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Man sentenced to 24 years in prison for 1981 rape and murder of woman in Los Angeles County

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NORWALK, California — A man who raped and strangled a Southern California woman more than three decades ago has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say 53-year-old Joseph Thornton was sentenced after pleading no contest to four felonies in the 1981 attack: voluntary manslaughter, rape, digital penetration by force and sodomy by force.

Twenty-one-year-old Blanca Stella Negrete was killed in June of that year in Whittier.

The case went cold but it was reopened in 2010 and investigators say they linked Thornton to the killing through DNA testing.

He's been in custody since his 2012 arrest in the Northern California city of Auburn.

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