SANTA ANA, Calif. – Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) officers arrested a man today on a warrant for the 1994 murder of his mother. He was taken into custody without incident as he got off of his boat and was booked at the NBPD Jail without bail. John Henry Van Uden III, 70, Dana Point, was charged on Oct. 26, 2017, with one felony count of murder with a special circumstances enhancement for financial gain. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.
On March 3, 1994, Van Uden III is accused of murdering 76-year-old Frances Marjorie Van Uden (“Marjorie”), a mother of three who enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, by striking her on her head with a blunt object. On Saturday, March 5, 1994, officers from the NBPD responded to Ms. Van Uden’s home in the 1200 block of Keel Drive. Concerned neighbors reported they had not seen the victim in two days. The officers entered the home to conduct a welfare check and found the victim, deceased, in her living room. There was significant trauma to the back of her skull.
Investigators immediately began a homicide investigation. The Orange County Coroner’s Office confirmed that Ms. Van Uden was killed on March 3, 1994, two days before her body was found. Throughout the course of the initial investigation, the victim’s son, Van Uden III, was identified as a possible suspect. Over the course of the next 23 years, the NBPD Detective Division continued to conduct interviews, follow leads, and collect evidence in this case. The case file was reviewed, developed, and expanded by a number of detectives over the years whenever there was a chance to dedicate staff time to this cold case homicide investigation.
In 2016, the Newport Beach City Council approved contracts to hire two part-time cold case homicide investigators. Two retired homicide detectives were assigned to the Newport Beach Police Department Crimes Against Persons Unit to assist in investigating the NBPD’s cold case homicides with no other case load. Over the next year, they continued to build on the strong foundation of evidence against Van Uden III.
In late October 2017, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) filed a special circumstances murder charge and an arrest warrant for Van Uden III for the murder of his mother.
This is an open and ongoing investigation and no additional details are available at this time. Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the NBPD Tip Line at 1-800-550-NBPD. They may also contact Supervising Investigator Kory Degraffenreid of the Homicide Unit at 714-347-8492. NBPD and OCDA remain committed to victims of cold case homicides and their families.
NBPD Chief Jon Lewis addressed the members of Ms. Van Uden’s family: “Last week would have marked Marjorie’s 100th birthday. But we at the Newport Beach Police Department, along with you, have never forgotten what happened in March 1994.”
“Through decades of old school detective work, this morning we are delivering justice to a son who is charged with ending the life of the very person who gave him life,” stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “We will never forget, give up, or move on from investigations into the cold case homicides of Orange County.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy of the OCDA Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
Orange County District Attorney / Case # 17HF1409 / November 2, 2017