DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — Decades after 16-year-old Pamela Maurer was sexually assaulted, strangled and left on the side of the road in Lisle, officials said Monday they've found her killer — and believe he had other victims throughout the 1970s.
Investigators say genetic clues pointed them towards Bruce Lindahl, who fatally stabbed himself while committing another murder in 1981, because police had the good sense in 1976 to preserve what is called DNA evidence today.
“We finally put a name and a face to this monster,” said Chris Loudin, Lisle Police Department.
A resident of Woodridge and student at Downers Grove South High School, Maurer was reported missing when she didn't come home from a friend's house.
“We all walked around. Back then you didn’t have those worries,” said Cindy Evans, who was friends with Maurer in the '70s. “She was a very happy girl. Very shy. She would never have gotten in with any strangers willingly whatsoever.”
When Maurer's body was found, the crime scene was made to look like a hit-and-run. But an autopsy revealed she had been strangled, and there was evidence she was raped. No arrests were ever made.
After reopening the cold case, investigators used genetic material to create a picture of the suspected killer. The DNA indicated he had green eyes, matching only two percent of the population. And in 2019, they were able to build a family tree from digital genealogy records.
Police exhumed Lindahl's body in October. After comparing his DNA to that of Maurer's killer, they had a match.
“It was important to me to put it to rest you know that she didn’t go down in vain. That he was technically caught," Evans said.
It's the first case where investigative genealogy, the same technology that identified the Golden State Killer, has been used to solve a murder in Illinois.
Lindahl was born in 1953 and attended Downers Grove North High School. Between 1974 and 1981, police suspect he raped and possibly murdered other women near Woodbridge, Aurora, Downers Grove and Lisle. They say they're actively connecting him to cases, but want the public to come forward.
Maurer was one of six girls murdered in the suburbs from 1972 to 1975. Each victim was young and alone when they were killed. A headline in the Chicago Tribune at the time said: “People are getting away with murder in Chicago’s suburbs.”
“I don’t know how many murders it takes to be a called a serial killer, but we know he’s responsible for at least three and we believe there’s others,” DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said Monday.
Investigators say Lindahl accidentally stabbed himself in the leg while killing 18-year-old Charles Huber in 1981, and bled to death himself.
Police found dozens of photos of women in Lindahl's home, and believe they could include other women he murdered.
“I think there’s people we probably don’t even know about,” Loudin said.
Maurer's family moved to Texas after her murder, and Lisle police traveled down to tell them they finally found her killer after 44 years. But they say other investigations will continue.
“Just because they got away with it temporarily, doesn’t mean we’re not still looking for them,” Loudin said.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 630-407-8107.