On Friday I heard some bittersweet news. There was an arrest made in the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Jeffrey Vargo.
Jeffrey’s mother Connie announced the arrest in a Facebook posting on the Anaheim Hills Buzz Facebook group page this week.
I was working the night Jeffrey disappeared. It was on July 2, 1981 just a few days before the Fourth of July. Jeffrey went to the nearby corner fireworks stand and never made it home.
Officers had been called from all areas of the city to help with the search. I remember the worried looks of the family members as we gathered in front of the home. I also remember my sergeant saying, “This doesn’t look good.”
We worked all night and into the morning even though our shift had ended at midnight. Officers and explorer scouts searched the neighborhood and later canvassed all the nearby parks.
Early the next morning, we were told to go home. Jeffrey’s body had been found in Pomona at a construction site. The Pomona PD would take over as the lead agency in the investigation.
If there is one thing every police officer shares it is a strong sense of justice served. People who harm others need to be held accountable, and it is a police officer’s job to make sure that happens. It is part of a police officer’s DNA.
Unresolved justice gnaws at the very core of an officer’s being. It is what motivates cold case units all over the country to seek suspects long after detectives have retired and moved on. For retired detectives, the gnawing feeling never goes away.
Over the years, I have thought of Jeffrey often. Almost every time I drove by the intersection where he disappeared, I often wondered where the suspect was today and what other crimes he had committed. I wondered if justice would ever be fulfilled for his family and loved ones.
That question was answered in the moments I read Connie Vargo’s post. I uttered an audible, “Yes!” and for the first time since 1981 I felt some sense of justice about this tragic case. I cannot even imagine what Jeffrey’s family is experiencing. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
The suspect in Jeffrey’s murder is Kenneth Rasmuson. He is a repeat violent sex offender who has been living in Idaho since his release from a California prison in 2010.
The case was reopened by Pomona police detectives and with the magic of DNA, authorities finally were able to get a match — a vivid example of why we need to collect the DNA of every person in state prison.
My hat is off to the Pomona Police Department and the detectives who over the last three decades have sweat blood over this case. Their can-do attitude and efforts in this case reflect well on them and every member of their department.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.