Sonoma County sheriff names suspect in 25-year-old murder case
DNA testing has led to a breakthrough in a 25-year-old Sonoma County murder investigation, authorities announced Wednesday.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said it has identified a suspect in the 1996 murder of Michelle Marie Veal, whose nude body was found on the side of a road near Rohnert Park.
The suspect, now-dead Jack Alexander Bokin of San Francisco, was linked to Veal’s murder using relatively new DNA-testing technology, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Veal, who lived in Union City, was 32 when she was killed. Her body was found on July 15, 1996, by a survey crew along Stony Point Road north of West Railroad Avenue on the southern outskirts of Rohnert Park.
Her body was in brush next to a barbed-wired fence off the side of the road, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Valencia said.
In a statement issued to Santoki Productions, a production company investigating Sonoma County crime cases for an upcoming documentary series, Veal’s family said, "Though she has been gone, memories of her beautiful smile, impeccable style, generous spirit, and enthusiasm for life live on forever in the hearts of the many people whose lives she touched.
"Our dear Michelle was a mom to three young girls who were raised in the care of her incredible mother, as well as by her loving sister. Though her struggles made her particularly vulnerable at times, Michelle’s strength is what kept her persevering through many adversities, to do her best for those she loved. Michelle’s tenacious spirit lives on in her daughters, who are all leading happy, healthy lives today, and raising their children to remember her as the beautiful grandmother whom we all wish they could have met."
Bokin was about 73 years old when he died in December at a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation medical facility in Vacaville, authorities said.
He had been in police custody since October 1997, when he was arrested in a separate case that was investigated by police in San Francisco.
A judge sentenced him in 2000 to 231 years in prison for that case, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was convicted on charges of kidnapping, kidnapping with the intent to commit rape, rape of a victim incapable of consent, rape by force or fear, mayhem, aggravated mayhem, two counts of oral copulation of a person under 14 years of age, false imprisonment and attempted murder.
In Veal’s case, an autopsy showed that she had multiple skull fractures and a broken neck, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
A weapon was never recovered.
“We just know it was a hard object,” Valencia said Wednesday.
Investigators haven’t determined the relationship between Bokin and Veal but they believe the pair met somewhere in the Bay Area ‒ possibly San Francisco ‒ before Veal was brought to Sonoma County.
Valencia added that when Veal’s body was discovered by investigators it showed no signs of decomposition; despite this, authorities never determined how long she had been dead.
“Violent Crime detectives conducted an extensive investigation; all leads were exhausted,“ the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, recounting the early days of the case. ”Despite their best efforts, the investigation went cold.“
In April, detectives sent DNA evidence found on Veal to the Serological Research Institute to be examined using the latest biological testing technology, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Valencia said specifics on the DNA would be forthcoming, including whether it came from hair, blood or semen.
The institute, a nonprofit testing laboratory based in Richmond, California, notified the Sheriff’s Office last month that the DNA from the Veal case matched Bokin’s.
Bokin’s DNA had been saved by the FBI in its DNA database known as the Combined Index System in the United States, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The Sheriff’s Office said it frequently reviews cold cases to look for new leads.
“We know that every cold case represents long-awaited answers for the family and friends of victims,” the agency said. “Thanks to the hard work of our detectives and our law enforcement partners, we are now able to bring a measure of closure and healing to Michelle Marie Veal's family.”
The Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday posted a booking photo of Bokin taken at the Sonoma County Jail on Oct. 13, 1989, when he was arrested in Sonoma County in a property crimes case prosecuted by the San Francisco Police Department, according to Valencia.
Staff Writer Colin Atagi contributed to this report.
You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at email@example.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.