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News Release

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Media Relations

1978 Cold Case Murder Solved NR11183kr

Los Angeles:  A 33-year-old murder case has been solved with good old fashioned detective work, forensic evidence and a good witness.

Los Angeles Police Department cold case detectives have announced the identification of a suspect in the 1978 murder of 45-year-old Robert Rathbun.  Rathbun had been stabbed to death on May 20, 1978, during a burglary at his apartment in the 21800 block of Lanark Street that he shared with his 18-year-old son. The son was stabbed in the back while lying on the floor as he complied with the suspects’ orders.  Although left for dead, he survived the attack.

Two suspects were involved in the crime.  A witness observed one of the suspects well enough to assist with the completion of a composite drawing.  However, no suspects were ever identified at the time of the original investigation.

In late 2010 detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Cold Case Homicide Unit of Robbery-Homicide Division, reviewed the Rathbun case and requested that unidentified fingerprints from the crime scene be processed through the automated print databases.  An identification made on one of the prints returned to Richard Daniel Bower, a 20-year old Burbank resident.  The print provided a potential suspect, but detectives knew more work would be needed to determine if Bower could be positively linked to the crime.

As the cold case detectives continued their investigation they found that Bower had a violent criminal history.  So violent that on January 12, 1981, Bower was killed during a shootout with Redondo Beach police officers during which one of the police officers was shot by Bower.  

A comparison of Bower to the composite sketch provided by one witness from 1978 showed a striking resemblance to Bower, as well as a very similar physical description described by the witness.   Archived reports and booking photos from the Burbank Police Department related to several of Bower’s arrests provided additional clues that aided cold case detectives.  It was discovered that Bower’s had been arrested and booked one week before the Rathbun murder, and one week after the murder, for unrelated crimes.  Those booking photos showed his appearance in very close proximity to the time of the Rathbun murder and the arrest reports contained other details which greatly assisted in further linking Bower to the murder.  

Amazingly, the witness who assisted in the making of the composite drawing positively identified a photograph of Richard Bower as the suspect she saw 33 years before.  She noted his “good looks,” as she indicated in her original statements in 1978, as well as his “droopy” right eye.  Regarding the eye, she recalled having the composite artist alter his original drawing in an attempt to narrow the right eye to reflect it being “droopy.”

At this time detectives have not identified the second suspect.  Efforts have been made to do by interviewing former associates and co-arrestees of Bower during the 1978 time period.

Attached to this release is the composite drawing from 1978 and a Burbank Police Department booking photograph from May 28, 1978, (eight days after the murder).  


Detectives Rick Jackson and Elizabeth Estupinian of the Cold Case Homicide Unit are handling this investigation.  For further information, and anyone with information about this case, is asked to contact them at 213-486-6810.

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