Homicide Victim Identified After 37 Years, Cold Case Investigators Seek Perpetrators

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icide Victim Identified After 37 Years

Victim Oral Stuart, Jr.

On November 10, 1974, officers from the Long Beach Police Department responded to a large condominium complex in the area of Spring Street near the 605 Freeway, where the nude body of a deceased adult male was found. The victim would remain unidentified and the official cause of his death undetermined until recently, when police made a significant break in the case, taking it out of the cold case files. Detectives now hope that the community can provide information to help identify a suspect.

The officers that responded to the complex in 1974 located the victim in the carport area of the complex. He had sustained blunt force trauma and other injuries, but the L.A. County Coroner’s Office was not able to identify him or make a determination as to the official cause of his death at that time. Police investigators pursued leads, and worked with the media in an attempt to identify the victim, but were not successful. The case of “John Doe #155” was ruled an undetermined death, and was filed with that of other unidentified decedents, where it remained for several decades.

Utilizing grant funding from the National Institute of Justice, detectives with the Long Beach Police Department’s Cold Cases Unit regularly conduct detailed research into unsolved homicides and undetermined deaths going as far back as the early 1970’s. Cases with biological evidence suitable for DNA analysis are identified, and the grant funds cover the research, as well as the DNA testing of these cases.

While compiling the list of unidentified “Doe” cases, detectives discovered the case of “John Doe #155,” and as they re-examined the information, they suspected the victim might have been in the military at the time of his death based on his physical description. They contacted the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Cold Case Homicide Unit at Camp Pendleton, California. Police investigators worked with the special agent in charge of investigating U.S. Marines that are considered missing, and provided the physical description of John Doe #155, and details related to the discovery of his body on November 10, 1974.

NCIS identified the case of a U.S. Marine who was listed as a deserter on November 22, 1974, just 12 days after the discovery of John Doe #155. The history statement of the U.S. Marine indicated specific tattoos on his arms, which matched tattoos observed on John Doe #155 during his autopsy.

NCIS identified the U.S. Marine as Oral Stuart, Jr., from Des Moines, Iowa. Stuart’s surviving family members were contacted and confirmed through photographs that John Doe #155 was in fact Oral Stuart Jr., a U.S. Marine, who had been stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, at the time of his disappearance.

With John Doe #155 being officially identified as a U.S. Marine, and statements from surviving family members that indicated Oral Stuart Jr., would not have voluntarily deserted his duties as a Marine, cold case detectives suspected that Victim Stuart’s death involved foul play, and the case was reviewed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, which reclassified the death as a homicide.

With the victim identified, detectives are now turning to the public to help provide more answers to this case. Anyone with information is urged to call Long Beach Police Department Homicide Detectives Bryan McMahon and Mike Dugan at (562) 570-7244. Anonymous tips may be submitted via web and text by visiting www.tipsoft.com.

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