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DNA links killer to 1974 slaying of Pomona woman

Cold case detectives say a man who died seven years ago while awaiting execution at San Quentin for murdering a 10-year-old girl is tied to the strangulation of a 29-year-old developmentally disabled woman.

December 31, 2010|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
  • Barbara Hall was 29 when she was strangled in 1974. DNA links Robert E. Stansbury to her killing.
Barbara Hall was 29 when she was strangled in 1974. DNA links Robert E. Stansbury…

When Robert Edward Stansbury died seven years ago while awaiting execution on San Quentin's death row, some worried that he would take the full extent of his crimes to his grave.

Stansbury, an ice cream truck driver, was serving time for raping and killing a 10-year-old girl. He had a long record of sexual assaults, at least once using his ice cream truck as a ruse. Detectives long suspected there were more victims but could not prove it.

This week, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detectives announced that they have DNA evidence linking Stansbury to a decades-old cold case in Pomona.

Detectives said DNA taken from Stansbury after an unrelated felony conviction was matched to evidence collected in the 1974 slaying of Barbara Hall, a 29-year-old developmentally disabled woman who was strangled near a Claremont horse trail.

Investigators believe the Pomona woman was waiting for a bus home from a continuation school where she worked caring for infants. The day of her disappearance, there was a bus strike — which Hall apparently didn't know when she arrived at her bus stop.

She was never seen alive again.

A day later, her body was discovered. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Stansbury had a history of abducting and sexually assaulting victims.

In 1982, he lured Robyn Leigh Jackson, 10, into his truck with the promise of free ice cream and candy. He raped and beat the girl before stuffing her into his ice cream cooler. She died the next day after he dumped her into a Pasadena flood control channel.

Before that, he had been convicted of other sexual assaults dating to 1959, authorities said.

"This guy should never have been on the street," said sheriff's Sgt. Richard Longshore. "Just a predator, just dangerous."

Stansbury covered much of the San Gabriel Valley and unincorporated areas of East Los Angeles in his ice cream truck. Detectives believe there still may be other victims, and are seeking the public's help.

"This guy was causing some serious damage wherever he went," said sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker. "We would not be surprised if someone saw this news story … that somebody's going to have a very bad memory about this guy and put two and two together."

Authorities said Hall's body showed no defensive injuries, even though she was known to be distrustful of strangers, a combination that has led Longshore to believe she may have been forced to come with Stansbury at gunpoint.

Her body was found just a day later on a trail in the area bordering San Dimas and Claremont. Hall's case was recently reopened by cold case detectives, who used DNA technology not available at the time of the initial investigation. Old evidence slides were located at the Los Angeles County coroner's office that crime lab technicians were able to match to Stansbury's DNA sample.

The response from Hall's two surviving sisters was emotional, Longshore said.

"I told them there's really not going to be any closure," he said. "But at least I'll give them some answers."

Stansbury died at San Quentin State Prison at the age of 60. He made headlines for a lengthy court battle he had undertaken arguing that his Miranda rights had been infringed in that case. Authorities believe it is "likely" he had other victims, particularly between 1974 and 1982.

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (323) 890-5000.

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