Cops: New DNA Testing Reveals a 'Complete Monster'

Robert John Lanoue accused of raping, killing 5-year-old Anne Pham in California in 1982
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2022 10:10 AM CDT
Cops: New DNA Testing Reveals a 'Complete Monster'
Anne Pham   (Seaside Police Department)

Anne Pham was just 5 years old when she convinced her mother to let her walk the few blocks to kindergarten alone. Anne, the youngest of 10 children, never made it. Her body, suffocated and sexually assaulted, was found on an Army base a mile from her California school within days of her disappearance in 1982. Now, 40 years later, police have arrested a former soldier who lived just around the corner from her. "The guy is a complete monster," Acting Seaside Police Chief Nicholas Borges says of Robert John Lanoue, a 70-year-old who was 29 at the time of the murder, per People. "He's every person's nightmare. The world is a safer place with this guy off the streets."

Lanoue, now a resident of Reno, Nevada, "was never on the radar," said Borges, despite his proximity to the victim and her body as a soldier stationed at Fort Ord. Anne's body—which had been raped and sodomized, then smothered—was found in bushes near a shooting range at the base two days after her disappearance on Jan. 21. "This guy went on with his life, to just create havoc and horror wherever he went," Borges tells People, noting he spent more than 20 years in prison for sexual assault offences. Then, in 2020, a new type of DNA testing identified him as the suspect in Pham's murder.

Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni tells People that the new DNA process "involves DNA which doesn't come from the root of a hair" and "hasn't been used in a criminal conviction previously." "There are things that haven't been used [yet] science-wise related to the criminal justice system that will come out," Borges adds, per Monterey County Weekly. Lanoue—charged Thursday with one count of first-degree murder with special circumstance allegations that he murdered Anne while committing kidnapping and a lewd act on a child under the age of 14—is being held in Nevada pending extradition to California. He has not made a plea. (Read more murder stories.)

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