A man who allegedly killed an 18-year-old Fontana woman 40 years ago has been arrested, authorities said during a press conference at the Fontana Police Department on Sept. 14.
Thanks to DNA evidence, Leonard Nash, 66, has been identified as the suspect who murdered Michelle Jones on July 5, 1980, police said.
On that date, Jones' body was found in a grapefruit grove located in the area of Live Oak and Santa Ana avenues. Responding officers located Jones deceased with her dress and panty hose removed and her head covered with dirt.
When an autopsy was performed, forensic evidence was collected but was unable to be processed due to the lack of technology at the time. Detectives exhausted all investigative leads in 1980 and the case went cold.
This year, items of evidence that were previously collected at the autopsy were sent to the Riverside/San Bernardino CAL-DNA Laboratory for processing. DNA was located and was identified as an unknown single male contributor. This profile was entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and no positive matches were present in the system.
Fontana P.D. Detective Katie Clark and her team of investigators conducted follow-up interviews with Jones' family members, which led to Nash being investigated as a person of interest in the investigation.
In June, investigators located Nash in Las Vegas, Nevada and collected his discarded DNA. Items containing Nash’s DNA were sent to the CAL-DNA Laboratory to be directly compared to the DNA collected at Jones’ autopsy. The results of the comparison revealed the DNA collected from Jones at her autopsy were a match to Nash’s DNA.
Investigators obtained a warrant for Leonard Nash’s arrest and he was taken into custody on Sept. 8 in Las Vegas. The suspect is currently awaiting extradition to San Bernardino County.
Three of the victim's sisters -- Kimberly Jones, Melisa Jones, and Theresa Mercandale -- attended the press conference and praised the Fontana P.D. for its work in arresting the suspect. They said they had been suspicious of Nash, who had been a boyfriend of one of the sisters of the victim in 1980, when he was 26 years old.
This was the oldest cold case in which a suspect had been arrested in Fontana's history.