Search for killer continues 40 years after 15-year-old girl’s murder

SAN DIEGO -- Forty years since a teenage girl was killed and her boyfriend beaten and left for dead at Torrey Pines State Beach, the killer has not been found.

Hearing the crashing waves and feeling the sand will never be the same for James Alt.

“I’ve lived this for 40 years. It’s enough. I’ve been on this beach too long,” Alt said. 

Life changed for Alt in August of 1978 when he went to the beach with his 15-year-old girlfriend Barbara Nantais.

“She owned the room when she walked in. I fell in love immediately,” Alt said. 

The then 17-year-old said he never imagined a night cuddling beside each other on the beach would end so tragically.

“We were going to stay on the beach until we got kicked off and that never happened,” Alt said.

San Diego police said they were called to the beach, near lifeguard stand 7, on the morning of August 13 when they discovered Nantais dead. Officers said she had been strangled and beaten to death. Alt was found nearby with a severe head wound and no memory of being attacked.

“One scenario is an attacker straddled the two of us in a sleeping bag and then used that rock and that log out of the fire pit to probably keep Barbara quiet and then to try to kill me,” Alt said. 

Forty years later, he is frustrated he still doesn't have answers.

“We’re trying to figure this out still and that’s a shame with the technology we have today,” Alt said. 

San Diego police Lt. Matt Dobbs sent FOX 5 a statement, which read in part:
"The San Diego Police Department has continued working on the case all of these years, evaluating new forensic technologies against the evidence we have and combing through volumes of information trying to find something we have missed. Sadly, all of these efforts have not resulted in the case being solved, and the family having the answers they need. I can only imagine the stress and frustration this has caused for everyone impacted by this attack.
"The San Diego Police Department remains committed to solving this crime and holding those responsible accountable for their actions. We know someone out there knows what happened, and we implore them to come forward and provide the information necessary to solve this case and allow the family to finally begin the healing process."

Alt told FOX 5 he has been disappointed in how the San Diego Police Department has handled the investigation and is now asking the FBI to take over. In the meantime, he hopes the right person will hear his plea.

“Someone saw what happened -- saw what happened on the beach -- or knows what happened. You need to do the right thing and come forward because it’s tormenting you as well,” Alt said. 

Six years after Nantais was murdered, another teenage girl was killed on the same beach in a similar way. That case has been solved, but San Diego police told FOX 5 they do not have any physical evidence to tie the suspects to Nantais and Alt's case; however, they are keeping an open mind.

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information that helps solve the case. Anyone with information can call the San Diego Police Homicide Unit at 619-531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

Alt said while he waits for answers, he is helping other victims of violent attacks.