DNA technology has helped police identify a man who’s been dead for 20 years as the suspect in the slaying of two 16-year-olds in Fremont in 1982, authorities said Tuesday.
The identification of Clifton Hudspeth finally brings closure to the families of Mary Jane Malatag and Jeffrey Flores Atup, who were cousins.
Fremont detectives met with the families of Atup and Malatag to share the information and they were appreciative of investigators’ efforts, but asked for privacy at this time, police said.
Detectives also notified Hudspeth’s family of the finding.
At about 6 a.m. on Dec. 20, 1982, a caller reported they had seen what they believed to be a body located near the intersection of Green Valley and Scott Creek roads in Fremont, near the Milpitas border, according to police.
Officers who arrived at the area found Atup dead and it was immediately apparent, based on visible injuries, that he was the victim of a homicide, police said.
At 8:35 a.m. that same day police received a second call reporting a person down near the intersection of Hunter Lane and Mission Boulevard.
Officers who responded and found Malatag dead said she also had visible injuries and was believed to be the victim of a homicide.
Fremont police said initially it wasn’t known if the two homicides were related but investigators learned the two victims were cousins and had been together the prior evening in Milpitas.
Atup worked at the Serra Theaters in Milpitas and Malatag was at the movie theater with some friends, waiting for Atup to get off work.
After Atup closed up the theater, they walked to a local 7-eleven store off of North Abel Street in Milpitas and bought some food with Malatag’s friend.
When they left that area Malatag and Atup were last seen walking northbound on North Abel Street at about 12:35 a.m. on Dec. 20, 1982.
It was believed they were walking to Atup’s residence on Horcajo Street in Milpitas, but the two never made it home, police said.
There was an extensive investigation and multiple interviews with possible persons of interest, but the case went cold.
In 1999, while DNA was becoming more prevalent in investigating crimes, Fremont police detectives began to look at this case again and located key DNA evidence that was uploaded into the state and national DNA databases in an attempt to find a match to the known offender.
There was no match to anyone in the database at the time and no new leads developed.
In 2018, Detective Jacob Blass, Fremont police’s cold case homicide investigator, took a renewed look at the case and determined additional information was available that needed to be reviewed with newly available DNA technology.
The same Investigative Genetic Genealogy process used to identify Joseph DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer suspect was eventually used to identify Hudspeth as the suspect in the deaths of Malatag and Atup, police said.
Investigators learned that Hudspeth, who was 31 in 1982, lived in Milpitas, relatively close to where the teenagers were seen walking, at the time of the crime.
Police said he had a history of violence, including bank robberies, sexual assaults and attempted homicide.
Sources were able to confirm Hudspeth was in the area of Jacklin Road in Milpitas on Dec. 19, 1982, at about the time Malatag and Atup were walking home, according to police.
In addition, Hudspeth’s residence was a four-minute drive from the area where Atup’s body was located.
But once Hudspeth was identified as a potential suspect in the double homicide, it was discovered he had been dead since October 1999, police said. He died at age 48 as the result of a medical condition.
To confirm Hudspeth’s involvement, a search warrant was obtained to exhume Hudspeth’s remains interred at a cemetery in Santa Clara.
DNA evidence was extracted from the remains and testing confirmed Hudspeth as the suspect in the case.
Fremont police said they believe Hudspeth acted alone and is the only suspect, but they said a motive for the murders is not available at this time.
Fremont police also believe Hudspeth may have been involved in other crimes around the time of the 1982 murders.
They said he was known to be in Arkansas and San Diego in the months preceding the deaths of Malatag and Atup.
Fremont police ask anyone who has information about the deaths of Malatag and Atup, or any other cases in which Hudspeth may have been involved, to contact Detective Blass at (510) 790-6963.