Suspected serial killer identified in 1976 murder of 16-year-old girl in Lisle
By David Struett, Chicago Sun-Times
More than four decades ago, authorities found 16-year-old Pamela Maurer dead on the side of the road in west suburban Lisle.
She had been raped and strangled — most likely with a rubber hose found near her body.
On Monday, authorities announced they’ve identified a likely serial killer responsible for the 1976 rape and strangulation of Maurer, a Downers Grove South High School junior from Woodridge.
Using a new type of DNA analysis DuPage County prosecutors say they’ve identified her attacker as Bruce Lindahl, who died in 1981. It was the same method of analysis that led to last year’s arrest of the Golden State Killer, who had been suspected in a series of rapes and murders in the 1970s and ’80s.
“I suspect him to be a serial killer,” Lisle police detective Chris Loudon said of Lindahl at a news conference. “We finally put a name and a face to this monster.”
Maurer’s parents called police the night of Jan. 12, 1976 to report her missing after the girl left a friend’s house alone to walk to a nearby McDonald’s to buy a Coke. Her lifeless body was found the next morning near College Road and Maple Avenue in Lisle.
Her murder went unsolved for 44 years “despite an exhaustive investigation by law enforcement,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said at the news conference.
“Today, that mystery has finally been solved,” he said.
Lindahl was 23 at the time of Maurer’s murder, but died five years later while he was in the process of stabbing 18-year-old Charles Huber of Naperville to death, Berlin said. Lindahl stabbed Huber 28 times with a kitchen knife, but accidentally slashed his own leg and bled to death.
After identifying Lindahl as Maurer’s killer, Lisle detectives traveled to see her family in Texas to deliver the news.
The family “showed a lot of relief,” Loudon said. “I know [the father] was very thankful that the person responsible for his daughter’s death, at such a young age, was identified.”
The father expected he’d never get closure on his daughter’s murder, Loudon said.
“I think he’s pretty thankful that we didn’t forget Pam,” he said.
Cindy Evans, a classmate of Maurer’s who might have been with her the night she disappeared — had she not been grounded for bad grades — attended the Monday news conference in which police announced their findings.
She recalled saying goodbye to Maurer as they left school on separate buses that day and noted that it was not unusual for girls to walk alone, she said.
“We all walked around back then. You didn’t have those worries,” she said. But Maurer was shy, Evans said. “She would never have gotten in [a car] willingly with a stranger,” she said.
Evans said she did not recognize Lindahl. She was both surprised and grateful her friend’s killer was a stranger.
“We could never imagine one of our friends doing it,” she said.
Investigators believe Lindahl is responsible for several other murders in the area.
Among his other suspected victims is Deborah McCall, a Downers Grove North student who disappeared in November 1979, Berlin said. She hasn’t been seen since, but police found photos of her in Lindahl’s home after he died.
Berlin said police are trying to identify other women who appear in other photos found in Lindahl’s home.
Lindahl is also suspected of arranging the killing of Debra Colliander, an Aurora woman who accused Lindahl of kidnapping and raping her, Berlin said. Colliander disappeared shortly before she was expected to testify against him, and was found years later in a shallow grave in Oswego Township. Police suspect Lindahl employed an unidentified acquaintance to carry out her killing.
Identifying Lindahl relied on a new type of DNA analysis called investigative genetic genealogy.
Berlin said it’s the first murder to be solved in Illinois using the technique.
Using DNA found on Maurer’s body, investigators used publicly available DNA databases to construct a possible family tree of a suspect and identify relatives of a suspect, Berlin said.
After identifying Lindahl as a suspect, prosecutors got permission in November to exhume his body and test his DNA. Berlin said the tests were a match.
Lisle police are still working on identifying other victims of Lindahl — and have asked the public to come forward with information.