Detectives reopen 36-year-old San Rafael cold case murder

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- A Marin County mother has renewed hope surrounding her daughter's murder case. Detectives in Nevada are reopening the investigation into the death of Julia Woodward.

Woodward was killed 36 years ago shortly after leaving her childhood home in San Rafael. Now, her murder is one of 34 unsolved cases getting a second look by Nevada investigators.

Woodward was only 20 years old when she left San Rafael for Lake Tahoe. She had hopes of finding a job and going to school.

But weeks after leaving the Bay Area, her body was found in these rugged hills near Reno. Washoe County detectives say Julia was struck in the back of the head, but as to who did it and why remains a mystery.

For the past 36 years, Woodward's mother Cecily O'Connor had played out scenarios in her head,

"You don't know what happened so every story that you read with girls being murdered or victimized in some way you think oh, that's what happened," said O'Connor.

Washoe County detectives have now re-opened Woodward's case. Much has changed in 36 years.

There's now DNA testing, so physical evidence gathered at the scene will be re-examined. Detectives are also hoping new witnesses will come forward.

"There's somebody out there that knows something that maybe didn't come forward at the time or has thought about it over the years and just thought you know that was unusual. I wonder if it has something to do with that case. Those are the types of tips we're looking for," said Washoe County Sheriff's Department Lt. Tom Green.

O'Connor says grief counseling, support groups and her three other children have helped her cope over the years. But she hopes the investigation will turn up some answers.

"It's like if your child had cancer, you would know everything there is to know about the disease. In this case you just want to know what happened. You want to be there with her in your mind and think about what really happened," said O'Connor.

Washoe County detectives say it's just as important to them to find Woodward's killer, who after all these years has never been held accountable.
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