FAIRFIELD, AL (WBRC) - A 32-year-old cold case in California ends with the murder suspect being arrested in Alabama. Sixty-five-year-old Thomas Young of Fairfield is now charged with killing a 15-year-old girl in Oxnard, Calif. Reporter Melanie Posey spoke with the girl's father, Paul Knappenberger by phone Friday afternoon from his home in California. He says he was shocked to hear of an arrest after so many years, but grateful to authorities for not giving up on the case. Those who know the suspect say this is the last thing they would have ever imagined him doing. It was in a white and yellow house on 62nd Street in Fairfield that authorities say a killer lived unbeknownst to those around him. Everyone in this neighborhood knew him as T.C. "He was a real nice guy, talked about the Bible, carried a Bible. He always go to church," Marvin Rogers, who lived next door to Young, said. "He helped with my grass cutting, he was good to his family. He had no reason to doubt anything about him that was bad," neighbor Eleanor Rogers said. But authorities say that in 1980, Young lived in Oxnard, Calif., about an hour outside of L.A. in a community where 15-year-old Stacy Knappenberger lived. In July of that year, they say Young sexually assaulted, then beat and stabbed Stacy to death. Her father, Paul, says he didn't know young, but called him a drifter who he believes stalked his daughter. "I personally never recovered from the loss," Paul said. "It completely changed her mother's life, my life, her sister's life. It changed everything." At the time, police had no suspects and no leads. Then 20 years later, a huge break in the case. "In 2010 [Young] was arrested in Illinois for sexual assault. I don't know if he was charged but it was enough to get his DNA in the system," Jefferson County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Christian said. That system then matched Young's DNA with evidence in the Knappenberger case in California. Officials tracked Young to Fairfield and Thursday, Sept. 6, after 32 years, he was arrested at his home. "I never did [lose faith]," Paul said. "It wasn't easy [to hold on]. I prayed a lot and asked God for help and He finally helped me." Paul says his anger has faded over the years. Now there is relief and hope for justice. And thousands of miles away, there are now prayers for him. "I can imagine they've been hurting for 32 years, and although they can't bring their daughter back, there is relief, closure," Roger said. At this time, Young remains in the Jefferson County Jail awaiting extradition back to Ventura County, Calif. Paul Knappenberger says he feels there is no question Young will be convicted and he says he will attend every court proceeding to make sure justice is fully served.
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