San Diego homicide detectives are looking at two cold cases involving teenage girls who were murdered several years apart, their strangled bodies both found at Torrey Pines State Beach. Similarities in how they died lead investigators to believe the same person killed Barbara Nantais and Claire Hough.
Armed with evidence collected at the scene of the brutal 1978 attack of Nantais, who was 15 at the time, and her boyfriend, Jim Alt, authorities early this year ordered DNA testing in an effort to bring the murderer to justice. And while detectives hope science will provide new leads, they also need the public’s help in solving the murders.
The Nantais murder 35 years ago, and that of Hough in 1984, carry gruesome similarities. Both girls were strangled, had sand in their mouths and were disfigured by their killer. Nantais’ breast was cut around the nipple, and Hough’s breast was cut off.
Hough was just 14 when she was killed. She was staying nearby at her grandparents' home when she went out without their knowledge, possibly to walk on the beach or meet up with friends. Her body was found at Torrey Pines State Beach the morning of Aug. 24, 1984. Eight years earlier, passersby had found Nantais and Alt on the beach the morning of Aug. 13, 1978.
Alt, now 52, survived the attack but suffered a severe brain injury from being beaten with a log and rock by whoever attacked the couple. His injuries left him with no memory of what happened. He told investigators the last thing he remembered was falling asleep on the sand with Nantais.
He told CBS8 he’d zipped together two sleeping bags for them to cuddle up in. It’s those items that investigators have sent for laboratory testing.
Anyone with information about either of these cases is urged to contact authorities:
—San Diego Police Homicide Unit at 619-531-2293
—Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477
—Information call also be submitted using an Online Tip Form (Crime Stoppers)
About this series:
Scores of cases throughout San Diego County go unsolved by local law enforcement investigators each year. A teen thought to be a runaway has still not come home. A dangerous parolee goes missing. A parent in a custody dispute kidnaps the children. A family member who is homeless and mentally ill disappears off the street. A loved one is murdered and there are few clues or no suspect.
No matter what the circumstances, police and relatives continue to search for those who are missing and wanted. They want the son, sister, or husband home. They want justice for the victims of crimes. They want the bad guys behind bars.
Each day in October, our Patch sites will feature a different person who is missing and wanted in San Diego County. Look at their pictures. Have you seen them? Do you have information that might help them be located, or identify a suspect?
Each profile will have a phone number for you to call to provide information. Let’s help investigators close these cases!