Idaho man arrested in strangling death of California boy 33 years ago

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ANAHEIM, California — An Idaho man has been arrested in the strangling death of a Southern California boy 33 years ago after DNA testing linked him the killing, police said Saturday.

Kenneth Rasmuson, 53, was arrested Friday and taken to the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint, Idaho. He will be extradited to California to face murder charges in the 1981 killing of 6-year-old Jeffrey Vargo, police in Pomona, California said in a statement.

The first-grader was last seen on July 2, 1981 bicycling to the fireworks stand near his Anaheim Hills home at the start of the fourth of July celebration. His strangled body was found the next day at a construction site about 25 miles away in Pomona.

Rasmuson was convicted twice of sexually assaulting children in California.

Just months after Jeffrey's slaying, he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy in Santa Barbara County and was sent to prison in December 1981, then committed to a mental hospital, the Orange County Register reported (http://bit.ly/1a46Pu7 ).

He was released in 1985, then sent back to prison and the mental hospital for kidnapping and molesting a 3-year-old boy in Los Angeles in 1987.

He relocated to Idaho in 2010, where he was classified as a violent sexual predator in that state's sex offender registry, and has no criminal history there.

Vargo's mother told the Register she had mixed emotions about Rasmuson's arrest.

"This person took so much of our lives and now that he's been arrested, hopefully, justice will be served so he can't hurt anyone else," Connie Vargo, 68, said.

She and her husband, Bob Vargo, remained in the same house and kept some of their son's favorite items in a box, including a collection of original Star Wars toys. They said that the first couple of years after Jeffrey's death, they stopped celebrating the fourth of July because the holiday reminded them of what happened.

Still, they said they always held out hope that police would eventually track down Jeffrey's killer.

"We had another son to raise and life goes on," Connie Vargo said. "It's been hard but we always remember him."

"He would have turned 40 last year," she said. "But to me, he'll always be my six-year-old boy."

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