DNA links same man to two cold case murders from 1980s
More than 30 years after two women were found dead in separate killings, police and local officials in Orange County, California, say they were finally able to solve the murders. After an ongoing probe conducted by the sheriff and district attorney’s offices — which specifically employed the latter’s investigative genealogy unit — DNA evidence revealed that both homicides were committed by the same man.
Reuben J. Smith, a former resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, was originally identified last year as a possible suspect in the 1987 and 1989 murders of Shannon Rose Lloyd and Renee Cuevas. The women were 23 and 27 years old, respectively, when they were killed in Garden Grove, an Orange County city between Anaheim and Santa Ana.
Smith was arrested in Las Vegas in 1998 for sexual assault and attempted murder of another woman, and died by suicide the following year, according to the Garden Grove Police Department. Two decades after the Orange County Crime Lab first linked Lloyd and Cuevas’ murders, DNA profiles taken from the crime scenes was compared with evidence collected during Smith’s arrest. Per Garden Grove PD, all three samples matched.
Lloyd’s body was discovered on May 21, 1987, inside a bedroom she rented at the time in Garden Grove. A subsequent autopsy indicated that she had been sexually assaulted and determined that strangulation was the cause of her death. Almost two years later, Cuevas was found on the side of a road on February 19, 1989.
“Although their lives can never be replaced and the tragedy of what happened to these victims undone, relatives and family of Shannon Rose Lloyd and Renee Cuevas can be relieved to hear today that DNA evidence utilizing new technology such as genetic genealogy were able to connect Reuben J. Smith to their murders more than 30 years ago,” said Todd Spitzer, the district attorney in Orange County, in a statement.
“While justice cannot be fully served due to the fact that the suspect has been deceased for over 20 years … the District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement can take pride in delivering solace and peace to those affected by the gruesome murder of these two young women as well as furthering the cause of defending the rights of these victims,” the statement continued.
The resolution of Lloyd and Cuevas’ cold cases came as part of an ongoing effort by Spitzer’s office and the Orange County sheriff to close others that have not been solved. Police in Garden Grove have asked anyone with information about Smith, and particularly about the period of time during the 1980s where he lived in Orange County, to reach out to local law enforcement.