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Betty Elias was murdered by Dennis Eagle who escaped justice for 37 years: On The Case With Paula Zahn investigates

Family pic of Betty Elias
Betty Elias was working as a bartender in Oakland, CA., when she was brutally raped and murdered. Pic credit: Investigation Discovery

On The Case With Paula Zahn travels to Oakland, California to investigate a cold case that lasted a staggering 37 years. Dennis Eagle brutally murdered Betty Elias in her apartment and managed to evade retribution for nearly four decades until the law finally caught up to him.

When officers were called to an apartment on Oakland’s San Pablo Avenue on October 29, 1979, they found a scene of utter devastation. Betty Elias, 45, was lying dead on her bed; she’d been raped and murdered.

Her clothes had been ripped off of her, and her head had been bashed repeatedly against a wall, and her throat had been slashed. Betty had then been strangled to death.

The apartment had been thoroughly ransacked, and there was blood all over the floors and walls.

Tragically, the case lay cold for nearly 40-years. Initially, suspicion fell on her ex-boyfriend, who had seemingly vanished without a trace.

However, the first significant breakthrough in the case came 37 years later when in 2015, DNA and fingerprint evidence connected Dennis Eagle to the crime. Eagle’s fingerprint was placed on a shower curtain rail, and his sperm was found in Betty’s vagina. He was only 18 years old when he committed this dreadful crime.

Sexual predator Dennis Eagle was already serving time

Eagle was on the national DNA database because he was already serving time in a federal prison for a sexual assault he committed in 2010 on the Fort Peck Indian reservation in Montana.

He also had convictions for assault with serious bodily injury in 1987 and another sexual assault in 1995; both crimes had also been committed in Montana.

Eagle was a long time resident of Montana, and it’s unclear how exactly he and Betty came into contact. It has been theorized that Betty had been inebriated (a high level of alcohol was discovered in her system), and perhaps Eagle followed her home as she’d stumbled home along San Pablo Avenue late that night.

Eagle was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Betty Elias. He won’t begin serving this sentence until he finishes serving his sentence for his previous sex crime, which is due to end in 2022.

In the Wind

At the tender age of 18-years-old, Joanne Paletta’s world as she knew it, took a stunning turn. The teenager discovered the woman who raised her was not her biological mother. Joanne learned her birth mother was a woman named Betty Elias. But just as they reconnected, Joanne received heartbreaking news. Her mother was savagely murdered inside her studio apartment in Oakland, California. Betty’s estranged boyfriend became a suspect, but he vanished. With the likely killer in the wind, the only hope of Betty Elias’ case being solved relied on a decades-long quest for justice championed by her relentless daughter, Joanne.

Posted by Paula Zahn on Tuesday, June 30, 2020

More from On The Case With Paula Zahn

Follow the links to read about more crimes investigated by Paula Zahn.

Last week Paula Zahn examined the shocking case of sexual predator Randy May, who, while posing as a police officer, persuaded two teenage girls to get into his car. He raped and murdered Mary Jones; he also raped Mitzi Sizemore before tying her to a tree and leaving her to die.

In 1987 Susan Woods was discovered submerged in her bathtub; she’d been either strangled or drowned. The case lay cold for 20 years until DNA evidence pointed to Joseph Hatley, who was someone the police had never even suspected.

On The Case With Paula Zahn airs Sundays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but is now based in the UK. He specializes in true crime and entertainment news stories. When... read more
Jerry Brown

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