Today marks the eighth anniversary of the murder of Hughson native Lauren Grace London and her killer has not been brought to justice, much to the disappointment of her parents, family and friends.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said his detectives have a “potential suspect” identified but there hasn’t been enough evidence to make an arrest and prosecute the killer.
“The DA’s Office was unwilling to prosecute on the evidence and requested further follow up,” said Sheriff Dirkse in an email to the Courier when asked for an update on the case. “The follow-up was completed and ultimately the case came to a standstill due to close associates to the victim being reluctant or unwilling to provide any further information. So, we have a potential suspect, but need further evidence and support from statements to make an arrest.”
The charred body of the 25-year-old single mother was found on a dirt road between orchard trees in the 4300 block of Blaker Road just east of the Ceres wastewater treatment plant. London’s remains were discovered near a pile of dry branches by a person walking through the orchard on the afternoon of March 16, 2015. A burned furniture dolly was found at the site.
Detectives haven’t disclosed if London was murdered somewhere else or at the discovery site. The Sheriff’s Department also has not divulged how London died but stated that the burning of the body showed more aggression than in typical homicides.
In February 2016 then Sheriff Adam Christiansen told the Courier: “We will solve this case but there’s a whole lot more to the story that we simply cannot talk about. I am confident that we will make an arrest in this case but it’s just going to take more time.”
Lauren’s mother, Denise Dodge London Donnell of Hughson, said she has given up hope that she’ll ever see the killer in court but she remains positive.
“I really feel strongly that maybe later on, not today, maybe not tomorrow but something’s going to show up,” said Donnell, who was surprised by the bit of information the Courier relayed to her on Monday.
“Nobody (at the Sheriff’s Department) has said anything to me in a couple of years,” said Donnell. “What you just told me is more information than I’ve ever been given.”
Donnell said she has “worked really hard to just focus on the positive in my life and raising Lauren’s daughter and being in a good place for her and providing a happy home for her. I need to let go of that anger that was driving me.”
Lauren grew up in Hughson and lived a happy life before graduation from Hughson High School in 2008. She had an infectious laughter and didn’t take herself seriously. She was a good volleyball player and was voted senior class clown in the Huskies yearbook.
Lauren led a troubled life in the last years of her life with drug and alcohol addictions. Giving birth to daughter Kennidee, she posted on Facebook on June 15, 2013 was “the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Donnell attempted to get Lauren into a treatment program for her worsening addiction to heroin, but lost contact with her. Before her death she was staying with drug addicted friends at the Tiki Lodge on McHenry Avenue in Modesto – a place known to be a hotbed of criminal activity rife with prostitution, drug abuse and fighting. Ten days later after Donnell last saw her last daughter – at the motel – Lauren’s body was discovered. It was her birthday.
When London began neglecting her child, Donnell intervened and took custody of her.
Anyone with information on London homicide is urged to contact the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Crimes against Persons Bureau at (209) 567-4466. Persons with tips may leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636 or e-mail tips to http://www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers, or text tips to 274637 and typing “Tip704” plus the message to be eligible for a cash reward.
Sheriff Dirkse said his department handled 38 homicide investigations during 2020 to 2023, with 31 cases closed or a suspect is in custody pending court, or warrant issued and awaiting arrest.