A suspect wanted for the 1996 rape and murder of a 67-year-old woman at her assisted living center in Covina was arrested Thursday -- the first step in finally bringing the 24-year-old case to a close.
After decades without a significant lead, homicide investigators from the LA County Sheriff’s Department found a match to the DNA evidence collected on the scene of the murder of Mary Lindgren, the department said in a press release.
David Adolph Bernal, a 46-year-old El Monte resident, was arrested for Lindgren’s murder and his bail was set at $2 million.
Deputies said Lindgren’s body was discovered the morning of Jan. 19, 1996 in her room on the first floor of Covina Villa Retirement Home, where she lived alone. She had been brutally beaten, raped and murdered.
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Homicide investigators from the Sheriff’s department and the Covina Police Department conducted “extensive interviews with facility staff members, residents, and their families, outside vendors, contractors, delivery personnel, as well as neighbors living near and around the facility,” the department said, but none were identified as suspects. They also collected DNA evidence from the scene of the murder.
“Although the suspect DNA profile was developed, the unidentified male offender’s DNA profile did not match any profiles within the state or federal criminal justice DNA databases,” the press release reads.
Over the years, the department would initiate “state and national crime broadcasts” to participating law enforcement agencies detailing Lindgren’s murder. Some leads of potential suspects that demonstrated similar criminal behavior would come in, but ultimately they were unrelated to the case, the department said.
Finally, in 2019, “the LA County District Attorney’s Office collaborated with LASD Homicide Investigators assigned to the Unsolved Unit, to submit the unidentified offender’s DNA profile to the California State Department of Justice’s state-of-the-art DNA search and identification process,” the press release reads.
In July of 2020, the California Department of Justice notified the Sheriff's Homicide Unsolved Unit that they had a match. Bernal’s DNA matched samples collected from Lindgren’s body and he was arrested as a suspect in her murder.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the LA County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.
To leave anonymous tips, call Crime Stoppers by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), the “P3 Tips” mobile app, or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org/.