New DNA Technology and NIJ Grant Help LBPD Solve 1989 Murder of Wilson High Student
2011-12-27 · By Editor
In 1989, Long Beach Police Department Homicide detectives began an investigation into the murder of a 15-year-old Wilson High School student who was found deceased in her residence. The case would go unsolved for 22 years until advances in DNA technology and a grant to help solve cold cases gave detectives the resources they needed to identify the suspect, who had since murdered another young female and attempted to murder a third.
The case began on October 30, 1989, when officers from the Long Beach Police Department were dispatched to the 1000 block of Coronado Avenue after a woman arrived home to find her granddaughter deceased in the residence.
When officers arrived, they found the victim, Danielle Haddon, a 15-year-old Wilson High School student, deceased and lying on the bed fully clothed with a ligature wrapped tightly around her neck. Homicide detectives responded and processed the scene for evidence, canvassed the neighborhood for possible witnesses, worked to identify and interview everyone associated with the victim, and posted fliers announcing a reward for information about the victim’s murder. The detectives conducted a thorough investigation and followed up on all leads, but despite their efforts, the case went cold in 1991.
Since that time, DNA analysis has improved significantly. Continuing technological advances in DNA testing have allowed investigators to re-evaluate many cold cases and identify suspects. Shortly after the Long Beach Police Department was awarded a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant in 2008 to help solve cold cases, this new DNA technology would take the case of Danielle Haddon out of the cold case files and into a new direction.
After receiving the funding, Long Beach Police detectives evaluated cold cases to determine which could benefit from the new testing. These evaluations proved to be very time consuming, and included identifying cases with potential DNA evidence, and, of those, which would be suitable for testing. The eligible samples were then submitted in batches over the next few years. At the time Danielle Haddon’s case was being reviewed by detectives, her mother, who still resided in the Long Beach area, read about the grant award in the newspaper and contacted investigators to see if the case was eligible. Cold case investigators had already learned that the original homicide detectives in the case had collected and saved biological evidence, and it had not yet been analyzed using the most current DNA testing methods.
Utilizing resources from the NIJ cold case grant, DNA evidence was submitted for analysis to the Scientific Services Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. In October 2010, detectives were notified a positive match had been made. The DNA matched that of 49-year-old Royal Clark Jr., identifying him as the suspect in the murder case. Detectives learned Clark was in custody for other crimes.
Suspect Clark is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison for the 1991 kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old female, and the attempted murder of a 15-year-old female, both residents of the Fresno area. Detectives confirmed that he was living in the Long Beach area at the time of Danielle Haddon’s murder, and moved to the Fresno area a short time later. There are no known connections between Victim Haddon and Suspect Clark and, prior to the DNA hit, Royal Clark had not been a suspect in her death.
Detectives presented the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, and on December 21, 2011, Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose filed a charge of murder against Royal Clark Jr. Suspect Clark is expected to be returned to Long Beach to face those charges during an arraignment hearing.
Chief Jim McDonnell stated, “The Long Beach Police Department is extremely grateful to the National Institute of Justice for providing the grant funding that enabled detectives to utilize the latest in DNA technology. With NIJ’s assistance, we are able to bring a violent criminal to justice and provide some closure for the victim’s family.”
Anyone with any additional information regarding the murder of Danielle Haddon or any other crimes Royal Clark Jr. may have been involved in is asked to contact Long Beach Police Department Homicide Detectives Todd Johnson or Malcolm Evans at (562) 570-7244. Anonymous tips may be submitted via e-mail or text via www.tipsoft.com.