Orange County’s Oldest Case Solved Using DNA

Orange County

After a half-century, the Huntington Beach Police Department was able to identify the killer of Anita Louise Piteau, a 26-year-old woman who left Maine for a chance to explore California. Her family last heard from her in February 1968, when she sent a letter home about her visit to Hollywood. Her disappearance haunted her family for the next 52 years. 

A group of children found the victim severely beaten in a field and first mistook her body for a scarecrow. Although the police carefully preserved DNA at the scene and worked tirelessly to find a resolution, Piteau remained a Jane Doe for over half a century. 

In 2011, blood on the victim’s blouse provided a partial DNA profile, which was added to a missing persons database, but investigators came up empty-handed. 

In 2019, investigators turned to genetic genealogy to develop a family tree for both the suspect and the victim. GEDmatch was used to help identify the suspect as Johnny Chrisco, who had not been linked to the case previously. They found that he had a long arrest record and a history of aggressive behaviors. He had died in 2015. Detectives then worked with Colleen Fitzpatrick, a leading genetic genealogist, to create a family tree of their Jane Doe. Using GEDmatch’s genealogy database, they were able to identify the victim as Anita Piteau through her sibling’s DNA. When asked about what finding Piteau and her killer means to her, Laurie Quirion, Piteau’s niece, said, “It was like a weight had been lifted. We knew where she is, and she’s coming home.”

After 52 years, Piteau was laid to rest near one of her sisters in a family plot. 

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