Newport Beach Police Announce Solution of 1980 Homicide Case

Cold Case File

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NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) - The Newport Beach Police Department announced today it has solved the 1980 murder of a 42-year-old Irvine woman through genetic genealogy and new forensic techniques -- but also announced the man believed to have killed the woman died in 1999.

“Kenneth Elwin Marks has been identified as the person responsible for the murder of 42-year-old Judith `Judy' Nesbitt,'' Newport Beach police said Monday in a statement.

Nesbitt was killed on Nov. 26, 1980, while showing her family's boat, the Felicidad IV, to a man she believed to be a potential buyer, police said.

“At approximately 1 p.m. (that day), the man, now known to be Kenneth Marks, followed Judy into the sleeping quarters of the boat and accosted her,'' police said. “After a violent struggle, Marks shot Judy and stole her credit cards, checkbook and cash from her purse before fleeing the scene.''

Marks died in 1999 without being identified as the suspect in Nesbitt's murder, police said.

“But generations of Newport Beach police officers never gave up on the cold case,'' police said.

Hairs from the unknown suspect had been kept as evidence since the crime occurred, and in 2002, a limited DNA profile was extracted from the roots of the hairs and entered into the FBI's “CODIS'' database system, police said.

However, the profile never matched any other entries in the database, police said.

“In 2018, through the incredible work of Green Laboratories, LLC, a more expanded DNA profile was able to be extracted from the remaining hair shafts,'' police said. “This was the first DNA extraction of its kind to identify a murderer in a criminal investigation in the United States.

“Investigators then used genetic genealogy techniques -- and the assistance of Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore -- to identify Kenneth Marks as the killer in this case,'' police said.

Members of the Newport Beach Police Department met with the Nesbitt family to inform them that Judy's murder had finally been solved, police said.

“This is a case that has hung heavy in the hearts of our community, our department and the Nesbitt family,'' said Newport Beach Police Chief Jon T. Lewis.

“Kenneth Marks has passed away, but he no longer gets to hold the secret of his deeds. Through incredible advances in technology and the tireless dedication of these investigators, we now have some closure for all who knew and loved Judy Nesbitt.''

In their statement, police thanked the following agencies for assistance in the investigation: the Orange County District Attorney's Office, the Orange County Crime Lab, the Texas Rangers' Department of Public Safety and the Wise County, Texas, Sheriff's Department.

Police also thanked Green Laboratories, Astrea Forensics, Family Tree DNA, Verogen, Bode Technologies and the University of North Texas.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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