SAN RAFAEL — Despite having a prime suspect already behind bars, Marin County sheriff’s authorities on Friday closed the book on a 34-year-old unsolved homicide case due to a lack of evidence.
Detectives had reopened their investigation into the 1977 murder of Pamela Jean Lambson in March 2010, after the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced its prosecution of serial killer Rodney James Alcala, who is currently on death row in San Quentin State Prison in San Rafael.
Lambson, who disappeared on Oct. 8, 1977, was last seen in the company of Alcala at a Fisherman’s Wharf clothing store. Her body was discovered the next day by a Marin County physician during an early morning run on a Mt. Tamalpais trail.
The 19-year-old’s parents and co-workers told detectives that Lampson had met a photographer at an Oakland A’s game and made a date to meet him later at Fisherman’s Wharf for a photo shoot.
“The store clerks who saw the two together were impressed by Alcala, who they described as handsome,” said sheriff’s Lt. Barry Heying.
A police sketch was produced from the witnesses’ descriptions and distributed to law enforcement agencies across the country. At the time of the murder, DNA analysis had yet to be useful as a means of indentifying criminal suspects.
In 2000, the Lambson case evidence was submitted to the state criminal laboratory for analysis as part of a cold case project. No results were obtained from the decades-old samples.
Last March, detectives went to Huntington Beach and reviewed evidence against Alcala including photographs from his collection. They also matched the suspect sketch from 1977 with Alcala. The match was so close “detectives in Huntington Beach said it appeared as though Alcala had posed for the sketch in-person,” Heying said.
Physical evidence from the Marin crime was sent to Orange County for DNA analysis. The hope was that improved testing methods would match Alcala’s DNA to the crime scene, but the samples were too degraded and no viable DNA profile could be produced. Without physical evidence to link Alcala to the crime, the case was rendered inactive last week.