Soldier Arrested 40 Years After Girl, 5, Abducted on Her Way to School, Discovered Dead.
Murder charges have been filed in the 40-year-old cold case of Anne Pham’s murder by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office on July 7. As a 5 year child from Seaside, Pham was abducted and murdered two days later on South Boundary Road while on her way to kindergarten at Highland Elementary School.
“This is the finest day of my professional career,” said Seaside Acting Police Chief Nick Borges, referring to the department’s largest and most complicated cold case.
The DA Office’s announcement did not mention all of the grisly circumstances of the case: Pham was kidnapped, raped, and then suffocated to death when she was released from captivity. The suspect, Robert John Lanoue, 70, resided just a street away from Pham at the time of the crime, according to Borges. While serving at Fort Ord, Lanoue was just 29 years old. As a result, he was arrested and jailed for “an extensive amount of time” in Nevada as a convicted sex offender.
Despite his inability to discuss the evidence in detail due to the pending nature of the case, Borges believes, “It’s an extremely powerful case.” Without a shadow of a doubt, authorities have the proper man in custody. “The world is a better place because that man is in prison.”
It is to Jeannine Pacioni’s credit that a Cold Case Task Force was formed in 2019, under her leadership. To that end, she engaged former Monterey PD assistant chief Bill Clark, who toured the county, interviewing various police departments about the most pressing unsolved crimes.
For Borges, the answer to that was a no-brainer: Anne Pham is the author of this article.
A box of cold case folders caught his eye in 2009 when he was working as an investigator. He was taken aback by her tale when he first heard it. When I saw how it was stored, I found it disgusting,” he says. As a result, he says, “I’ve spent sleepless nights for years thinking about this girl.”
Borges emphasizes the importance of working with other organizations on this matter as well. Many different law enforcement agencies and non-law enforcement forensic labs were involved in the investigation because Pham was found on federal land.
Progress in DNA technology aided this case’s breakthrough. In the criminal justice system, “there are things that have not been used [yet] scientifically that will come out,” Borges tells the Daily Beast.
“A new sort of DNA testing not previously available to earlier investigators confirmed Lanoue as the suspect,” according to the DA’s Office.
He was arrested on July 6 and is currently being held in Nevada while he awaits extradition.
First-degree murder charges have been filed against Lanoue, who is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. He is accused of murdering Pham while engaging in kidnapping and indecent acts on a child under 14.
Borges explains that the Seaside PD conference room has a picture of every cold case victim in the city—more than 20—to remind officers that while it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, there is always more work to be done, and more justice to be served.
According to Borges, “they get enthusiastic and want to go dig.”
A year ago, Borges had a large photo of Pham blown up and mounted on a tripod in the department’s foyer because he had a gut sense the case would be solved.
He delivered it to Highland Elementary School today.
Her mother said, “She didn’t make it to school back then, but she did today.”
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