San Diego police believe they’ve finally cracked the case of a 14-year-old girl murdered in 1984. But what if they’re wrong?
The rapping of knuckles on wood brought Kevin Brown to his front door on the morning of January 9, 2014. The uniformed detectives standing on his doorstep introduced themselves as Michael Lambert and Lori Adams of the San Diego Police Department. Lambert looked familiar to Brown, who had worked for the department as a crime-lab analyst from 1982 until his retirement, in 2002. The detectives said they wanted to discuss an old case with Brown, and he invited them in.
Stepping into the living room, the two detectives sat down in chairs and faced Brown, who perched himself in the middle of a burgundy leather couch. At 61, he was tall, with wire-rimmed glasses and a retreating halo of grayish curly hair. They were briefly joined by Brown’s wife, Rebecca, a teacher at a Catholic high school. The detectives’ visit constituted more excitement than the Browns typically saw of late: Many of the couple’s activities centered on church or Rebecca’s work. Rebecca, who was vivacious and talkative, directed school plays; the more reserved Kevin liked to fish and garden. The two took ballroom-dance classes, traveled abroad, and hiked together. “We were just a standard, boring couple living in the suburbs, tending to our stray cats, roses, and each other,” Rebecca told me.