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Cold case detective hopeful someone comes forward with clues in 2015 murder of mom
• Lauren London murdered nine years ago
Who killed Lauren artwork
Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department is putting a fresh set of eyes on the 2015 homicide case of Lauren London, a Hughson native. Her charred body was found dumped in an orchard east of Blaker Road and southwest of Central Valley High School.

Somebody knows something about who and why Lauren Grace London, a 25-year-old Hughson native and single mother, was murdered nine years ago this month.

Saturday, March 16 marked the ninth anniversary of her charred body being discovered in an Blaker Road orchard near the back side of Central Valley High School but the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department has not cracked the case.

As Denise Dodge London Donnell of Hughson loses hope that her daughter’s murderer will be arrested and convicted, Detective Jesse Tovar remains optimistic something will come from his taking over the cold case.

“I was tasked to have a new fresh set of eyes look into it,” said Tovar. “Unfortunately cases grow cold after a while but sometimes we need to revisit these cases.”

He told the Courier he believes there are some leads he can follow up on “that potentially we can get this going again.”

Det. Tovar believes multiple people have information they have withheld from detectives over the years to either protect the guilty or for fear of reprisals for being a “snitch.”

“A lot of people don’t want to talk to us and that’s what sucks,” noted Tovar.

“It’s just a matter of hitting the right person. Time has passed that sometimes some people either clean their lives up – especially in that environment that she was in with some of those people – and maybe are willing to talk to us and provide us with a good lead.”

Tover is charged with unsolved homicide and missing persons cold cases and detailed that his oldest case dates back to 1974. Another one he is working on is the homicide of a Stockton woman whose body was found dumped in Stanislaus County in 1978.

In the days leading to her death, Lauren was using heroin and hanging out with drug addicts at the Tiki Lodge on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, a hotbed of criminal activity rife with prostitution, drug abuse and fighting. She was staying with others living on vouchers for emergency housing. While picking up or dropping off Lauren for occasional lunch dates, Denise was introduced to her friends whose faces whose faces were pocked by meth sores.

Denise believes Lauren’s death was related to her drug addiction and possible involvement in prostitution.

Lauren’s burned body turned up in the Ceres orchard on Lauren’s 25th birthday. A moving dolly found at the scene indicates she was likely killed elsewhere. The department has not revealed the cause of death.

Authorities identified Lauren through a partial fingerprint from the body even though it was badly burned.

Lauren grew up in Hughson and after graduating from Hughson High School in 2008, attended Merced Junior College. She later went to a local beauty college and worked as a hair stylist at a salon. 

Her Facebook page depicted a happy young woman doing fun things with friends – until 2012 when her drinking became a problem. She turned to Alcoholics Anonymous for a time, and led meetings where she met a man named James who allegedly introduced her to drugs. The two moved in together at his mother’s house where Lauren became pregnant. She gave birth to daughter Kennidee in April 2013. The two broke up in 2014. Donnell said he is not a suspect in the murder.

The drugs caused Lauren to neglect her baby and Denise became her legal guardian.

Lauren lived for a time with her father in Turlock and later slipped farther from her family and friends. By June 2014 Lauren appeared gaunt at 93 pounds.

Ten days before her death, Lauren contacted her mom to see if she would activate a cell phone that she obtained. Denise refused because prior phones were sold for drugs but asked Lauren if she was ready to get help. Lauren hesitated before saying she was ready. Denise contacted a treatment center on Orangeburg Avenue that would accept Lauren under her medical insurance plan. The staff began processing Lauren’s information but wanted a $2,500 check from Denise, explaining that they were unable to get ahold of the insurance company and needed immediate payment. Denise was unable to write the check. Denise and Lauren left the facility with Lauren promising she would check herself in the following day.

Lauren “swore” to her mom that she would report to the center but said she needed to tell “someone … I’m going to be doing this.”

Denise advised her daughter that if someone was controlling her, she needed to get away. But Lauren replied, “No, I can’t. I need to say something.”

The next day the staff called Denise looking for Lauren. Over a week passed with no additional contact.

Denise was notified of Lauren’s death after a Sheriff’s detective contacted her ex-husband, Miles London.

Detective Tovar will follow up on any leads from the public. He may be reached at 525-7080. Anonymous information may also be submitted to Crime Stoppers by call 1 (866) 602-7463 or (209) 521-4636. Tips may also be submitted online at

Lauren London at Pinecrest
Lauren London in her happier days, this pose with two friends at Pinecrest Lake in Tuolumne County. - photo by Contributed to the Courier
Lauren London in mirror
Lauren London took this selfie in the mirror and posted it on Facebook around the time that she began losing weight due to drug abuse.