The spectre of evil cascades over the decades like an infinite tidal wave of woe.

For the loved ones left behind, it is always fresh, always in the rearview mirror. Pain seldom goes stale.

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But do the vile hear — or feel — the footsteps of the past catching up to them as they try to run out life’s clock?

James Alan Neal, 72, heard those footsteps last Tuesday.

In Colorado Springs at 6:29 a.m. a team of detectives knocked on Neal’s door.

Neal was arrested for the July 6, 1973, sex slaying of girl scout Linda Ann O’Keefe in Newport Beach, California. She was 11.


Cops allege James Neal, 72, is responsible for the 1973 murder of girl scout Linda Ann OKeefe. NEWPORT BEACH POLICE

The horrific homicide claimed another victim that tear-soaked day: Her heartbroken, guilt-ridden mother.

Cindy Borgeson said her sister had asked their mother for a ride home from school that day nearly 46 years ago. The mother said no and Linda was never seen again.

“(Mom) carried that guilt the rest of her life,” Borgeson told ABC News.

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Both Linda’s parents are long dead. They missed the capture of their child’s alleged killer from that sad summer of 1973.

“I never really thought that they would actually ever find the individual responsible. After all this time, finding out there is a face and a name just brings additional closure,” Borgeson told the network.

“My hope is that this (case) brings hope to other families who haven’t had closure yet. I’m sure Linda and my parents are rejoicing.”


Most wanted in 1973. NEWPORT BEACH POLICE

In 1973, those were golden days in southern California. The Vietnam War finally ended with a whimper, it was before the oil crisis and Jimmy Carter’s national “malaise.”

George Harrison’s Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) was on top of the Billboard charts, reruns of Marcus Welby M.D. were on the boob tube and the Oakland As were poised to win the World Series.

Slithering in the background of those sun-kissed days was Neal, who then called himself James Alan George Layton.

Linda was last spotted talking to a white man driving a turquoise van. Cops said the man was in his mid-20s, maybe early 30s.

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Her body was found the next day, strangled and defiled in a ditch.

But time is no longer the tortoise.


A composite of the killer from 1973. And below, now. NEWPORT BEACH POLICE

A DNA sample was recovered from the crime scene.

It was the new controversial area of genealogical DNA and old-fashioned police shoe leather that started tightening the noose on Neal’s 45-year free ride.

A hit on the site Family Tree DNA would eventually lead detectives to Neal.

In the interim, they chronicled the heartbreaking case on Twitter and had computer-generated composites developed.

And on Thursday, it was Neal’s family who was weeping rivers of tears. He nodded to them in court, nothing else.

There will be a trial but there isn’t really much more to say.

Neal is charged with murder and kidnapping with the intent of lewd and lascivious acts with a child in Linda’s murder.

Worse for him, the Orange County DA is mulling asking for the death penalty.

A week after Linda’s murder, Billy Preston’s Will It Go Round in Circles replaced George Harrison at the top of the charts.

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The sad circle for Linda Ann O’Keefe closed this week.


Linda in her girl guide uniform. Her mother never recovered from the girls death. NEWPORT BEACH POLICE

FROM RUSSIA WITH HATE

The fact that her husband’s secret mistress looked just like her may have pushed Elena Romanova over the edge.

The 36-year-old faces 20 years in a Russian slammer if she’s convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Maria Sokolova that was marinated in jealousy.

In her interrogation video, the pretty Romanova reveals in chilling detail how she kidnapped her love rival at knifepoint, then slowly strangled the 32-year-old before burning her alive.


Mistress Maria Sokolova was brutally murdered by her lookalike love rival. FACEBOOK

To cap off her bloodlust, Romanova allegedly mutilated her younger rival with a knife. She claims she doesn’t remember committing the murder.

What cops know is that Romanov became white with rage when she discovered photos of her hubby Evgeny and Sokolova. He had given both women the same Valentine’s Day gift — 110 red roses.

The court was told that Romanova’s husband Evgeny had been engaged in a torrid five-year affair with Sokolova, a co-worker. That included exotic holidays to destinations like Paris.


Elena Romanova, 36, faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty of conspiring with others to kidnap and murder Maria Sokolova. FACEBOOK

“I knew that my daughter was having a relationship with a married man. I wasn’t very happy about it but she loved him,” the dead woman’s mother told Pravda.

“My child was stabbed with a knife, strangled and burned.”

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CRIME HUNTER: Time and tech nab suspected 1973 cold case killer

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