With a recent resolve to examine unsolved cases, a mysterious strand of hair, and the help of genetic genealogy — which has been used to crack unsolved cases across the country in recent years — the authorities in Monterey County were able to identify Robert J. Lanoue, 70, of Reno, Nev., as a suspect and charge him with first-degree murder in Anne Pham’s killing.
In 1982, Robert Lanoue kidnapped and murdered Anne Pham. The murder went unsolved for decades until investigators reopened the case in 2020. Using new technology, they could test DNA evidence that would have been nearly impossible at the time.
Lanoue was Pham’s 29-year-old neighbor at the time in the small town on the former army post of Fort Ord in Monterey Bay, California. Pham was never seen again after she disappeared walking to kindergarten.
Pham’s remains were discovered days later on the former base. Police said she had been sexually assaulted and suffocated. No suspects were arrested at the time.
In 1998, Lanoue was convicted of possessing and producing child pornography and committing a lewd act with a child under 16 in Nevada, where he is a registered sex offender. Lanoue spent more than 20 years in prison for those charges and was on probation when he was arrested for this case.
“It’s a very strong case. DNA has a large part, genealogy has a large part, and circumstantial evidence, in this case, is extremely powerful,” Seaside Interim Police Chief Nick Borges told KION-TV.
Lanoue is currently detained in Reno, Nevada, and will be extradited to California to face charges for kidnapping, murder, and lewd acts on a minor.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Anne Pham murder: Nevada man Robert Lanoue held on $1M+ bond in 1982 California slaying of 5-year-old girl – Fox News
- Nevada man charged in 1982 killing of child in California – ABC News
- Reno man charged with 1982 murder of girl on way to kindergarten – KOLO
- Former soldier charged in 1982 rape, murder of California 5-year-old abducted on way to school – KIRO Seattle