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The Unsolved: Jenny Low Chang

          This month’s unsolved murder case has all the markings of a case that gathers a large following. A young woman in college was murdered, found in a place where she wasn’t meant to be. The case has long gone cold, and the biggest theories often lead to big-name serial killers that were active in the area. So why is there a startling lack of information? Why has Jenny all but vanished from the news, from the collective consciousness? Let’s explore.

Who Was Jenny?

          As I said in the introduction to this post, there is very, very little information about Jenny’s life to be found online. She was born on February 5, 1958. She was incredibly smart and worked hard to earn her grades. It’s been reported that she consistently made the Dean’s list for academic excellence. She began attending San Francisco State University. Her field of study varies from source to source – some say her major was biology, some say Pre-Dental. Jenny was 19 years old when her life was taken from her in 1977.

(A photo of Jenny taken during her time at
San Francisco State.
via Justice for Jenny)

The Murder

          Jenny was last seen alive by her roommate on Sunday, September 11, 1977. Around 6 PM that night, she said she was going to the library to use one of their study rooms to get some work done. Only the basement level of the library was open at that time, with the study area there being open until 11 PM that night. No one present at the library on the night of September 11, 1977 remembered seeing Jenny, and she never returned to her dorm room.
          Her roommate reported her missing the next morning, when she realized Jenny was still gone. At the library, a psychology professor entered a faculty reading room on the fourth floor when he made a horrific discovery – Jenny’s nude, lifeless body was inside. She had been stabbed 30 times, and beaten with a standing ashtray (per a news article from September 14). Other sources claim that she was strangled and that there was evidence of sexual assault. Her belongings were found in a neat pile nearby.

The Investigation

          According to contemporary reports, only 400 people had a key to the room in which Jenny was discovered. This considerably narrowed down suspects, but it was not ruled out that the door was left ajar or propped open to allow unrestricted access. Students and faculty were questioned, but no one saw or heard a thing. Jenny had no known enemies, nothing had seemed wrong at the time. Soon, the leads ran dry and the case went cold.

(The fourth floor floorplan for the SFSU library – though the building underwent extensive renovation in 2008, the reading room is still on this floor.
via SFSU)


          The internet has run a little wild with theories on this case. The first suspect that comes up is often the infamous Zodiac Killer. This serial killer was never caught, and their identity is still unknown today. We know they were allegedly in correspondence with the police in the 60s and 70s, and their confirmed victims were all killed in the bay area. Their MO was typically to brutally stab or shoot their victims. That does loosely fit here, but it should be noted that all of the Zodiac’s confirmed victims were killed in the 1960’s. Unless the Zodiac Killer happened to be a student or a staff member at SFSU, I don’t see this theory as fitting.
          Another big name that popped up in my search was Rodney Alcala, the so-called “dating game” killer. To me, he does not fit with this case at all, so I feel the need to swiftly debunk it here. We know Alcala was in California for the latter half of 1977 at least, though he seemed to stay in the Los Angeles area. Of course, he could have traveled up to San Francisco, but there is nothing indicating that he had. Alcala’s MO also does not match – his victims were bludgeoned and strangled, and he had no known instances of stabbing his victims. Alcala was also known to lure his victims into his grasp by pretending to be a photographer and asking them to model for him. Surely this would not have gone unnoticed in a crowded university library. Plus, how would he have gotten into the locked staff reading room? It just doesn’t fit.
          While Alcala doesn’t fit and Zodiac is sensational, neither theory accounts for the fact that the staff reading room was likely locked that night, and a key would have been needed for Jenny to end up inside. It seems far more likely to me that someone with access to the campus, library, and staff room lured her up there. The suspect that comes up again and again in conjunction with this theory is a library guard who was on duty the night of Jenny’s murder. They allegedly then called out from his job the next day, leading people to assume he was lying low after his part in the murder. The fact that this person would have been in a position of power and therefore presumably trustworthy to Jenny lends credence to the idea that she would have followed them upstairs if asked. The same could be said of a professor, however. With such limited information available about this case, it’s hard to come to any conclusions.

Investigating Agencies

          I haven’t been able to find any information about whether Jenny’s case is still open, but it’s cold as ice regardless. If you or anyone you know has any information about the murder of Jenny Low Chang, contact the San Francisco State University Police Department here. You can also visit the San Francisco Police Department website here to see options to anonymously report a tip. It’s been nearly 45 years since Jenny Low Chang was murdered and she deserves to rest. The truth must come out.


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