On Jan. 21, 1982, Pham was walking to school on her way to kindergarten at Highland Elementary School when she disappeared. Her remains were reportedly found two days later on the former U.S. Army base Fort Ord. According to a newspaper article written at the time of her death, investigators reportedly found the little girl "dumped into bushes."
The autopsy reportedly determined she was strangled.
Pham's mom reportedly walked her to school every day, but not long before she disappeared, she said, "Stay home, mom. I can walk by myself."
According to the district attorney's office, no one was arrested or charged during the initial investigation. In 2020, however, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office Cold Case Task Force and Seaside Police Department worked together to reopen Pham's case. They submitted evidence to a lab for new DNA testing that was not available 40 years ago. Investigators reportedly identified Lanoue, who was 29 at the time of her disappearance, as a suspect.
Investigators obtained a warrant for Lanoue's arrest July 6 and he was booked into the Washoe County Jail as he awaits extradition to California. He has been charged with first-degree murder with special circumstances that he allegedly killed her while kidnapping her and committing a lewd act on a child under 14.
In a January interview with the Monterey Herald, Seaside Police Chief Nicholas Borges said, "This is one of the most disturbing cold cases we’ve had. Going through all our files, it’s clear there is a monster involved. And while I can’t get into specifics, there is a lot of evidence and I am hopeful we can bring justice for that beautiful little angel."