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LMPD: Forensics led to arrest in cold case murder

Published: Sep. 18, 2014 at 4:35 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2014 at 10:35 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police have filled in the details of an arrest that came more than 40 years after the crime.

Lawrence "Larry" Roger Beck, 65, was arrested in Los Angeles this week after a Jefferson County grand jury indicted him for homicide in the Dec. 15, 1971 death of 20-month-old Michael Sanders.

Detective Brenda Wescott, who works on LMPD's Cold Case Squad, said Thursday that new forensic advances allowed them to connect Beck to Sanders death, coupled with good police work by the original detectives.

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"It was a perfect marriage of a great investigation that occurred in 1971 and 1972," Wescott said of the two lead detectives on the case. "They did an amazing investigation. Their investigation allowed us to take what they learned and what they knew and marry it to the things that we know now about pediatric forensics."

Wescott said she began working on Sanders' death intensively about eight months ago and finally had enough information to present it to a grand jury this week.

Wescott says Beck was the boyfriend of Michael's mother. He took the baby to a doctor's office after Michael was injured but it was too late. Michael was pronounced dead. His death was ruled a homicide.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Man arrested for 1971 homicide of Louisville toddler

Wescott said detectives had suspicions in 1971 but not enough to make an arrest.

"There's a big difference in what a police officer feels and what we think. Those things are irrelevant," she said. "It's what we know and what we can prove. It's not about what we think. It's not a personal thing. It's not what our gut or what we feel. At the end of the day, it's what do you know and what can you prove?"

She says she spoke both to the original detectives on the case to tell them of the indictment. "This case haunted them," she said. "The first time for both of these gentlemen, I called them about this case, their recall was immediate."

She also delivered the news to Michael's mother, who she says has left the Louisville area.

"She's very grateful to finally know what happened and to have some kind of resolution," Wescott said. "I think anyone that can put themselves in her place. I kind of -- for lack of a better word -- come up out of nowhere four decades later and really rock her world again."

Beck remains in custody in Los Angeles until he can be brought back to Louisville to face charges. That should happen within the next few weeks.

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