POMONA >> A California sex offender living in Idaho is in custody in connection with the 1981 slaying of a 6-year-old Anaheim boy who disappeared while riding his bicycle before being found strangled to death the following day in Pomona, police announced Saturday.
Cold case detectives traveled to Sandpoint, Idaho, to help in Friday’s arrest of Kenneth Rasmuson on suspicion of the July, 981, strangulation death of 6-year-old Jeffrey “Jeffy” Vargo, Pomona police Lt. Eddie Vasquez said. Rasmuson was linked to the crime by DNA evidence.
He was convicted three times of violent sex crimes in California in the 1980s, according to a Bonner County, Idaho, sex offender registry.
Jeffrey Vargo was last seen alive riding his bicycle about 5:30 p.m. on July 2, 1981, near a fireworks stand at Imperial Highway and Santa Ana Road in Anaheim, Vasquez said.
“At approximately 7:20 p.m., his parents found his bike abandoned in an alley near the fireworks stand,” the lieutenant said in a written statement.
The following day, “Two construction workers found the child’s lifeless body near 34 Edgebrook Drive in the city of Pomona,” Vasquez said.
An autopsy concluded Vargo had been strangled to death, Vasquez said. “DNA evidence was confirmed and linked to Idaho resident Kenneth Rasmuson.”
The boy had reportedly been sexually assaulted.
Leads in the investigation dried up, and the case went cold for more than 30 years, Vasquez said.
DNA evidence collected during the initial investigation was not able to identify a suspect based on the technology of the time, Vasquez said.
In 2014, as technology continued to improve, Pomona police cold case investigators resubmitted the their DNA evidence. Forensic analysis was able to link the sample to Rasmuson.
Jeffrey Vargo’s mother, Connie Vargo, said the family was pleased to learn of the long-awaited arrest.
“It’s bittersweet, of course. We’re glad he has been captured and cannot hurt anyone else, but it also brings up a log of memories and things.”
“The Pomona PD never gave up on it. I really want to thank Detective (Jennifer) Turpin, who really has worked hard on this case,” the mother said.
Rasmuson was a stranger to the family, she said.
In addition to his mother, Jeffrey Vargo is survived by his father, Bob, and older brother, Michael.
Connie Vargo described Jeffrey as “brown-haired, brown-eyed, happy little boy.”
“He was only 6 years old. He had just started the first grade,” she said.
“He was a happy little guy,” Connie Vargo said. “Jeffy just liked to be outside. He loved anything with wheels. His skateboard, his big wheels.”
That’s why when she discovered Jeffrey’s bicycle abandoned while searching for him, she knew something was seriously wrong. “He wouldn’t leave that bike anyplace.”
According to Bonner County’s sex offender registry, Rasmuson was convicted of kidnapping for the purpose of committing a sexual offense in California in late-1981, as well as committing lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years old in 1987.
Sandpoint police, the FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Bonner County District Attorney’s Office and the Anaheim Police Department took part in the investigation and subsequent arrest, police said.
Rasmuson was being held in the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint, Idaho, pending extradition proceedings to bring him back to California to face charges, Vasquez said.
Connie Vargo said she was looking forward to seeing justice for her son.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process, but hopefully, justice will be served and he’ll never be able to hurt anyone ever again,” she said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Pomona police detectives at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO: [TOP] Kenneth Rasmuson, 53, of Idaho. (Courtesy) [BELOW] Jeffrey “Jeffy” Vardo, 6, of Anaheim. (Courtesy)