Forty years ago, someone kidnapped 5-year-old Anne Pham as she walked alone to her kindergarten school, three short blocks from her home. Pham remains were discovered a few days later on what was then known as Fort Ord. She had been raped and murdered.
Investigators in 1982 weren’t able to solve the case and Anne Pham’s murder turned cold for forty years.
In 2020, a push by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Task Force and Seaside Police Department to reopen Anne’s investigation led to the arrest of a Navada man.
Robert John Lanoue, age 70 of Reno, Nevada, was 29-years-old and living in Seaside at the time of Pham kidnapping. Lanoe has a long criminal history. According to prison records, he was a registered sex offender, convicted in 1998 of lewd acts with a minor, possession of child pornography, among other crimes. He spent two decades in jail.
Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni announced at a July press conferences the charges filed against Lanoue. He has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, with special circumstance allegations that he murdered Pham while committing kidnapping and a lewd act on a child under the age of 14.
The Cold Case Task Force used grand money to test DNA collected in 1982. Parabon Nanolabs used a new type of DNA testing, previously unavailable, to build a genealogy profile, connecting Lanoue to Pham.
“The guy is a complete monster,” Seaside police Chief Nicholas Borges said in a statement to People magazine. “He’s every person’s nightmare. The world is a safer place with this guy off the streets.”
Pham was one of ten children, born to a Vietnamese family. On the morning of her disappearance, she convinced her mother to let her walk by herself to school, only three blocks away. Her alleged killer was a soldier station in Fort Ord and lived around the corner from Pham’s family.
Authorities believed her kidnapping was a case of opportunity.
“He just saw prey when he drove by.” Said Borges.
Anyone who has information about Pham’s case is encouraged to contact DA Investigator Justin Bell at 831-755-5070.