NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) – Detectives have used genealogical DNA evidence to identify a man who allegedly killed an Irvine woman aboard a boat in Newport Beach more than 40 years ago.
The late Kenneth Elwin Marks has identified as the killer in the shooting death of 42-year-old Judith ‘Judy’ Nesbitt, Newport Beach police reported Monday.
Marks passed away in 1999.
On Nov. 26, 1980, Nesbitt was killed while showing a family boat to a potential buyer, believed to be Marks.
According to police, Marks followed Nesbitt into the boat’s sleeping quarters and shot her after a violent struggle. He also stole her credit cards, checkbook and cash, police said.
For decades, investigators were unable to identify Nesbitt’s killer. In 2002, roots from the suspect’s hairs were used to create a limited DNA profile, which was entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System.
In 2018, Green Laboratories, an independent testing lab, extracted DNA from the suspect’s hair shafts to create a more expanded DNA profile. According to Newport Beach police, it was the first such DNA extraction of its kind ever used.
Investigator then used genetic genealogy techniques to identify Marks as the murderer.
“This is a case that has hung heavy in the hearts of our community, our department, and the Nesbitt family,” Newport Beach Police Chief Jon T. Lewis said in a statement. “Kenneth Marks has passed away, but he no longer gets to hold the secret of his deeds. Through incredible advances in technology, and the tireless dedication of these investigators, we now have some closure for all who knew and loved Judy Nesbitt.”
In May of 2019, genealogical DNA evidence lead to the New Orleans arrest of a Marine veteran for the 1976 cold case killing of a woman who disappeared from a Costa Mesa restaurant.
In February of 2020, genealogical DNA also lead to the arrest of a Colorado man in the abduction, sexual assault and killing of an 11-year-old girl in Newport Beach back in 1973.