ORANGE — For nearly eight years, the disappearance of prison guard Jesslyn Ann Rich was a mystery to the city's Police Department.
But now, police say, they have solved the case.
Police said Thursday that a male employee at a saloon in Orange where Rich was last seen alive is believed responsible for her slaying. Police said they eventually cracked the case by conducting interviews with members of the suspect's family.
"It was good, old-fashioned police work," Orange Police Sgt. Larry Pore said. "We never closed the case. It was very puzzling, but in the investigation one thing finally led to another."
The suspect, who died of a heart attack in 1990, reportedly told members of his family before his death that he killed the 35-year-old mother of two and buried her body somewhere in either Riverside or San Bernardino County, Pore said. Police would not release the suspect's name Thursday.
Police said the suspect had been interviewed at least twice after Rich's disappearance but was never charged with a crime.
Investigators said they also have a rifle from the man's home but declined to disclose whether it was used in the slaying, Pore said.
Rich's body was never found after she vanished Nov. 11, 1984.
Based on statements from the suspect's family members, police have determined that Rich willingly left the bar with the man and went to his nearby apartment, Pore said.
"An argument ensued and Jesslyn was either forced or voluntarily accompanied the suspect to the Riverside area," Pore said. "It was there that she was shot and killed."
Police are now trying to determine whether body parts found in San Bernardino County in 1984 are the victim's remains.
Rich, of Riverside County, worked as a guard at the California Institution for Women in Frontera, 45 miles east of Los Angeles. There had been speculation that her disappearance was possibly linked to her alleged plans to expose a drug dealing ring at the prison. However, Pore said police never found any evidence to support that theory.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Orange Police Department at (714) 744-7403.