although the burglar got away, but a composite sketch made back then by Los Gatos law enforcement still was part of the cold case file there.

The El Dorado County Cold Case Task Force members told Los Gatos authorities that the composite “strongly resembles” Joseph Holt’s appearance in the 1970s.

In addition, the handgun the would-be vehicle burglar used turned out to be stolen from a cab driver in South Lake Tahoe.

Holt was known to frequent both Los Gatos and South Lake Tahoe at that time, according to the Cold Case Task Force.

1 comment:

Trey Rusk said...

Good Job!