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In the Pipeline: Closure on a cold case

May 27, 2010|Chris Epting

Standing outside the door where Elizabeth Mae Hoffschneider was killed in 1984 is chilling. It looks like any other well-kept apartment complex. But the horror of what took place here makes it very different.

About a year and a half ago, I started this column with as harsh an introduction as I've ever written for anything: "'Nude lying face up in bed. Beaten. Neck stabbed. Sexually assaulted. Strangled to death.' The facts on the police report are brutally chilling. 'Blood drops on bathroom floor. Adhesive substance on wrists. Numerous cut hairs on upper body and on bedding.' And it goes on. Elizabeth Mae Hoffschneider was murdered in Huntington Beach on Nov. 14, 1984. Just 38 years old, her body was discovered in her Parkside Lane apartment by co-workers from the Fountain Valley medical company where she worked.'"

As you may have recently read in this paper, the person charged with this crime, Gerald Go, committed suicide in Canada, where he'd been held the last two years while authorities waited — and waited — for Canadian officials to send him back here for trial. Just as the path had been cleared, he killed himself.

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Det. Mike Reilly of the Huntington Beach Police Department was a rookie patrol officer in 1984 when this slaying took place, and this became his first homicide case. Even after it became a cold case, he never let it alone. As has been documented in many places, Reilly's tenacity paid off in the form of a DNA match that led to this person's arrest. When I heard about Go's death, Reilly was whom I wanted to speak with. One of the best in his field, Reilly was anxious for the trial to finally get underway. I also knew how this good detective always put the interests of Elizabeth's family first, and how much he cares for victims and victims' families in any case he handles. So how did he feel when he heard the news?

"I was sort of in shock after all these years," he shared. "I received a voice mail from the Toronto police that something had happened. I called them back and bam, I got the news." He continued: "We had started re-contacting witnesses and we were ready to go on this case. We had a very strong case, as DNA cases usually are, and so I was confident. This case affected so many people along the way, from Elizabeth's family to other victims to a man who was wrongly accused. And I contacted everyone involved with this news. That it was over. That it was finally over."

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