Newport Beach, CA

Murderer IDed in 1980 Newport Beach cold case

Wess Haubrich

41 years later, Judy Nesbitt gets some measure of justice; suspect 6 feet under.

41 years ago, 42-year-old Judy Nesbitt was showing someone she thought was a potential buyer her family’s boat, the Felicidad IV.

The “buyer” followed her into the ship’s sleeping quarters when a struggle ensued. Nesbitt was blitz attacked by the man she was with.

In the middle of the carnage, the room was in shambles when Nesbitt was gunned down and left to die.

The man she was with then ransacked the ship. He ended up taking Nesbitt’s credit cards, checkbook, and cash. He swiftly fled the scene. Investigators turned up nothing in the subsequent 1980 investigation that would have put them on the suspect’s heels.

Nevertheless, evidence techs collected everything they could at the scene – including some strands of loose hair. Unfortunately, being 1980, there wasn’t much that could be done with them. So, they stayed in with the rest of what they found in a New Port Beach police filing room for all these years.

Until now.

In a press release, the Newport Beach PD said Kenneth Elwin Marks killed Judy Nesbitt. Marks died in 1999 without being identified as a suspect or person of interest in the case.

Still, investigators pressed on, hoping to catch a break at some point. In 2002, DNA was extracted from those strands of hair and entered into the FBI CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database, which was designed as a central database for DNA of offenders who committed a certain class of violent crime.

CODIS never had a hit on the ’02 DNA until 2018. This is when a private lab extracted a more thorough profile from the hairs. This was a first-of-its-kind extraction technique in the US.

"Investigators then used genetic genealogy techniques — and the assistance of Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore — to identify Kenneth Marks as the killer in this case,'' the Newport PD said.

Let us hope this can give the Nesbitt family some closure to such a dark chapter in their lives.

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact:


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