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Man dies in prison before being named suspect in Apple Valley cold case murder

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APPLE VALLEY, Calif. (VVNG.com) —A convicted rapist who died in prison has been identified as the suspect in a 37-year-old cold case homicide of an Apple Valley woman named Helen Margaret Brooks, authorities said Monday.

On July 5, 1985, Brooks was 63-years-old at the time of her death and was found murdered inside her apartment after friends and co-workers became alarmed because she had not been heard from in a few days.

Investigators collected DNA evidence from the scene but were limited to the DNA technology of the time and did not identify a suspect.

During the investigation, investigators learned Robert Eugene Wortman met Brooks in the days prior to her murder and returned to Brooks’ apartment between July 3rd and July 5th.

At the time, Wortman was interviewed by investigators, but he claimed he had no knowledge of Brooks’ murder and denied he went into her apartment. Investigators were unable to prove Wortman was involved in Brooks’ murder.

Over the years, several interviews and polygraph tests were conducted but the case remained unsolved.

In 2009, cold-case detectives re-examined the case and submitted items for DNA testing. A suspect DNA profile was developed but did not match anyone in the DNA database.

In 2021, Cold Case Homicide Investigators, partnered with the FBI – Riverside Office, re-opened the case and requested additional analysis of the suspect’s DNA profile. Through additional investigation and advancements in DNA technology, Wortman was identified as the suspect in Brooks’ murder.

Helen Margaret Brooks
(Helen Margaret Brooks, — Photo: SBSD)

Wortman had an extensive sexually violent criminal history and died in prison in 1995 while serving a 22-year sentence on an unrelated rape case in San Bernardino County.

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