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Suspect Arrested in '93 Killing of Woman

Slaying: Officials say DNA evidence from the Torrance crime scene was held for more than eight years before a match was made.

June 11, 2002|JESSICA GARRISON

A suspect has been arrested in the killing of a Torrance woman after DNA evidence linked him to the 1993 crime, sheriff's officials said Monday.

The body of Josephine Tan was found in bushes near a freeway overpass, but police had no leads in the case until spring, when DNA from Christopher Goree, 26, was matched to evidence on her body.

Goree, who was 17 at the time and lived a few blocks from the scene of the crime, was arrested Wednesday and booked on suspicion of murder. He is being held without bail.

"It's a feeling of satisfaction that the case is solved," said sheriff's Det. Gerald Biehn, the original investigator. "And it's also a feeling of bewilderment as to why this crime occurred in the first place."

On the day she was killed, Biehn said, Tan was in the process of moving from her brother's home in Carson into an apartment with a friend in an unincorporated area of Torrance. The 41-year-old, who worked for a nutrition company in the South Bay, did not drive a car, which meant she had to make multiple trips on foot, carrying her few possessions on her back.

She trudged back and forth over a footbridge that crosses the Harbor Freeway, and as night fell, she told her friend that she was going back to her brother's for one more load. She was never seen alive again, authorities said.

The following day, children walking home from elementary school over the footbridge glimpsed what they thought was a mannequin lying on an embankment on the west side of the freeway, Biehn said.

They went down for a better look and discovered Tan's body. Near it were clothes and other possessions she had been carrying. Biehn declined to say how she was killed, but said the attack was brutal and that Tan probably had been raped. If she screamed, he said, no one would have heard her over the freeway traffic.

"We had no idea who the suspect was," Biehn said. "You just really felt for the victim. You knew she had been through a horrendous experience."

Still, detectives were unable to turn up anything. Their only hope, Biehn said, was DNA. A sample was developed from evidence collected at the crime scene, and entered into the state's DNA bank.

It sat there without a match for eight and a half years.

Then, in November 2001, Goree was convicted of sexually assaulting two minors. As a condition of his sentence, he was required to submit a DNA sample. It matched evidence taken from Tan's body, authorities said.

Biehn said that because Goree was a minor when Tan died, officials will hold a hearing to decide whether to try him as a juvenile or as an adult.

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