LAGUNA BEACH ( — A 46-year-old Orange County man was arrested Wednesday for the 1998 cold case murder of his mother-in-law.

John Edward Gutierrez was arrested for the murder of 55-year-old Lillian DeVilla, who was last seen leaving her job on Jan. 29, 1998.

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DeVilla was reported missing by her daughter, Aileen, the next day. Her body was found on Feb. 4 by two Laguna Beach Public Works employees who were repairing a fence along Laguna Canyon Road.

DeVilla was discovered underneath a large bush with a bag tied around her head.

“An autopsy determined that Lillian had been hit in the head with a blunt object and then asphyxiated,” Chief Paul Workman said.

Gutierrez was initially examined as a possible suspect, however, he had an alibi during the time authorities initially believed DeVilla had been killed.

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He also told authorities that when he arrived home to the apartment he shared with his mother-in-law and wife, he noticed Lillian’s keys and purse were at the home with her car parked outside.

It wasn’t until 2009 that Laguna Beach police contacted the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to help solve the cold case murder.

“Working together for the next 5 years, new evidence was uncovered which revealed the original estimated time of Lillian’s death was not accurate, which meant John was no longer eliminated as a possible suspect,” Chief Workman said.

Additional evidence and new witness interviews allowed the DA’s office to file murder charges against Gutierrez.

Investigators believe that he killed DeVilla inside their home in the afternoon on January 29th and then dumped her body.

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A motive for the murder was not released.