“Don’t lose the heart or the drive to get resolution. You just never know.”
-Randy Hollis (Terri Lynn's brother)
It was the 23rd of November 1972. Thanksgiving Day. That Thursday afternoon, eleven year old Terri Lynn Hollis was at home with her older brother Randy at their house on Dalemead Street in South Torrance, California, United States. Terri Lynn didn't like staying inside. She was always active and that day, she wanted to go out to play so at 3pm, she got her bicycle and went out for a cycle.
When it began to get late, her parents, Ronald John Hollis and Shirley Ruth Pearce, began to worry. They could not find Terri Lynn. At 8.55pm, they reported her missing. It took police just a few minutes to arrive at their house and a search for Terri Lynn began. The search went on throughout the night and into the following morning until they received news that caused the search to end. On the 24th of November, at 10.15am, a body of a child was found.
The body of a child was found some seventy miles from Terri Lynn's home. Two fishermen found the body along the shoreline in Ventura County. The body was found on rocks , twenty feet below the Pacific Coast Highway.
Herbert Ray Pearce, Terri Lynn's uncle, identified the body. It was Terri Lynn. When she was found on the rocks, she only had a white T-shirt on her. Terri Lynn had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death.
In the days that followed, police spoke with everyone who knew Terri as there was a belief that whoever murdered Terri Lynn knew her. They also focused their search on sex offenders in the area. A little over a week after Terri Lynn was murdered, police released a visual of a person that they wanted to speak to in connection with her death. A neighbor in the area told police that on Thanksgiving Day, they saw a man riding a bicycle with Terri Lynn around 4pm that afternoon.
Despite interviews taking place and searches conducted , police had nothing concrete to work with. Over a year after Terri Lynn's murder, they discovered that the neighbor who "saw a man riding a bicycle with Terri Lynn" was actually just a boy riding a bicycle beside a girl who was not Terri Lynn. Through further investigations, police established that Terri Lynn went to Walteria Park that day. It was around two miles from her home. They believed she was was abducted there and murdered close to that area.
In February 1974, police believed they finally had a break in the case. A twenty nine year old man was arrested on suspicion of child molestation and police questioned him about Terri Lynn's case too. He was charged with her murder but the charges were dropped just two months later when evidence showed he was not connected to Terri Lynn's murder. He pleaded guilty to one count of child molestation of a ten year boy.
There was little activity in the case after the murder charges were dropped and Terri Lynn's case became a cold case. It was reopened in 2000 and a DNA swab taken from Terri Lynn’s body when it was found in Ventura County was sent to the Los Angeles County Crime Lab to see if it matched any profiles in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). It did not.
In 2015, police requested Parabon-NanoLabs to conduct a genetic-genealogy analysis on the DNA to create a profile. Three years later, the analysis returned a match to a potential relative of the suspect. Police found the relative but the man they now believed was involved in Terri Lynn's murder was dead. He was buried in Maricopa County, Arizona. His body was exhumed and DNA Labs International tested the DNA from the bones to the swab taken by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and discovered it was a match for Jake Edward Brown.
At the time of Terri Lynn's murder, Jake was thirty six years old and the family did not know him. Police could not verify why he was in Torrance that day.
Jake, also known as Thomas Tracy Burum, was not in custody when he died.He had been arrested in Los Angeles in April 1973 for the rape of a minor. That was just six months after Terri Lynn was murdered. In 1974, he was again arrested for another rape in Alameda County.
It took forty seven years to find out who was responsible for Terri Lynn's murder and sadly her parents were not alive to see the case closed. Her brother Randy was told of the developments in the case. He said:
“I only wish my parents were still alive to see this. A lot was taken from us that day and throughout my life. On Thanksgiving Day I always allow for a private moment to remember Terri."
Terri Lynn's murder changed her parents lives forever. Her father became involved in the Neighborhood Watch program. He wanted to walk children along the street so that nothing would happen to them. At that time, they still did not know who killed Terri Lynn so there was fear in the community that it was someone they knew. While police have connected Jake to Terri Lynn's murder, it is unlikely that all the details will emerge from what happened that day. Why was he there that day and how did he abduct Terri Lynn? He escaped justice in this life but even if he cannot be punished for his crime, it is still of vital importance that cases are closed and the families at least know who killed their loved one.
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“She's not with me, and she's not with my parents, and at that moment I know that my sister's dead.”
- Alayne Katz, Gail's sister
"Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity. All it takes is a little push."
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