DNA Leads Police to an Arrest in the 40-Year-Old Murder of a Teenager

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Fontana Police Department Leonard Nash, the 66-year-old man police are accusing of murder.

The body of 18-year-old Michelle “Missy” Jones was first discovered in 1980, the day after Independence Day, in a grapefruit grove in Fontana, California according to the Fontana Police Department.

She was found near Live Oak and Santa Ana Avenues, according to the Fonana News Herald, “with her dress and panty hose removed and her head covered with dirt.”

Fontana Police reported that they collected evidence from the body but — lacking the necessary technology — weren’t able to connect it to a suspect until recently. In June, police entered DNA from the 1980 crime scene into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).

After more recent investigations with the family yielded a new suspect, police compared his DNA to the CODIS sample, yielding an arrest int he 40-year-old cold case.

Jones’ Sister Says Her Mother Was ‘Devastated’ After Missy’s Body Was Found

The San Bernadino Sun reported that Jones was popular in school and was always going to parties and dancing. Jones had started a yearbook club at the high shcool she attended, Park West Continuation School, and The Sun also reported that Jones was on track to start a career in law enforcement, having secured a position as a dispatcher for Pomoma police.

“(Missy) always had her hair done, her make-up done and her nails done,” Jones’ sister, Melisa Jones, told the paper.

Melisa told The Sun that the last time her family saw Missy was when she was planning to attend a July 4th gathering.

The next morning, no one could find her.

Melisa told the paper that when she returned home the next day, her mother’s face was wearing a “distant, devastated expression.” Police had notified their mother that Missy’s body had been found and they believed she was sexually assaulted before her death.

Jones attended a ceremony at her sister’s gravesite with about 20 others on September 19, The Sun reported. The group released 40 white and blue balloons in honor of the 40 years Jones’ case remained without a suspect. The release of the balloons, Transformation Church Chino Pastor Jody Moore said, represented an opportunity for those in attendance to “release pain, release fear, release bitterness.”

Nash Was the Boyfriend of One of Jones’ Sisters

After re-interviewing the family, Katie Clark, a detective with the Fontana Police Department, discovered that Leonard Nash was 26 at the time of Jones’ murder and knew the family at the time. Considering him a possible suspect, investigators tracked Nash down in Las Vegas, according to Fontana Police, and grabbed “discarded” DNA for comparison to DNA preserved from the scene of Jones’ murder.

The DNA matched and police made the arrest.

“I want to make it very clear to the family that she was never a piece of trash to us and she was never forgotten,” Clark said about Jones, according to CBS Los Angeles. “It means more to me than you can imagine to solve a case with my partners from 40 years ago.”

According to the Fontana Herald News, Jones’ case was the oldest cold case in Fontana without an arrest until Nash was taken into custody on September 8. He is awaiting extradition from Nevada to San Bernadino, California.

Melisa Jones, now 57, said that she wants to know why her sister — who “never did anything to hurt anyone” — was murdered.

“I’m angry that he got to walk free for 40 freaking years, and my sister was at the start of her life,” she said of Nash, according to The Sun. However, she hopes the arrest creates hope for others. “We’re also doing this for everyone else who’s had to go through what we’ve been through. There are so many people out there whose loved ones were killed or have gone missing, and they still have no idea what happened.”

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