Thirty years after the teenagers body was discovered in a vacant Ontario house, police have identified the victim as Joseph Pace of Ontario. Pace was just 18-years-old when he was murdered in 1986.
On August 21st 1986, Police were called to the abandoned house in the 1600 block of East Holt Blvd. The small house sat to the rear of The Branding Iron Restaurant & Bar. Inside a bedroom lie the nude, decomposing body of a young man whose age was estimated at the time to be between 17 and 21 years old. They also estimate that his body had been lying there for approximately a week.
There were no personal items, no jewelry, no wallet, and no identification. The victim had been murdered. Police found evidence of blunt force trauma to the head, which most likely killed the young man. There was no murder weapon at the scene and very little information to go on.
At the time, fingerprints of unidentified victims were rolled using black ink and placed onto a paper card. These prints were submitted to several data bases looking for a comparison and hoping for an identification. Due to the decomposition of the body and the poor condition of the prints, the victim went unidentified and was only known as another John Doe.
The three ring binder containing the investigation, including the news stories and the investigative follow-up eventually ended up on a shelf, with the other unsolved or “cold case” murder investigations.
In 2005, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) completed a facial reconstruction composite from which they printed a poster of what the victim might have looked like at the time of the murder. 9,000 posters were generated and sent to various schools, business, truck and rest stops in California, Arizona and Nevada. This composite was also distributed to the following networks: The Doe Network, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, (NamUs), America’s Most Wanted and the FBI’s Violent Criminal Offender Program (VICAP). Not only the fingerprints, but the victims DNA profile had also been entered into those systems. Unfortunately, no results were ever returned in trying to identify the body.
In late March of 2017, Ontario Police Detectives received a telephone call from the FBI. They were informed that there had been a positive identification made on our John Doe from 1986. The FBI is using a relatively new program called Next Generation Identification or NGI. This new NGI system is much more precise and can more easily identify poor or partial fingerprints.
Using NGI, The FBI was able to identify our victim as Joseph Pace based on a comparison of the fingerprints taken from the victim at the crime scene and a fingerprint card from an earlier arrest in March of 1986 for being drunk in public.
Joseph Pace, who went by Joe, stayed with his mother and stepfather. They both worked as onsite managers/maintenance employees at the Capri Motel, located on Holt Blvd near Grove Ave. Joe went to local Ontario schools and briefly attended Buena Vista High School in Chino. He moved back and forth from the Ontario/Chino area to San Bernardino and Needles. His school records show he graduated from Needles High School in August of 1986, just prior to his death.
All of Joseph’s family members now live out of state. He is survived by his mother, brother and two sisters. They do remember Joe hanging out with a guy named Jesse shortly before his death. Jesse and his older brother Michael lived in the area of Seventh Street and Grove Avenue in Ontario. The family is unsure of the brother’s last name. Detectives would like to speak to Jesse or Michael if they can be located.
There is also very limited information that Joe had a girlfriend in the Needles area who lived across the river. Family does not know her name.
Detectives are continuing to investigate this “cold case” murder that occurred more than 30 years ago. They are asking anyone who might have information about Joseph Pace to contact Reserve Detective Diane Galindo at 909-395-2001 x 4190 or Detective Jeff Zeen 909-395-2744 (Case #860801642).
Information can also be reported anonymously by calling WE-TIP at (800) 78-CRIME or online at www.wetip.com