MODESTO (CBS13) – A teenager is behind bars in Modesto accused of killing a woman back in 2017. The Modesto Police Department has been trying to close the investigation since then, but it wasn’t until now that authorities got a break in the case thanks to DNA.
“She would always be right here,” said Shelia Coleman, who lives near Evergreen Avenue. “I would see her walking to the store. She never spoke, she would just keep her head down.”
41-year-old Jenny Wu lived at Modesto Residential Living Center, a facility for mentally challenged adults.
“We would see her walking often, just kind of pacing up and down the road,” said Lili Hernandez, who lives across the street.
On April 21, 2017, Modesto Police discovered Wu’s partially clothed body in an alleyway on Evergreen Avenue. Investigators told CBS13 she had been sexually assaulted and died from asphyxiation.
“To know that she was taken advantage of was pretty upsetting,” Hernandez said.
18-year-old Seth Becknel was arrested Thursday after his DNA came back as a match for Wu’s murder. He was just 17 at the time.
“To be 17 and do something to a woman like that who can’t even defend herself, that’s not good,” Coleman said.
But investigators only made the connection because of what happened 20 miles away at a Save Mart in Patterson. On Dec. 5, a manager called Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department to report Becknel was outside begging for money. After one woman refused to give him money, CBS13 learned that Becknel followed her through the store. Deputy Jacob Callahan arrived, searched Becknel and found a knife.
He was arrested on felony suspicion of carrying a concealed dagger. In California, a felony arrest means authorities can test and log your DNA.
In this case, it was a match to DNA found at the crime scene.
“That’s crazy how it happened like that,” Hernandez said. “I feel like that’s a weight lifted off of all of us here.”
CBS13 reached out to Modesto Residential Living Center and an employee told us over the phone: “This brings back terrible memories for us. We’re thankful to Modesto Police Department for their diligent work on this. We just want to remember Jenny as the positive person that she was.”
Becknel is behind bars at Stanislaus County Jail held without bail.