Photo: victim Judy Nesbitt
A 1980 cold case murder of a wife and mother from Irvine has been solved, thanks to advanced genetic testing technology and the tireless work of Newport Beach police investigators.
The victim, 42-year-old Judith “Judy” Nesbitt, was murdered in the early afternoon of November 26, 1980, while showing her family’s boat (the Felicidad IV) to a man she believed was interesting in buying it. After approximately 40 years, this man was finally identified as Kenneth Elwin Marks.
Evidence at the scene showed that Marks had followed Judy into the boat’s sleeping quarters, where he violently attacked her. He then stole her checkbook, credit cards, and cash from her purse before he fled.
Hairs from the suspect had been preserved as evidence since the murder, but DNA technology had not successfully identified a suspect until recently. “[G]enerations of Newport Beach police officers never gave up on the cold case,” states the news release.
A limited DNA profile was extracted from the hair roots in 2002. The results were entered into the FBI’s CODIS system, but a match was not found until 16 years later. In 2018, Green Laboratories, LLC was able to extract a more advanced DNA profile from the remaining hair shafts. “This was the first DNA extraction of its kind to identify a murderer in a criminal investigation in the United States,” according to the release. “Investigators then used genetic genealogy techniques – and the assistance of Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore – to identify Kenneth Marks as the killer in this case.”
Marks passed away in 1999, “‘but he no longer gets to hold the secret of his deeds,’” said Jon T. Lewis, Chielf of the Newport Beach Police Department. “‘This is a case that has hung heavy in the hearts of our community, our department, and the Nesbitt family… Through incredible advances in technology, and the tireless dedication of these investigators, we now have some closure for all who knew and loved Ju