BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Four decades later, someone has been held responsible for the brutal slaying of Dawn Koons.

A Kern County jury Wednesday convicted Prentice Foreman of murder in the 18-year-old’s death at her southwest Bakersfield apartment.

He showed little reaction to the verdict, sighing deeply but remaining silent.

Foreman, 61, was arrested two years ago after his DNA matched to semen found at the crime scene. Foreman and the blonde waitress lived in the same apartment complex on South Real Road in 1979.

Accused killer of Dawn Koons is no longer eligible for death penalty
Dawn Koons

That’s when Koons’ nude body was discovered in her bathtub. Her head was covered with a pillow case and she’d died from asphyxiation, possibly strangled or smothered.

Prosecutor Gina Pearl said after Wednesday’s hearing she was “very pleased” with the verdict, and grateful for all the work the Bakersfield Police Department Kern Regional Crime Lab and other investigators put into the case.

She said a conviction in this case – which she believes marks the longest time in Kern County from when a murder was committed to a conviction – should give hope to others who have lost loved ones in killings that occurred years ago.

“To my knowledge it’s the coldest case we’ve prosecuted,” she said.

She said she’s been in contact with Koons’ two brothers in New York and they are “beyond thrilled” by Foreman’s prosecution.

Detectives questioned Foreman not long after the grisly discovery was made. He told investigators he didn’t know Koons and had never been in her apartment.

That testimony would prove to be a nail in his coffin decades later, after the local crime lab got a match from his DNA at the crime scene.

At that point, Foreman’s story changed. He told detectives he did in fact know Koons and he had been in her apartment for a one-time consensual sexual encounter. But investigators didn’t buy it, and neither did prosecutors.

Pearl told jurors Foreman raped and murdered the teen after borderline stalking her. Foreman’s defense centered around explaining why his semen would be at the crime scene – the one time sexual encounter, and that the encounter may not have occurred as close to Koons’ death as the prosecution said.

His attorney, Dana Kinnison, also argued that Koons’ boyfriend at the time is a viable suspect.

Kinnison declined comment after the verdict.

Pearl responded by telling jurors the boyfriend was of course a suspect at one point, but only Foreman’s DNA was found at the scene and only Foreman was caught in a web of lies he could not explain.

At the time of her murder, Koons was fairly new to Bakersfield. She traveled from New York to be with her boyfriend. They later broke up, and she worked as a waitress after moving into the South Real Road apartment.

While most of her family was deceased by the time an arrest was made in 2017, 17 News spoke with one family member who told us Koons was kind, funny, adventurous and just finding her way through life like most of us at that age when she was killed.

Foreman is scheduled to be sentenced July 10 and faces 25 years to life in prison.