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Killer named in 1970s cold case murders in South Lake Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KOLO) – The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office says two cold case murders from the 1970s have been solved, thanks to genetic genealogy.

27-year-old Brynn Rainey was killed in 1977; her body was found in a shallow grave by passing horseback riders near Stateline Stables in South Lake Tahoe. 16-year-old Carol Andersen was killed in 1979, her body found on the side of a road, also in South Lake Tahoe.

Their murders went unsolved for 41 and 39 years, until the El Dorado Cold Case Task Force employed Parabon Nanolabs to construct a “family tree” from DNA recovered from a blood stain on Rainey’s shirt and DNA recovered from Andersen’s body during her autopsy. Using a public DNA database, Parabon built a family tree around the previously unidentified DNA, leading investigators to three deceased brothers who might be the source of the DNA recovered from the crime scenes.

The task force collected DNA from the child of one of the brothers, as well as DNA from a toothbrush that belonged to that brother. Further DNA testing confirmed Joseph Holt’s DNA is a match to the DNA found on Rainey’s shirt and Andersen’s body, prompting investigators to name Holt the killer.

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office says Holt was born in 1947 and grew up in San Jose, and graduated from Cupertino High School and UC Berkley. He moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1974 and began a career in real estate, dying in 2014.

Investigators say Holt’s surviving family members had no idea he was a killer, and fully cooperated with law enforcement during this investigation.

The families of Rainey and Andersen’s family say they are grateful to finally know who took their loved one so many years ago. Rainey’s brother, Pete Garl, says, “Finally after 44 years of hell and back, we have some answers.”

Carol Andersen’s family released the following statement.

“Almost 40 years ago, a beautiful, vibrant teenager was taken from her mother, older sisters, younger brother, and younger sister. Unfortunately, relatively quickly the case went cold and while from time to time it would be revisited nothing could be found, until about a year ago. It was at that time that an incredible team of 4 investigators from the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Cold Case Files and through all their hard work and efforts, they were able to give the family some answers and closure and ultimately allow Carol Andersen to rest in peace!

“In closing, we, the family of Carol Andersen want to extend our warmest thanks and highest appreciation to the team from the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Files for not giving up and not forgetting our sister and finally we ask that although we appreciate those of you in the press we do ask that you please respect our privacy and the memory of Carol Andersen, our sister who’s gone but never forgotten. Thank You, the Andersen Family.”

Parabon’s Chief Genetic Genealogist, CeCe Moore, says, “This was a great collaborative effort with the detectives at EDCSO and the Cold Case Task Force. Our genetic genealogy team was fortunate enough to be able to generate good leads after which the casework and forensic laboratory analyses were exemplary. With that type of synergy we can expect to see many more cold cases solved.”

The Cold Case Task Force is continuing to investigate whether Holt was responsible for other unsolved crimes. If you have any information concerning him, or information concerning any unsolved crime in El Dorado County, you’re asked to contact the Cold Case Task Force Tip Line at (530) 621-4590.

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