Overview of Jennifer Lin
Jennifer “Jenny” Lin was living life to the fullest. She had just turned 14, and was looking forward to being a high school student.
Back in 1994, the Palomares Hills housing development was a new neighborhood in Castro Valley, California. Many of the residents moved to this neighborhood for the safety and beauty of the Castro Valley hills, including the Lin family. The Lins were first-generation immigrants from Taiwan who settled in the U.S. with the hope of giving their children a safe life with a hopeful future.
No one could have imagined that their daughter Jenny’s life would be cut short.
Jenny is described by her friends and family as a popular middle school student who was talented in dance, piano, and viola. She excelled at viola in particular, and was invited to join the Castro Valley Chamber Orchestra. She also excelled academically and received straight A's during her time attending Canyon Middle School. She is characterized as being "vibrant" and "easy-going.”
Two days after her 14th birthday, Jenny’s father John dropped her off at school the morning of Friday, May 27th, 1994. This was the last time her family would see her before John made a heartbreaking discovery that same evening.
John found Jenny murdered in their home, her life taken by multiple stab wounds.
She was bound with duct tape, and her clothes were partially removed. There was no apparent motive or sign of a struggle, however, there was a broken window that police believe was used by the perpetrator to gain entry to the house.
The window of time for the crime to occur was small considering one of Jenny’s friends reported that they spoke on the phone with Jenny at 5:15 pm, and John found her at 6:45 pm. There was little evidence or witness testimony for investigators to work with, until a neighbor came forward four months later and stated they heard glass breaking and saw a man outside the Lin's house.
After this crime, John told police about a strange interaction he had with a man outside of a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station he commuted to work from. Before Jenny’s murder, he didn’t think anything of it.
Fifteen days earlier, on May 12, a man approached John and told him that he had his daughter. John ignored the man, but checked on his two daughters anyway. They were both fine and nothing strange happened after this incident before Jenny's murder. A sketch has been released of this man, but he has never been identified.
Authorities do not believe he has anything to do with Jenny's death, but would like to speak with him anyway.
There were almost no developments for over a decade. Then, a possible break in the case — authorities announced their first and only suspect on May 25th, 2006…a serial killer.
Sebastian Shaw was a serial killer arrested in Oregon for multiple homicides he committed between 1991 and 1992. He was originally tied to the Jenny Lin case after he was arrested with a car and two rifles that were stolen from San Ramon, CA. San Ramon is about twenty minutes away from Castro Valley. Authorities could not name or fully investigate him until this time as authorities were investigating him in Oregon and they did not want to interfere with that investigation.
However, on May 27th, 2007, the District Attorney's Office announced they would not be pressing charges against Shaw for Jenny's murder due to lack of evidence. Authorities reaffirm that they will continue to look for evidence and that Shaw remains their only suspect. On October 4th, 2021, Shaw died in prison without ever being charged for Jenny's murder.
Today, the case remains unsolved, but it remains in public view thanks to the advocacy of The Jenny Lin foundation.
The Jenny Lin Foundation was founded by John and Mei-Lian Lin in 1995 to advocate for and solve Jenny's case. The foundation doubled the reward for information to $200,000 in 2022. The case is still open.
If you have any information regarding Jenny's case, including information about the man that threatened John outside of BART, please contact the Alameda County Sheriff's Department at (510) 667-7721 or The Jenny Lin Foundation's tip line at (855) 4-JENNY-LIN.
This case was researched and written by Amara G.