William Payne, of San Francisco, is accused of strangling 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley, who was found dead at the intersection of John Shelley Drive and Mansell Street in the park on Nov. 16, 1983, prosecutors said.
Payne, who was a teenager at the time of the crime, made his initial appearance in San Francisco Superior Court this afternoon to face the murder charge, but his arraignment was continued to Thursday morning.
He is being represented by the public defender's office, but his attorney was not immediately available for comment on the case.
Crumbley, a resident of Killeen, Texas, had been staying in San Francisco and was seen prior to his death with another man at a local hotel, according to the arrest warrant affidavit for Payne.
He was found early the morning of Nov. 16, 1983, with his pants and underwear pulled down below his knees.
A swab of Crumbley's rectum taken during his autopsy was tested by the San Francisco crime lab in 2004. The test found semen that was matched to Payne in the state Department of Justice's DNA database in 2009, according to the affidavit.
A $5 million warrant was issued for Payne's arrest, and Payne was taken into custody Monday night at Walden House, a substance abuse and mental health treatment center where he was living at 890 Hayes St., police Inspector Joseph Toomey said.
Toomey said Crumbley's parents are deceased, but a cousin was notified of the latest development in the case and "couldn't believe an arrest had been made."
Police Cmdr. Mike Beal said a $450,000 grant for the Police Department's cold case unit from the National Institute of Justice helped make the arrest possible.
District Attorney George Gascon released a statement today about the importance of DNA evidence.
"Cold hit DNA is integral to bringing criminals to justice," Gascon said. "This case shows that at times justice can be delayed but it cannot be denied."