Larry Don Patterson and William Lloyd were convited of murdering 12-year-old Valerie Lane and her 13-year-old friend, Doris Derryberry, and discarding their bodies in a wooded area in Yuba County, California.
On the afternoon of Nov. 11, 1973, Valerie and Doris left their homes in Olivehurst to go shopping at a mall in the neighboring town of Linda.
When they failed to return home by the end of the day, both of their mothers went to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office and reported them missing as runaways, according to the LA Times.
About two hours after they were reported missing, Valerie and Doris were found dead in a wooded area near Marysville, just north of Sacramento.
Both girls had been shot to death with a shotgun at close range, and an autopsy revealed that only Doris had been sexually assaulted.
Although homicide detectives searched the crime scene for evidence and interviewed several witnesses and 60 potential suspects, Valerie and Doris’ murder turned cold.
More than four decades after their deaths, in March 2014, a Yuba County investigator re-examined the case with an evidence technician.
During the investigation, DNA evidence that was found on Doris’ body was sent to the California Department of Justice Forensic Labs for analysis.
Nine months later, the results revealed that the DNA evidence found on the victim matched Patterson and Harbour, who were 22-year-old cousins living near the victims in Olivehurst at the time of the murders.
They were 65 years old at the time of their arrests.
Samples of their DNA were already in the system, as they both had criminal records.
Harbour was arrested for drug-related offenses in 1997. Patterson was arrested for the same charge in 2003, but he was also a registered sex offender.
In 1980, Patterson was convicted of raping two women in Chico, California, and served some time in prison.
On Sept. 13, 2016, Yuba County police arrested Patterson at his home in Oklahoma, KCRA 3 News reported. He was extradited to California.
Harbour, who was still residing on Sixth Avenue in Olivehurst, California, was also arrested after he was pulled over by an officer on Rupert Avenue and Edgewater Circle in Linda.
They were both charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
In a news conference, Sheriff Steve Durfor stated, “We express our sympathy and condolences to the families of Valerie and Doris after enduring decades of not knowing who was responsible for the brutal murders.”
When Leonard Granger learned about the men who were arrested for the murders of Valerie and Doris, he told Fox 40 that he may have been the last person to see the girls alive.
In 1973, Granger owned a gas station in Marysville. The day before the murders, he said that two men pulled into the gas station to fill up their tank. They had two young girls with them, and they were seated in the back of the vehicle.
Granger added that when the girls exited the car and went inside the store to use the restroom, the men escorted them, which he thought was peculiar.
When the girls came out of the restroom, they were crying.
Granger asked the girls if something was wrong, but one of the men interjected and said, “Don’t get involved. We’re taking care of it.”
The store owner had an inkling that the girls may have been in danger, so he called the Marysville Police Department as soon as they left.
But he stated that “they weren’t too concerned. Then the next day I saw where they found those same two girls that had been killed. And you know it’s bothered me ever since.”
Deputy Yuba County District Attorney John Vacek said, “The families rightly view this as these guys had 43 years of freedom and we lost our daughters.”
“So it’s tough to say justice has been served, but we do what we can. The prevailing sentiment is justice delayed is justice denied. I’m glad we can bring some semblance of justice to this case.”
Family members were elated that the killers of Valerie and Doris had been caught, but they said it was difficult knowing that the two men responsible for murdering the girls were living close by.
Stan Vantassel, Doris’ nephew, told ABC News that “it was extremely difficult knowing, as children, living and growing up in the neighborhood that we were running around with some of their children. It’s just a slap in our face.”
“I guess if there is justice served at this point. I’ll be honest with you. In my opinion, these people have walked around for the last 43 years, and they’ve lived their lives. My aunt never had a chance at hers.”
Patterson pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, while Harbour pleaded no contest.
In 2017, a judge sentenced both men to five years to life in prison, and they will be eligible for parole after five years.
The judge also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.