Barbara Nantais: Torrey Pines Tragedy

By Chris Maltby

In 1978, Barbara Nantais was found murdered on Torrey Pines State Beach; six years later, Claire Hough was found murdered on the same beach. Was there a serial killer targeting young women?The television show 48 Hours covered the case and Claire Hough’s murderer was caught but Barbara Nantais’s case is still cold.A man who survived a brutal attack on a San Diego beach in 1978 as his girlfriend was murdered and mutilated says the cold case continues to haunt him, and he wants answers.
James Alt was Barbara’s boyfriend and survived the brutal attack.

On Aug. 13, 1978, Alt – 17 years old at the time – and his girlfriend, Barbara Nantais, 15, were sleeping on the sand at Torrey Pines State Beach when they were attacked by an unknown suspect or suspects.Alt suffered a severe head wound that left him semi-conscious with no recollection of the assault. Nantais was beaten and strangled to death, raped and one of her breasts was severed. The teenager’s killer was never found and, to this day, the murder remains unsolved. Hough and Nantais cases have eery similarities. The two cases were cold until 2012, when advanced DNA testing identified two DNA hits on Claire Hough. Blood on Claire’s jeans was linked to a convicted rapist named Ronald Tatro.

Hough’s killer was caught but they could not link him to Barbara’s murder even though cold case units believe the killer was involved in both crimes. Later a hit from a DNA vaginal swab implicated a former San Diego crime scene tech, no charges were filed against him. The case has many twists and turns but Barbara’s case remains open and cold. She deserves justice now. This case can possibly be solved with new DNA technology as well as a possible closer look at how the evidence was handled when the crime happened.



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