New Mexico man charged in 41-year-old California cold case murder, authorities say

ANAHEIM, Calif. — A New Mexico man was arrested last week and charged with the 1980 cold case murder of an elderly California woman found raped and killed in her apartment.

Andre William Lepere, 64, of Alamogordo, was booked Wednesday on a charge of first-degree murder, with the special circumstance allegation of rape, in the death of Viola Hagenkord, Anaheim police officials said.

>> Read more trending news

The well-liked Hagenkord, 79, was found dead in her Anaheim apartment Feb. 18, 1980, by a neighbor who became concerned after Hagenkord was not seen for a couple of days.

Anaheim police Sgt. Shane Carringer told the Los Angeles Times that Hagenkord died of asphyxia.

“Homicide detectives investigated the case extensively and collected valuable evidence, but the case went cold,” police officials said in a statement. “Over the course of the following decades, other homicide detectives revisited the case, but no suspects were identified.”

Cold case investigators reopened the case in September with the hope that advanced DNA technology could provide clues in Hagenkord’s slaying. Anaheim detectives, in collaboration with the Orange County Crime Lab and the FBI’s Orange County Violent Crime Task Force, took another look at the evidence and identified Lepere as a suspect.

Carringer told KTLA in Los Angeles that genetic genealogy helped the detectives trace DNA at the crime scene to Lepere, who was 22 at the time of the crime.

>> Read more true crime stories

California detectives, the New Mexico State Police, deputies from the Otero County Sheriff’s Department and other New Mexico officials located Lepere last week at his home in the Amber Skies mobile home retirement community. He was taken into custody Wednesday, authorities said.

Lepere, a truck driver and plumber who lived near Hagenkord at the time of the crime, never made it onto detectives’ radar at the time of the initial investigation. The Times reported that Lepere was acquitted of attempted murder in 1992, but details of that alleged crime were not immediately available.

Lepere was in the Otero County Jail Monday awaiting extradition to California.