DNA ties skull found in El Dorado County to 40-year-old murder case


The remains of a young woman murdered four decades ago in El Dorado County have been returned to her family, thanks to advancements in DNA science and years of law enforcement work.

Rebecca Dinkel was 19 years old when she and her mother, 37-year-old Nancy Webster, disappeared from a cafe in the Garden Valley area. Before their disappearance, Wesbter received a threatening phone call from her live-in boyfriend, who was abusive, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Although their bodies were not found, the district attorney’s office was able to prosecute the boyfriend, Clifton Mahaney, for the slayings. A jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Dinkel left behind two young sons.

In 1981, hikers discovered a human skull with an apparent gunshot wound in the Rock Creek Road area of El Dorado County.

Although the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office suspected the skull could be that of Dinkel or her mother, neither woman had dental records on file and DNA science was not advanced enough to connect the remains to the victims.

Mahaney died in 2002 without confessing to murdering the women or telling authorities where their bodies were hidden.

“Mahaney’s death seemed to mark the end of any possible answers surrounding the tragedy,” the district attorney’s office said.

A breakthrough, however, was made in 2017. The California Department of Justice’s Richmond Lab recovered a partial DNA sample from one of the teeth on the skull.

A cold case search led detectives to Webster and Dinkel, and a task force asked Dinkel’s now-grown sons for help. Both provided DNA samples that revealed the skull was that of Dinkel.

“As is so often the case when victims simply disappear, the greatest agony for the family can be that they never really know what happened to their loved one. For (Dinkel’s) boys, who were never actually told about their mother’s disappearance, at least that question has been answered,” the district attorney’s office said.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/DNA-ties-skull-found-in-El-Dorado-County-to-13610258.php.

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