OC murder victim identified more than 40 years later

A murder victim whose body was found in Northern Orange County more than 40 years ago was recently identified, officials announced Tuesday. 

Lonnie Raymond Thomas was identified as the man deputies discovered in May 1980, near an oil well in the unincorporated area of Tonner Canyon near Brea

At the time, Thomas' body was identified only as a Black man between the ages of 17-24, who had been shot in the face. Despite efforts to identify him over the years, the case went cold. 

In 2021, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reached out to the Orange County Sheriff's Department to investigate and try and use DNA to help identify the body. Thomas' body was exhumed in May 2022 to collect DNA samples for analysis. 


From there, Othram, a private forensic biotech company, developed a DNA profile, and submitted it to the FBI. The FBI then found who they believed to be Thomas' mother, a woman living in Compton. Comparing DNA samples, the FBI was able to positively ID Thomas' body after 43 years. 

Officials said Thomas was 20 years old at the time of his death, and will be reburied later this week.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is now investigating Thomas' death again. Anyone with information on the case was asked to contact the department at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or at crimestoppers.org.