Calif. officers make arrest in 37-year-old cold case killing
Mitchell Lynn Bacom, 63, was arrested for allegedly kidnapping 14-year-old Suzanne Bombardier while she was babysitting 37 years ago and killing her
By Rachel Swan and Annie Ma
San Francisco Chronicle
ANTIOCH, Calif. — Antioch police announced Monday that they have arrested a suspect in the 1980 kidnapping and killing of a teenager whose story briefly jolted the nation and roiled a quiet East Bay suburb.
Mitchell Lynn Bacom, 63, of Antioch was arrested just before 5 p.m. Monday for allegedly kidnapping 14-year-old Suzanne Bombardier while she was babysitting her nieces on a summer night 37 years ago and killing her.
Police detained Bacom outside of his home on the 300 block of West Madill Street in Antioch. Bacom was an acquaintance of the Bombardier family at the time the crime was committed, police said, without disclosing further details.
Investigators reopened the case in 2015 after a friend of Suzanne and the slain teen’s niece met with two retired detectives who were assigned to find the girl’s killer in 1980. The police used an FBI indexing system not available at the time of the crime to analyze DNA evidence extracted from the crime scene and trace it to Bacom.
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said she will charge Bacom with kidnapping, rape, murder, oral copulation and murder with use of a deadly weapon.
Suzanne’s slaying was the oldest open homicide cold case on record in Antioch.
Numerous suspects had emerged over the years as police tried to determine what happened to the 14-year-old honor roll student at Antioch Junior High. With her bright eyes, blond hair and captivating smile, Suzanne came to haunt the community and its Police Department.
Friends remembered the slain teen for her bubbly spirit and ability to see humor in everything. She was commemorated in a junior high yearbook for having the best smile in her class. She swooned over Rod Stewart ballads and wanted to be a cheerleader.
But Suzanne’s life ended suddenly on June 22, 1980, when she disappeared from her sister’s townhouse at 3421 Hudson Court. Days later, a fisherman discovered her body in the San Joaquin River.
Suzanne had been sexually assaulted and stabbed in the heart. The case drew national attention but went unsolved for 37 years.
It became a lingering obsession for detectives Gregory Glod and Ron Rackley, who had long departed from the Antioch Police Department by the time they were reunited with one of Suzanne’s close friends and one of her nieces in 2014.
The meeting was arranged by a Lafayette author, Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons, who stumbled upon Suzanne’s gravestone in the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette and became curious.
The two retired police officers joined Suzanne’s family and persuaded Antioch investigators to reopen the investigation a year later.
In 2015, the Police Department sent biological samples from Suzanne’s body to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Laboratory to create a DNA profile. Lab technicians used the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System to tentatively link the profile to Bacom earlier this year. The link was confirmed after additional testing, police said.
“When the biological evidence was collected in this case, DNA testing did not exist as a method of determining guilt in our justice system,” Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks said during a news conference at the police station, hours after Bacom was apprehended.
In a statement released that night, police said they had never given up on solving the case, and that they had tracked technological developments that would help identify the killer.
“It was through patience, persistence, networking, modern investigative techniques and scientific advances that this case was solved,” the statement read.
Bacom had a criminal history that began long before Suzanne’s death. In 1973, he was arrested in Mountain View and convicted the following year of second-degree burglary, sodomy and assault with intent to murder. He was sentenced to five years to life.
In 1981, he was arrested in Isleton (Sacramento County) and later convicted of first-degree burglary, robbery, rape and sodomy. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
He was convicted in 2002 of failing to properly register as a sex offender in Contra Costa County and sentenced to four years in prison.
Suzanne’s family was notified of Bacom’s arrest on Monday. Several of her relatives still live in the Bay Area, but not in Antioch.
“We hope this development brings some comfort to them,” Brooks said.
The Antioch Police Department is working with other law enforcement agencies to determine if Bacom was involved in further crimes. They are also looking to hear from any past victims, including those who may have never reported the crimes.
Anyone with information should call Detective Leonard Orman at (925) 779-6918.
©2017 the San Francisco Chronicle