A Fresno cold case murder closer to conclusion

FRESNO, Calif.

Eddie Nealy has been convicted of rape twice, but now he faces charges of murder and rape -- charges that may never have come if not for Nealy's prior convictions.

Detectives found the naked body of 14-year-old Jody Wolfe in a canal back in 1985. The water is pretty calm now, but Action News video from that day in 1985 shows the water flowing a lot faster.

Detectives believe the current carried Wolfe about a quarter-mile from the spot where they found her clothing the next day. It took 22 more years before the most important piece of evidence came through.

"The item that was submitted ... was a sexual assault kit," said Edwin Vargas, of the California Department of Justice.

As a convicted sex offender, Nealy had to submit DNA samples to the DOJ. And while he sat in jail in 2007, analysts matched his DNA to a semen sample taken from Wolfe's body 22 years before.

A pathologist collected the sample during an autopsy of the girl, but DNA testing technology wasn't available to him at the time.

Traditional investigation techniques hit dead ends and Wolfe's family nearly gave up hope. Her mother didn't want her face shown as she testified Tuesday. She tearfully identified her daughter as the murder victim.

Judge Wayne Ellison is expected to decide Wednesday whether there's enough evidence for Nealy to stand trial. If it does go to trial, prosecutors could seek the death penalty.

Wolfe's family says that's what Nealy deserves.

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